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Rare Character Single Barrel Kentucky Rye Whiskey (Mash & Journey Pick)

Rare Character Single Barrel Kentucky Rye Whiskey (Mash & Journey Pick)

Rare Character isn’t too secretive when it comes to disguising the sources of their bourbons and ryes. So when my good friend Evan brought this bottle of Rare Character “95/5” Kentucky Rye Whiskey over to a recent bottle share, it was easy to narrow down that it was Bardstown Bourbon Company who distilled it.

The 95/5 rye recipe might confuse some people who think it’s only made at MGP’s distillery in Indiana, but in reality, Larry Ebersold (the Godfather of Rye), has been teaching various distilleries how to make their own for over a decade. Shortly after leaving his role as LDI’s (what MGP was previously named) Master Distiller in early 2007, he started his own consulting firm to teach distilleries how to ferment and distill.

Bardstown Bourbon Company makes a rye whiskey

Larry’s good friend, Steve Nally, asked for his help in making a great rye whiskey when he first started out at Bardstown Bourbon Company in 2014. Larry was happy to oblige. Since then, he’s gone on to do consulting for Green River, Rabbit Hole, New Riff and Sagamore Spirit (just to name a few). All of these distilleries now have their own 95/5 rye whiskey recipes down pat.

You may be wondering if Larry is just going around showing other distilleries how to knock off MGP’s crown when it comes to rye whiskey production. I don’t believe so, but it is kind of fun to see the competition brewing. Besides, even if a recipe outwardly appears the same (grains, recipe and yeast strain), it shouldn’t taste the same. Fermenting, distillation and aging methods are going to create a very different whiskey in the end.

What I hope to achieve with this review is to find out just how good of a rye whiskey Bardstown Bourbon Company is capable of making. This pick was selected by Mash & Journey and is the oldest single barrel of rye whiskey I’ve seen come out of the distillery. It should provide me with a glimpse at how their rye whiskey is aging.

Backstory on the Rare Character Single Barrel Pick

Mash & Journey is the name given to the collaboration between YouTubers Mash & Drum and My Bourbon Journey. They did a barrel pick with Rare Character in 2022 and selected this barrel – which was 6 years old at the time (remember, BBCo has only been distilling since 2016). Something happened in the interim and the barrel was lost. It was over 7 years old by time it was eventually found.

The final proof was 120.8 (which is probably close to the proof it went into the barrel at). If all of this is sounding a little familiar, it probably is because it’s the same base product as another Non-Distiller Producer I recently did a review for: Rosewood. Anyway, the yield was only 144 bottles and had to be split into four different membership tiers from their patreons.

So how does it taste? Let’s find out!

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose doesn’t beat around the bush with any of the scents it provides. Just like the Rosewood I previously reviewed, I’m finding floral and herbal notes galore. Candy canes get lumped into those two scents as well. But it’s the fragrant cedar wood that combines with the sweet caramel notes (like the Cow Tail candy) that is really a treat to find. Even fruit notes like maraschino cherries and orange creme kick it up a notch.

Palate: Each sip is overwhelmingly “green.” If you don’t understand what I mean by that, I liken it to a bunch of herbal and botanical flavors. The peppermint candy cane note sticks out the most (just like it did on the nose) but I am also getting an earthy note. A lot of times that earthy note will drag down the whole character of a whiskey if it’s not contained and thankfully this one is. Sweet notes like Werther’s Original caramel candies surround each sip with sweetness while I can also find the slightly funky tinge of molasses.

I’m enjoying the fact I can find some tannins on my tongue lie oak and even a little bit of ash. But fruit notes like tangerines and Lemon Heads are there to provide a nice contrast. 

Finish: The sweetness dies down on the finish a bit as a drier, more tannic feeling settles over the finish. The tannic oak I’m tasting is both weathered and dry, but not overwhelmingly so. The green notes fade away and leave only mint and menthol behind. Residual cinnamon spice and a hint of clove reveal baking spices that I guess I wasn’t finding before and citrus zest adds a little bit of fruit. Overall, the finish is very nice, but I liked what I found on the nose and palate better. 

Score: 8/10

This was a really enjoyable rye whiskey that offered plenty of sweetness and a nice herbal-focused character. And despite being 120 proof, this was very easy to drink. The depth of flavor was a highlight while the tannins gave it a somewhat dry taste here and there. I also found this to contain less baking spices than other 95/5 ryes typically would.

If you’re not big on herbal and botanical notes, you may struggle to like this one. But I do and I found this one to be right up my alley. And while I think that 95/5 ryes can taste great at 4 years old, I found this one to taste slightly older than its 7yr, 2mo age statement would suggest. Not a bad thing by any means!

Final Thoughts

The price for this bottle ($105) is roughly the same as the bottle of Rosewood ($100) that I previously tasted. This has drawn criticism in my other review for being too much money for rye whiskey that is under 8 years old. I can totally understand that. But I am also wondering if this is the world we now live in. I do think prices will eventually come down in a year or two, but the question is do you want to wait that long?

For now I urge you to look at the flavor profile of these rye whiskies and see if it lines up with what you would expect. I personally love “green” rye whiskies that focus on herbal, botanical and floral notes. To get that, I’d have to hunt down cask strength Canadian rye whiskies (which is getting tougher to do). American ryes from the big producers seemed to have more sweetness, fruits or are more spice-forward. This makes Bardstown Bourbon Company’s rye much more unique. So if you love this style, then I could think of worse bottles to spend your money on. As for me, I think this is worth every penny.

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