Following on the heels of my review of Doc Swinson’s Alter Ego Bourbon, today I’m looking at their Alter Ego Rye Whiskey. Just like the bourbon, the rye whiskey has been finished in a secondary barrel. This time around it’s a rum barrel. Bringing together rye and rum make a lot of sense because each brings to the table what the other half is missing. Rye whiskey can sometimes be overly spicy and lacking in sweetness whereas rum can be overly sweet with a funk that can sometimes overwhelm. Together they help each other rather than clash.
Doc Swinson’s doesn’t give details as to where this rye whiskey is sourced from, but they say it’s a blend of straight rye whiskies aged 4-6 years old (my guess is a majority of it is MGP). There’s also not much info on the rum finishing barrels that they sourced either. Unlike the bourbon, the process for blending this rye whiskey is said to be via the Solera method.
The Solera Method
The Solera method typically used to take younger barrels and had them added to older barrels all the way down the line until the last barrel was the one that was being used to bottle the liquid. This ends up retaining a tiny amount of the highest aged whiskey throughout each blend.
The most obvious competitor to Alter Ego Rye Whiskey is Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey finished in Rum Casks. Angel’s Envy uses 5-6 year old MGP rye whiskey before finishing it in rum barrels and bottling it at 100 proof. Retail on that bottle is usually $100 although certain Costco’s have had it priced at $70 depending on availability and area.
Doc Swinson’s loses out a little bit on proof (95) and is pretty much even with age, yet is priced around $50-60 depending on your store. This makes it very attractive to the budget-conscious buyer because the specs on these two are about as close as you can get while being very far apart in price.
But all of that means nothing if it doesn’t taste good. So how was it? I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: The nose packs a big punch of sweets. Candied oranges and stone fruit lead the way with tropical notes of mango and pineapple close behind. I detect a scent similar to a childhood cereal I used to love; Honey Smacks (remember the frog?). The rye spices still tickle your nose, but aren’t harsh at all. The peppery spice note generally lets you know what base whiskey you’re working with. The whole nose is very inviting overall.
Palate: It’s hard to describe just how pleasant the flavors and mouthfeel are. I hear that subsequent batches have lost that thick mouthfeel but I cannot confirm it. All I know is that the whiskey here is thick with lots of syrupy sweetness. It’s just shy of being too sweet, but the spice from the rye (pepper flakes and ginger) are keeping it in check. Cinnamon, apple butter and molasses all are present on my tongue. There’s more fruit components that I can pick up such as ripe mango and orange crème. Notes of cinnamon/sugar dusted on a baked pear is another favorite of mine. There’s a certain amount of wood that comes through that lends a hand to the overall depth.
Finish: Nice and sweet with some lovely baking spice notes of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and a hint of dill. The thick molasses note sticks with it all the way until it finally vanishes. It’s a very long finish considering the 95 proof point.
This rye whiskey kicks! Consider me a fan. Also, consider me a buyer over Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey because this has the better value. And if you’re a person who is hesitant on trying ryes, then this is the perfect beginners rye whiskey. Whiskey drinkers new to rye can sometimes be chased off with its spicy harshness, but this rum finished one helps to tone down it all down. It has achieved the perfect balance.
I am curious as to how much better this could be at barrel strength, but that’s a question for another day. More times than not, a whiskey finished in a secondary barrel can actually become worse at higher proof points as flavors and scents fight each other rather than compliment each other. But until Doc releases something like that, we may never know. In the meantime, this bottle belongs in your collection as a rye whiskey that can be used for almost any occasion. It’s an instant buy-it-now.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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