Rye Night! Tasting #18

It’s been a while since we devoted an entire evening to rye whiskey so last night we had a rye night. Plus I’ve been sitting on this Willett 2-year rye for a couple months, salivating every time I passed by it in my liquor cabinet. It was time to drink it.

Know Your Whiskey

Wild Turkey 81 Rye

We started the night with Wild Turkey 81 rye. Wild Turkey uses the same mashbill for all their rye whiskeys. This whiskey is on the lower end of what they make but provided a good base to get the night started.

Smooth Ambler Spirits Old Scout 7-year Rye

Smooth Ambler Spirits was established in 2009 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. It’s a 7-year old sourced rye whiskey. Sourced or not, Smooth Ambler is one of the most exciting distilleries in the country right now. They also produce a 7-year bourbon, 10-year bourbon and a couple different single barrels. In addition, they distill a bourbon they call yearling. Their single barrel program (where people buy their own barrels) is growing exceptionally well.

Willett Family Estate 2-year Rye

Whiskey geeks don’t usually go nuts over the release of a 2-year old whiskey but that was the case when Willett released this rye in the summer of 2014. Five generations of the Willett family have been involved in the whiskey making business but no one has distilled whiskey since the 1970’s. In 2006, they began sourcing whiskey from other distilleries and selling it under their own label, the Willett Family Reserve. Some of those whiskeys are the most sought after in the world. In January of 2012, Drew Kulsveen and his team started up the stills again and this is their first release.

Our Tasting Notes

Wild Turkey 81 has a unique nose. It’s very floral, like a perfume. Corn and straw and more floral notes are the first thing I taste, followed by a little rye spice that’s never very strong. Then mint and caramel. The flavors drop off pretty fast and leave that light floral note with a tiny bit of spice.

Old Scout 7-year also had a bit of a floral nose with the addition of much sweeter caramel notes. There’s a lot more spice on first taste (not surprising given the rye content compared to Wild Turkey 81). Also black tea, caramel, honey, and some char. It’s a good balance, very smooth, with no burn. The finish is medium with brown sugar coming toward the end.

Willett 2-year smells like an orchard with cherry, vanilla, and apple. The first taste is very complex. There’s vanilla and apricot spice with sweet candy corn in the back of the tongue. Then apples, mint, floral notes, and some fruit. You can taste a little of the young age if you’re really looking for it. There’s a good amount of spice with a little burn but not what I expect from a whiskey that's 111 proof. On the finish I notice more burn, sugar, and spice.

The Collective Favorite

Last night the group favorite was Old Scout 7-year with exactly half the votes. Next was the Willett 2-year with 33% of the vote and Wild Turkey 81 coming in with 17%.

Thanks to everyone who came last night! To join us at future tastings, sign up on our email list at seattlewhiskeycollective.com.