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Friday, February 15, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Jefferson's 10 year old Straight Rye

I love rye.  It's now one of my Big Three:  Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey, Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and Straight Rye Whiskey.  Rye's bold spicy wallop wins me over every single time.  If it can get me to say "Wow!" after a sip -- as Willett has done time after time (but we'll save the Willett slobbering for previous and future reports) -- then I'm enticed to track down a full bottle.

As Jefferson's 10yr Rye has the rare 100% rye mashbill, I so desired to just buy a whole bottle blindly (though I didn't).  It was one of those whiskies that I wanted to love.  Recent Eats, Coopered Tot, Chemistry of the Cocktail, and Scotch & Ice Cream all liked it.  That's plenty good enough for me.

Distillery: possibly Alberta Springs Distillery
OwnershipMcClain & Kyne (via Castle Brands)
Type: Canadian Straight Rye Whisky
Region: Alberta, Canada (possibly)
Age: minimum 10 years
Mashbill: 100% rye (along with a proprietary fungus that helps keep the mash from getting sticky)
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 47%

[As you'll note above, this is actually Canadian Rye, bottled by McClain & Kyne, an American company.  Curiously, the company refers to the juice as "North American" rather than Canadian.  Come on guys, Canada is cool too!]

There's a little more background to this report.  In the comments section of the Recent Eats and Chemistry of the Cocktail posts about Jefferson's, I noticed that Florin (of whom I am a fan) felt quite differently about the rye.  When I had a chance to meet Florin a few months back, he shared some of his Jefferson's with me.  And I immediately found the issue.

It smelled and tasted like nail polish remover, as if the spirit hadn't aged a day, let alone 10 years, in new oak.  It was very odd.  When we did some whisky trading, I still opted for a sample of it.  Further studies were required.

Three months later (about seven total months in the sample bottle) the rye was released into my Glencairn glass.  The acetone/polish/vinyl note sprung forth immediately.  So I decided to let it sit and sit and sit...

Forty-five minutes later:

The color was of a rosy maple syrup.  The nail polish remover (or distillate, to be polite) had vanished from the nose.  It was now much oakier.  Tons of vanilla.  Puffs of peppermint and menthol, followed by molasses and cooked mushrooms.  The texture was very thin, watery.  The palate was less spirity than before.  Lots of dark chocolate and cherry kirsch.  Something very vegetal rumbled along, perhaps this is the herbal note others have found?  Burnt sugar, cherry cordials, and a hint of citrus.  Any spicy rye zing was at a minimum.  The kirsch continued in the finish, but then there was a consistent salad note.  Seriously, salad.  Think lettuces and bitter greens.  That was met by caramel sauce and dulce di leche.  More bitterness followed with time.

So, time helped.  To a point.  I'm going to assume/hope there was some significant batch variation going on here as the characteristics seem to be from a completely different booze than what I've read about on other blogs.  Or maybe this shade of rye is not for me?  I can see its appeal.  I'd take this over Old Overholt and Jim Beam Rye any day.  And its price is right, at half the $$$ of WhistlePig, another 10-year 100% Canadian rye (and perhaps from the same source).

In the next report, I'll cover a whiskey that I had side-by-side with Jefferson's just to make sure my rye sensors were working...

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $35-$40
Rating - 78 (without the 45 min wait, the rating would have been much lower)


  1. Jefferson's does seem to have some serious issues with batch consistency. It may be they're not willing to pay as much, so they have to wait until Whistle Pig and Masterson's have had their pick of the good barrels, leaving a somewhat mixed bag to work with.

    1. My wife showed me that Martha Stewart's Living magazine was pimping Whistle Pig last month. This month Masterson's is getting raves from Whisky Advocate. Sounds like Canadian (100%) Rye has officially arrived. I guess if Jefferson's is really the cheap cousin then you may be right that they do not get early choice on juice.

  2. Very interesting. Thus far, both bottles I've had have been quite nice. Granted, one of the bottles was Hi-Time's single barrel select, but the other was just straight off the shelf. In fact, I've enjoyed them so much, that after tasting WhistlePig at a bar, I declared to my wife, "This is good, but it's not $35 better than Jefferson's."

    1. I've been hearing that about Whistle Pig too. I'm still tempted by it (and Masterson's) though...

  3. I bought this Jefferson's bottle in Feb 2012 at The Party Source. It is probably from a different batch than the one they sell now, at the same ridiculously low price. Michael, I also found some love with this whisky after I let it sit in the glass a long time - patience is key here! I am surprised no one seems to drink Pendleton 1910, that's a very good Canadian 12yo 100% rye, sans vinyl.

    1. I'm glad you found good results with the Jefferson's! What led you to buy Pendleton 1910? Did you take a risk and buy it blindly? I'm always curious as to what inspires each of us to take the leap on the less-hyped whiskies.

    2. Josh had a very good head-to-head of all the currently available Canadian 100% rye whiskeys, which included Pendleton 1910.


    3. Michael, my decision was easy: a 12yo 100% rye for $35 is not something I'd easily walk by. Hell, I paid twice as much for a bottle of Whistle Pig and got burned! Damn you, batch variation! People pay me (through my employer) a lot of money to get an education because they feel it's worth it - I feel the same way about buying that first bottle.

      Jordan, I was not aware of Josh's blind tasting, it is very interesting. He found Pendleton 1910 lacking, and I think I know why: it's the only 40% whisky in the lineup. Yes, its flavors are more delicate, and a lot has to do with the proof. My own parallel tasting goes like this: Pendleton 1910 - that's a bottle I finished and bought again. Jefferson 10yo is still half-full; I gave the Whistle Pig away long ago; and last week I saw Masterson's on a shelf for $45 and kept walking.

    4. Wow, I seriously have some serious Canadian whisky catching up to do. Goodness.

  4. Pendleton 1910 is lovely stuff. I found it on the bottom of the double blind flight perhaps in part because of lower proof - but more so about the flavor signature which is less fresh and herbal/floral and more about cooked caramel & cherry. It was the odd man out in the group - but drinks fine on it's own. Notice that I gave Pendleton 1910 four stars when I reviewed it solo versus 3 in the blind. I find I drink the 1910 plenty as it is so soft and approachable. Such a plush and gentle rye. BTW 1910 is a different league than the base Pendleton - which is sweet young and simple and doesn't taste like it's all rye. Frankly I love all these ryes. Whistlepig justifies it's premium by tasting the most august, regal, and cognac-like. Masterson's is lighter and more floral. Jeffersons is rich, more bourbon-like, and dirt cheap for a top rye. No losers here. Big ryes all need a ton of air time until you get towards the bottom of a bottle. They also make the ultimate Manhattans - if you use Antics or other top shelf vermouth...

    1. Thanks Josh for the comment and for that great rye post! I'm going to explore each of these in due time for a full evaluation. I love rye, so I look forward to this journey. :)