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Broken Barrel Heresy Rye Whiskey Review

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye Whiskey Review

Wrapping up my introduction to Broken Barrel’s line of whiskies is their take on rye whiskey. It’s been an interesting journey so far exploring their Americana Whiskey and Bourbon and finding a lot to like. The Broken Barrel stave-finishing concept seems to mellow out and lighten the intensity of the whiskies to a remarkable degree. In fact, they’ve both had a profile that leans more towards a malt whiskey (like Scotch or Irish Whiskey) than the whiskey it’s comprised of. I haven’t been able to figure out why that happens, but it’s part of what makes each bottle so unique.

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye Whiskey origins

Broken Barrel primarily sources their whiskey from Green River Distilling Company in Owensboro, KY. This is where the 95% rye whiskey recipe was originally distilled. Does that recipe seem familiar with you? It should. It’s the same one that MGP uses for their primary rye whiskey recipe. MGP (but back then the distillery was known as Seagrams) had a Master Distiller named Larry Ebersold who created the recipe. After he left in 2006/2007, he went on to create a consulting company that teaches new distilleries how to make it themselves. So whenever you see a distillery using the 95/5 recipe, chances are he’s helped them behind the scenes.

The 95/5 rye whiskey mash bill that is sourced from Green River has been used in many different sourced rye whiskies to include Bradshaw Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey and Wheelhorse Rye. Broken Barrel’s website mentions that the rye they sourced is also just 2 years old. The label – which says it’s a Straight Rye Whiskey – has no age statement listed which technically means it’s a minimum of 4 years old. So which is it, 2 or 4 years old? This rule gets ignored a lot these days.

Value-wise, Broken Barrel products don’t make much sense since they’re all using 2 year old whiskey for the most part. But Broken Barrel does more than the similarly-priced Bradshaw Rye Whiskey by finishing it with their unique stave finishing process that utilizes a patented “Oak Bill.”

What is an Oak Bill? If you haven’t read my other Broken Barrel reviews, it’s referring to the percentage of used barrel staves that get dumped into the vat to finish the whiskey with. These barrels come from a variety of sources – most commonly French, Sherry and Ex-Bourbon. Broken Barrel literally smashes used barrels up in their parking lot and dumps the broken staves into a vat of whiskey. It’s left to mingle for an unknown amount of time before being proofed down and bottled. Hersey Rye uses a combo of 40% French Oak staves, 40% Ex-Bourbon Barrel staves and 20% Sherry Cask staves. This has been the standard Oak Bill used for the Bourbon and Americana Whiskey releases too.

So how does this young rye taste after the stave treatment is completed? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn to find out.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The first scents I detect are young, but soaked with fruit. I can find grape juice, apricots, orange oil and canned peaches. This is probably the result of those Sherry staves, but it works. Speaking of the Sherry staves, they are probably the reason why this also comes off like a soft, Sherry-finished Scotch in some ways. This has been my experience with their Bourbon and Americana whiskey too. I’m not saying it’s an exact match because there are some rye spice notes that let you know we’re dealing with a different grain. Aromas like pine needles, light herbs and vanilla are all around. Overall, every time I dip my nose in the glass I’m happy with what I find.

Palate: The Sherry cask influence really shows itself on the tongue. I’m immediately met by notes of plums, raisins, orange zest and plenty of semi-sweet red wine. The taste is overall young, but not distractingly so.  The fruit contrasts notes of unbaked rye bread dough, green peppercorns and spicy cinnamon.

Finish:  The finish comes off as more complex than the palate. Lingering notes of cinnamon oil, wine, orange flesh, carrot cake, and black currants battle against more rye-forward traits like mint, green wood, pumpernickel bread and sweet grass. It’s a strange combo, but it works. The finish may be my favorite part about this dram.

Score: 6.7/10

I’ve reviewed young Green River Distilling rye whiskey before and found it to just be “okay.” For every fun flavor, there was one off-note. But the stave finishing treatment that Broken Barrel used on this rye whiskey really helped sequester the young flavors and scents. That cut down on the distracting green notes making it much more enjoyable to partake. This rye whiskey simultaneously tastes very good and like nothing I’ve had before. I like it!

Final Thoughts

As I’ve hinted to in previous reviews, Broken Barrel might not seem like a brand that has good value if you look at only the specs of the whiskey they use. 2+ years old and 105 proof for $35-40 will turn some buyers’ away. I get that. But if enthusiasts can get their hands on just one glass, they might be surprised at what they find. There is a healthy dose of fruits and rye whiskey traits that you don’t often find in most other products out there. Broken Barrel has stumbled upon a secret to making a whiskey that is not only good, but comes off as very unique in a crowded field of look-alikes.

The updated bottle design brings a level of class that this price point often misses. I think it would look good on any whiskey shelf out there. It’s also a bottle that has an interesting origin story and one that new drinkers should be able to sip immediately without feeling like it was too much for them. Now that I understand this about the brand as a whole, I feel more confident than ever to check out the rest of their bottles when I see them on the shelf. Here’s to hoping that their future (and oak bills!) continue to grow.

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