This is part of a series of posts comparing rye whiskeys. For further details and links to other reviews in the series visit Why oh rye? Nine premium rye whiskeys put to the test.
Rittenhouse 21 year old
Rittenhouse is a name well known by anyone with even a passing interest in rye, its 100 proof bonded rye being a staple behind many of the worlds finest bars. Rittenhouse 21 was a limited edition rye aged 21 years and bottled at the same 100 proof of its younger brother. Just 3000 bottles were produced, and the product has now been superceded by a similarly limited edition 23 year old version.
Rittenhouse 21 has a hot, oakey nose with just a hint of vanilla, and this is continued in the mouth with a strong oakey flavour throughout. There is a medium sourness that slightly sweetens towards the finish. The whiskey has quite a thick, viscous mouthfeel that compliments the rich flavours nicely. The finish is relatively dry and continues the oak found earlier on. There is no hiding this whiskey has spent a long time in the barrel.
Adding a cube of ice does little to temper the initial spicy heat found when sampled neat, but does open out the body revealing a slightly chocolate note and hints of orange zest. A very tasty rye indeed, that is only held back by perhaps a little too much oak. I can’t help wonder how a slightly younger version, say 18 years old, with a touch less oak might fare.
Black Maple Hill 23 year old
Black Maple Hill, like several of the bottles on review here, don’t actually produce their own whiskey but instead source high quality bourbon and rye from other distillers. Their ryes come from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Ltd, the same source of the Vintage, Red Hook and TBT ryes on test here. Black Maple Hill produce an 18 and 23 year old rye, the later of which is being sampled here.
The aroma of Black Maple Hill 23 is bright and a little hot with hints of oak and fruit. In the mouth a sweet brown sugar flavour with a brief burst of spice quickly disolves in to a fruity, almost apple like taste. The smooth oak flavours that 23 years in the barrel have imparted are definitely there, but they aren’t nearly as strong as you might expect in such an old whiskey. A varied mix of spice, oak and sourness make up the long, long finish that really is a joy to savour.
Adding a single ice cube to the Black Maple Hill really helped open up the whiskey, revealing more fruit notes and if anything extending the finish further. Remarkably light and subtle despite having spent so long in oak, overall the Black Maple Hill 23 year old is a real treat with a beautiful finish that is worth every dollar and every moment spent tracking it down.
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