Sometimes you gotta go blind, when tasting whiskey that is. Earlier this month, we had our 22nd meeting and our beverage of the night was three great rye whiskeys: Sazerac 6-year, ri(1) Straight Rye, and Willett 6-year. Every time we choose to do a blind tasting people love it and we look forward to doing many more in 2015.
Know Your Whiskey
Sazerac 6-year Rye
Made by Buffalo Trace, this rye is the younger brother of one of the best rye whiskeys on the market, Sazerac 18-year. It also shares a name with one of my favorite cocktails, the Sazerac. It’s mash bill is 51% rye, 39% corn, and 10% malted barley.
ri(1) Straight Rye
This funky bottle definitely stands out on any liquor shelf. I avoided it for years because it’s so damn tall and didn’t fit in my liquor cabinet. But it’s a dang good rye. It’s aged a minimum of 4-5 years and although Jim Beam, who makes the whiskey, doesn’t reveal mash bills, I have it on good authority from an inside source that it’s roughly 70% rye.
Willett 6-year rye
A 95% rye and 5% malted barley from MGP that’s aged in Willett warehouses for six years, this whiskey is cask strength and you could definitely tell at first sip. I wrote a little about my love for all things Willett in this recent blog.
Our Tasting Notes
Sazerac has a great nose of cinnamon and apple, reminiscent of cinnamon-apple instant oatmeal. There is a lot of sweet maple on the first taste followed by spice that comes slowly but lingers for a long time. Not too hot and not heavy on the rye spice. Also notes of mint and cherry.
ri(1) has a sweet, mild nose with not a lot happening. Not a ton of rye spice on the palate. Despite a rumored 70% rye, many (including me) thought this tasted more like a bourbon. There is a lot of caramel and even touches of oak and corn. It's very drinkable and approachable but also lacks boldness.
This Willett has a sweet nose that also smells like grass. But not fresh cut grass, old grass. One of the members thought it smelled like the old grass that has been left in the bottom of a lawnmower. The palate starts earthy up front with some sweetness and orange. The rye spice comes more on the back end and is quite nice. I prefer my 4-year Willett more but this one is also very good.
The Collective Favorite
I thought more people would prefer the Willett and although it was indeed the favorite, it squeaked by with 55% of the vote compared to ri(1) with 38%.
Thanks to everyone who came out for this tasting! To join us at future tastings, sign up on our email list at seattlewhiskeycollective.com