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Friday, December 2, 2016

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: James E. Pepper 1776 Barrel Proof Straight Rye

To begin with, this whiskey has nothing to do with the actual James E. Pepper, nor his old brands, nor the year 1776. It's a two year old MGP-distilled rye bottled by a non-distiller producer. So I'm not going waste your time with another American 'craft' whiskey company's fish tale; I'll just focus on the liquid, which was distilled by the funnest whiskey factory on these shores, The Midwest Grain Products WonderFactory™. The regular Pepper rye, also from MGP, is bottled at 50%abv. They did a smaller batch of "barrel proof" rye and, thankfully, it was priced under $40. Thank you to Florin (a prince) for this sample!

Distiller: Midwest Grain Products
Bottler: James E. Pepper (via Georgetown Trading Co.)
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Region: Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Age: 2 years
Mashbill: 95% rye, 5% malted barley
Maturation: New American oak
Alcohol by Volume: 58.6%

There's a lot of pickle juice in the nose which clashes with an aggressively perfume-y floral note. Brown sugar, vanilla and Old Spice aftershave. There's a root beer note that swings toward cream soda after a while. The palate is hot. Hot. And also hot. White, unaged rye. Peppercorns. Brown sugar syrup. Rice pudding. The aforementioned heat starts to turn bitter and acidic on the tongue, soon going metallic and bloody. It does seem to mellow after 30 minutes, though perhaps my tongue is dead. The finish is hot, sweet, metallic and ashy. An undercurrent of paint fumes.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Fewer pickles on the nose, more perfume. Pine needles and orange candies stuck to the carpet. Gives the illusion of smelling more mature because the roughness is watered down. The palate is milder, with some new Brazil nut and earthy/rooty notes. But it's also turning more chemical by the minute. Still bitter. A hint of caramel sweetness in the background. The finish is the same as the palate with the addition of some pickle juice and paint.

I am going to assume the tasters over at J.E.P. found something special in this rye that I did not. Though I am a rabid MGP rye fan, I'm having a difficult time finding something positive to say about this whiskey. Why they didn't give this very very very very young rye a few (or several) more years in oak to let it finish baking, I don't know. At this point it's hot, metallic, chemical and ashy. Again, MGP rye is the easiest whisk(e)y to sell me on, but I doubt I'd ever drink this one again. In fact, this makes me not want to try the regular 100 proof version. (FWIW, I wasn't a big fan of their barrel aged brown ale either.)

Availability - A couple dozen US retailers still have it
Pricing - $35-$40
Rating - 71