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.
Vintage ryes are produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers in Bardstown, Kentucky. Three bourbons, at 17, 21 and 23 years old, and two ryes, at 21 and 23 years old, are available under the “Vintage” label, all coming from some of the oldest barrels KBD have in their warehouses. A number of other bottlings on test here also come from the KBD warehouses, including Black Maple Hill and The Bitter Truth, so it will be interesting to see how these whiskeys compare.
Vintage 21 year old
On the nose the Vintage 21 has a pleasant mix of caramel and oak, along with a small hint of vanilla and a mild alcohol heat. In the mouth you’re greeted with sweet, brown sugar and a definite oakyness, with a very mild sour tinge slowly developing afterwards. The finish is slightly hot, with a smooth and lingering hint of sweetness and a developing suggestion of leather.
An ice cube helps smooth out the stronger edges of the whiskey, revealing a slight hint of citrus zest. A very enjoyable sipping rye, brash enough to let you know what it is but mellow enough to be pleasant on its own.
Vintage 23 year old
There’s no hiding the Vintage 23 has spent twenty three years in oak… from the first sniff you get a heavy dose of woody notes as well as some zest and cinnamon. In the mouth the woodiness continues, but you also get a lot more zest and fruit than is present in the 21 year old. The whiskey certainly isn’t over mellowed though, there is plenty of peppery spice and a fairly hot finish on the back of the throat.
Adding ice tones down the finish a little, but the Vintage 23 still has a strong pepper note. For sipping the wood and pepper notes can sometimes be a little much, but the strong flavours make me excited to see how this compares in something like an Old Fashioned. Interesting to note how different the Vintage 23 is to the Black Maple Hill 23, two ostensibly similar whiskeys from the same distilleries stocks.
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