Union Horse Distillery, located in Lenexa, Kansas, has a few products that are gaining traction in the Midwest. Earlier this year, I noticed that they were even bottling a 5 year whiskey that looked very interesting, so I had a friend pick up a bottle of their Reunion Rye Whiskey in its Barrel Strength (112.3 proof) form. When I finally got a hold of this bottle, I noticed on the back of the label it was only aged for 18 months!
Union Horse Reunion
It turns out that their Reserve Straight Bourbon is the only whiskey in their inventory with a 5 year age statement. However, the rye had a lot going for it because Union Horse uses 100% rye for their mashbill and also uses a low barrel entry proof of 110 proof. They also use some pretty custom 30 gallon barrels that have a honeycomb pattern etched on the inside of the barrel to promote more liquid to wood surface area contact. This last part is very uncommon in the industry, but I’ve heard of Jack Daniel’s doing it for their Sinatra Select bottling.
My hopes for this bottle is that it is similar in profile to Canadian-style ryes. I was worried that the short 18 month aging could be its downfall, but I’ve been surprised before. So how does it taste? I sat down with a neat pour in a glencairn.
Nose: There are lots of strong rye notes. You can’t escape the herbal properties of lemongrass, pine forest, star anise, and wildflower blooms. There’s also a baked goods element kind of like pumpernickel bread. Then the spice and citrus notes of lemon curd, ginger root and even a faint honey sweetness rounds out the nose nicely.
Palate: The pallet starts off without much sweetness. There’s heavy rye spice, white pepper, a small amount of dill, dried oak, lemon zest and cinnamon. As the dram goes on, the palate does get slightly sweeter with some gingerbread and the sweetness is more reminiscent of butterscotch than brown sugar or caramel. Still, the young age is apparent in this because all of the initial flavors tend to be more harsh without the sweetness available to round them all out.
Finish: Heavy white and black pepper lead the way along with ginger root spice to make a finish that is full of heat. But there’s also a bit of mint and menthol cooling effect to keep it somewhat in check. The finish also reveals some coarse cereal grains. The longer I sit, the more sweet the aftertaste becomes in my mouth. The finish is surprisingly long.
I went into this dram hoping that I would find a lower priced Whistlepig alternative, much like Bone Snapper Rye Whiskey (which uses sourced MGP Rye), but it’s not quite there yet. Should this rye ever hit at least the 4 year mark, and then we’ll see. But priced at around $51, this is still quite a bit more over-priced than it should be. Union Horse does not cut corners, though and the low barrel entry proof and custom, pricey barrels are evident of that. However, give it a few more years and watch out for an older age statement on this rye and it could be a game changer. Here’s to hoping that Union Horse continues aging and releasing some great products!
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)
*Bourbon Culture is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.