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Rosewood Single Barrel Rye Whiskey (Barrel #21) Review

Rosewood Single Barrel Rye Whiskey (Barrel #21) Review

A good friend of mine and I were discussing rye whiskies recently.  He’s a big fan of them but had recently become bored with the same old offerings.  He wanted something new, but not something that was going to be a big risk.

What rye whiskey is risky?   For starters, new craft whiskey releases.  He wanted something that was a little more “tested.”  He wasn’t looking for high proofs and old age statements, just producers who were putting in an honest effort to bring a unique product to market.  If you’ve ever walked into a liquor store and couldn’t pull the trigger on a new producer’s bottle because it felt incomplete, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Eventually my friend went online and found this bottle of Rosewood.  Rosewood is a Non-Distiller Producer (NDP) based out of Houston who has sourced rye whiskey from Bardstown Bourbon Company.  The mash bill is 95% rye and 5% malted barley.  And if that recipe sounds familiar to you, it should.  Bardstown Bourbon Company enlisted the help of Larry Ebersold to consult with making their own version of the popular rye whiskey.

Oh, and the name and inspiration for the brand came from a bottle of whiskey seen in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”  I was excited to find that out because a large portion of the filming occurred in my old stomping grounds of Mansfield, Ohio.

Rosewood sources barrels from Bardstown Bourbon Company, but how are they different?

Outwardly, it appears as though BBCo’s version of rye whiskey is the same as MGP’s.  But any distillery will tell you that simply copying grain bill percentages will not result in the same taste profile.  Even if BBCo sourced the exact same grains and yeast, the fact that they have a different water source, a different continuous column still and different warehouse designs would make the final product uniquely different.

Bardstown Bourbon Company has released their own 95/5 rye whiskey by itself just one time.  It was under their “Origins” label.  The Origins Rye Whiskey uses an extra step where it’s finished in a “Zebra Barrel.”  That Zebra Barrel – by the way – is made of alternating cherry and oak wood staves that were toasted and charred.  As far as I can tell, the 95/5 rye whiskey that Bardstown sells to NDPs like Rosewood is not finished in those barrels.

Once the guys at Rosewood tasted BBCo’s barrels and found the ones they liked, they were transported back to Texas. Once they arrive, they will mature for at least one summer inside the Lonestar State. Some Texas producers say that their summer heat and humidity cause so much evaporation and liquid-to-wood interaction that it’s the equivalent to 2 or 3 regular summers in Kentucky. Having tasted Texas bourbons before, I am inclined to believe them.

Rosewood Rye Whiskey

Rosewood Rye Whiskey

Rosewood has two separate versions of their rye whiskey.  If you want the batched version, it only comes in a 100 proof bottle.  If you step up to the single barrel offering, it gets bottled at cask strength.  The version I’m reviewing today comes from Barrel #21 which comes in at 121.2 proof and is rumored to be 5 to 6 years old.  It’s retail price is $99.99.

Aside from the excellent packaging (love that label!), does the price that Kentexian Bourbon LLC (the company that brought this bottle to life) match the quality inside?  Thanks to my Irish friend, Mike, I’m about ready to find out.  I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The very first note that jumps out at me is this big bouquet of flowers.  It’s like I just walked inside of my local florist shop.  Looking deeper, I can find Werther’s caramel candies and fresh squeezed cane syrup.  There are other outdoorsy notes like hay and “springtime forest.”  For fruits, there are a lot to sort through.  The most identifiable ones are raspberry jam, peach cobbler and strawberry fruit rollup.

Palate: Herbal and floral flavors galore!  I’m finding both peppermint and spearmint and also various types of flowers with lavender and geranium standing out the most.  This rye screams “green!” as I taste it.  Moving beyond those flavors are layers of spices.  Cinnamon, cardamom, fennel and anise can all be found.  In an odd twist, the fruit from the nose changes completely on the palate.  I can find orange peel/flesh and tart berries.  A bit of molasses sweetens the whole thing up.  This has everything I think about when I think of rye.  The only thing it lacks is some kind of tannin.  Otherwise, it’d be perfect.

Finish: A very impressive and long-lasting finish. The spices stay smoldering the whole time while your mouth feels like it just sipped on a mojito (made with rye whiskey, ha).  Citrus, mint and sweetness.  There’s even a hint of leather and oak on the end.  I wondered when I would find some!

Score: 8.3/10

This is one of the most impressive and surprising rye whiskies I’ve drank this year.  I could scarcely believe what I was tasting inside.  Each sip was so full of flavor – I never had to strain my brain to pick out notes; they just came to me.  The intensity was high from start to finish.  There were no flavors that came on late or disappeared early, everything was there all at once.

The style of the rye whiskey was right in my wheelhouse.  Sometimes older ryes get sweeter and lose the “Green-ness” that makes them taste like a rye.  That may not be a problem for some, but I personally love to find those notes.  And with an absence of corn in the mash, there is no wave of caramel sweetness to overcome to find it. 

Final Thoughts

I love everything about this rye whiskey with one exception: the ugly synthetic black topper.  If they changed that to a nice wooden, natural cork topper I’d be ecstatic.  But since there’s nothing I can do about it, I’ll just stick with giving my thoughts on the whiskey.

At $100 for a 5- or 6-year-old bottle of rye whiskey, that can intimidate a lot of people.  I get it.  There are so many other bottles that go for $100 these days and many of them are older.  But this bottle just has this “it” factor that makes it leaps and bounds over anything else I’ve tasted recently.  It’s easily on par with Old Overholt 10 Year as far as enjoyment goes.  It also puts the same sized smile on my face as Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye.  There’s something about it that can’t exactly be put into words, but you’ll know it when you taste it.

This is the complete package in my opinion.  Did I go into this review thinking that?  No.  But my mind quickly changed afterwards.  Whatever Rosewood did to these barrels – whether it was the barrel selection or the additional maturation time in Texas – it worked.  And I hope they can keep replicating it, because it’s a brand that I’m definitely buying more of in the future.  And you should too.

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Thursday 25th of April 2024

Any idea where you can pick up a bottle?