Class: Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Reviewer: Andrew Owen
Pikesville Rye is another resurrected rye whiskey label that began in the American Northeast before the old rye industry gradually died out and had the nails hammered into its coffin by Prohibition. Pikesville was originally produced in Maryland - the other rye whiskey powerhouse state along with Pennsylvania. It was first produced in 1895, and despite the dying rye industry in the Northeast, it continued to be produced until 1972, giving it (according to its promotional website ) the title of the last standing Maryland rye.
Pikesville is now made in Kentucky by the Heaven Hill Distillery, along with its younger sibling Rittenhouse Rye. Although Rittenhouse was originally a Monongahela (aka Pennsylvania) style rye and Pikesville was a Maryland style - and there are differences - those past time styles are now lost as Heaven Hill uses a standard rye mash for both. Like I noted in the Rittenhouse review, while we can mourn the losses of historic styles, we should not judge these modern day iterations unfairly. But do not let any marketing mumbo jumbo persuade you that these are made in the classic Monongahela or Maryland styles. You can essentially view Pikesville as a premium version of Rittenhouse, with a 6 year age statement (verses at least 4 years for Rittenhouse), higher proof, and pickier barrel selection. It's worth noting that Pikesville is the most premium rye that Heaven Hill produces, so theoretically, the very best of the best barrels should get bottled as Pikesville rather than getting stashed away for some ultra premium $100+ label. Just food for thought.
- 6 year age statement.
- Mash of 51% rye/37% corn/12% malted barley
- Bottled at 55% ABV (110 Proof)
Nose: An immediate wave of citrus – mainly orange peel, followed by a blast of rye spice that sits on the earthy side with lots of spicy cinnamon and brown sugar. Plenty of heat from that 110 proof comes through, but not too much to mask the aroma. After a rest, some dry grain notes (like bread flour) and tart cherry come in, along with some vanilla.
Palate: Caramel, rye spice (cinnamon and allspice), orange zest, cherry juice, cola, and malted vanilla. Low heat and round, medium-bodied mouthfeel. Some wood and a bit of charcoal come in late. As a whole, while there are some sweet notes, the palate stays on the dry side.
Finish: A juicier reprise of the fruit accents found on the nose and palate, with tart cherry being the most prominent. Some wood sap, cacao, and toffee linger for a moderate length of time.
A note about water: The above tasting notes were recorded with about 1/2 tsp of water added, which I found gives this dram the most optimal flavor profile.
Buying Recommendation: Must Have! Pikesville is tasty enough to hold its own against any other premium American rye whiskey currently on the market, but where its true glory lies is in the fact that it's 1/2 to 1/3 of the price of most of the those ultra premium ryes. At around $50, if you are looking for the very best rye you can get with out spending crazy money (and after you taste this, you'll find yourself asking "can a $150 bottle of rye whiskey really taste 3x as good as this?") Pikesville is an easy choice.
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
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