Rittenhouse and Black Maple Hill

March 30th, 2009

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 bottle

Rittenhouse 21 year old

50% ABV

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 Just 3000 bottles were produced, and the product has now been superceded by a similarly limited edition 23 year old version.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 bottle

Black Maple Hill 23 year old

47.5% ABV

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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Posted in Reviews, Rye, Why oh rye?

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6 responses to “Rittenhouse and Black Maple Hill”

  1. Torben Torben says:

    I Think so as well with the 23 year old Rittenhouse. Just too much oak. Bottled too late. It’s a pity…

  2. Matthew Matthew says:

    I’m with you on the BMH23, it’s my favorite rye… though that might be because I have a 2007 sazerac 18, which I’ve heard doesn’t compare to some of the earlier years.

  3. a century of fakers - The Louisiana Flip « liquor is quicker says:

    [...] the library is a lot cheaper than Netflix, which’ll go a little way towards that bottle of Maple Hill 23-year that I dream of).  Sure, Rick Blaine and Ilsa Bund may not have amounted to a hill of beans in [...]

  4. The Concierge The Concierge says:

    Excellent start to this wonderful comparison. I can’t wait for the manhattan test. I think a lot of the ryes with pronounced flavors, such as oaky or sweet, will make the most interesting Manhattans.

    I think the style of your post will have people opting for a rye over scotch, if for nothing but the novelty.

    Also, looking forward to the head to head match ups between KBD ryes. Kind of like finlaggan vs lagvulin style face off.

    Keep it up Jay.

  5. J.J. O’Malley J.J. O'Malley says:

    Finished the Black Maple Hill Rye 23 in about six weeks went to get another bottle and they only had the Vintage 23. A good substitue- but not as refined. I am going to do a taste comparison once I find another source for BMH 23.

  6. Leo Stakemiller Leo Stakemiller says:

    Last night I had a head to head tasting of Rittenhouse 21 and 23 with BMH23. It was my second bottle of Ritt 21, which is fortunately still available in Houston, Texas (where rye whiskey is not a popular liquor). Everyone concurred with the two Rittenouses over the Black Maple Hill. The BMH is a faint nose while the Ritts begged for a brandy snifter. The Ritts have a great viscous feel in the mouth. I don’t go in for the attempts to describe whiskeys using the wine-tasting verbage, perceiving most of it is marketing bs, but the Ritts do have a molasses/carmel flavor. We tasted the whiskies neat and perceived no excessive heat that demanded dilution with ice or water. Regarding one review I read, no one thought the Ritts tasted like bourbon and no one thought either the Ritt 21 or 23 was in any way overpowered by an oak taste from too much time in the barrel. Of the two Ritts, the 23 was slightly more refined than the 21, but all agreed the 21 would be a great choice around the campfire at the deercamp straight out of the bottle. The 23 seems to demand a nice crystal single old fashioned glass and a drawing room. The Black Maple Hill is a really nice rye, as one might expect for the price, but it is extremely subtle, almost a rye light, which might appeal to many. With an ice cube, I can see it as a tasty summer drink. The Ritts are simply amazing cold weather brown liquors and woe be unto those who are offered a taste after retail stocks are gone.

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