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Friday, December 4, 2015

NOT Single Malt Report: Pikesville 6 year old Rye (and Rittenhouse BIB)

WHHHHHHHUT?!  Yes, another of-the-moment whiskey.  I don't know what's gotten into me.  Okay maybe some whiskey.  I really do structure my reviews months ahead of time, but sometimes circumstances call for an audible.

Two weeks ago the man in the fedora belched out The New Murray Testament causing people with tastebuds to ponder his competence and/or his intent.  I have zero interest in reviewing his World Whisky of the Year, but I did have some interest in trying the runner-up: Pikesville 6 year old Rye.  Then just this week, a mensch known for his crisp reviews and sample labels and certain recent eats presented me with a sample of this Very Murray Rye.

And, it was just my luck that I had a bottle of Rittenhouse BIB Rye (Pikeville 6's younger sibling) open for comparison purposes.  To be honest, our home has had bottles of Ritt open almost nonstop for the past two years.  I've been finding the quality of Ritt BIB slipping with each successive bottle, and as a result this bottle has taken a long time to finish.  This decline is not fun, and I keep hoping for the next one to bounce back, but...

Brand: Rittenhouse
Owner: Heaven Hill
Type: Straight Rye Whisky (no 'e'!)
Age: minimum 4 years
Region: Distillery - Louisville, Kentucky; Warehouse - Bardstown, Kentucky
Maturation: New American oak
Mashbill: 51% Rye (per Cowdery here and here)
Bottle Code: B3474
Bottle Year: late 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
(from my bottle, bottom 1/3 of bottle)

Its color is the lighter of the two whiskies.

The nose is very bourbony and corny, in fact I'd guess this was a bourbon if I'd nosed this blindly.  There's also caramel, rock candy, and hazelnuts.  Some flower blossom notes peek out here and there.

The palate is very nutty: walnuts, hazelnuts, halvah (yes, it's not technically made of nuts), and burnt peanuts.  Then comes salt and some rye-ish pepper.  There's a woody bitterness that starts out small but then expands with time in the glass.

The rye spices show much stronger in the finish, joining up with some wood smoke, walnuts, and burnt peanuts.  Like the palate it grows bitterer with time.

And now the older sibling...

Brand: Pikesville
Owner: Heaven Hill
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey (with an 'e')
Age: minimum 6 years
Region: Louisville, Kentucky
Maturation: New American oak
Mashbill: 51% Rye (per Cowdery here and here)
Alcohol by Volume: 55%
Thanks to Sku for the sample!

Its color is the darker of the two whiskies.

There's a mild soapy note in the nose at first, but it fades after a minute or two and is replaced by a green grassy note.  Meanwhile much larger bursts of cherry candies and caramel candies sound out.  Definitely some toffee.  Maybe a little mango.  A nice fudgy moment and an occasional perfumy floral whiff.  A barrel char note appears after 20+ minutes.

The rye grain is bigger in this one's palate than in the Ritt.  Louder spice.  Louder pepper.  Though there's a little bit of sweets, it's less sweet than the nose led me to believe.  The nutty note has been pushed way back, as has the bitterness.  It's still sort of bourbony though.  Mint leaves develop after 20+ minutes.

Quite a spicy zing at the front of the tongue, while black pepper hits the back of the throat in the finish.  Then rye bread and bourbon.  A mint/menthol note lingers the longest.

Well, Pikesville is without question the better of the two.  While my first two bottles of Rittenhouse (old label) were comparable or better than the Pikesville, this current Ritt bottle continues the quality decline.  Which sucks.  Two years ago, I would have been happy to pay $30+ for the quality in the bottle.  Today, I wouldn't pay more than $20.  In fact, this may be my last bottle of Rittenhouse BIB unless Kristen requests we get another.

The real quality difference between the Pikesville and the Rittenhouse is in the palate.  I do like the Ritt's nose.  While it isn't particularly deep, it's very pleasant.  But it's just not that enjoyable to drink.  The burnt nuttiness and woody bitterness is almost abusive at times.  Meanwhile the Pike is brightly spicy with a touch of sweetness and that good mint note.  Its finish is much more pleasant as well.

All that being said, I wouldn't pay $50-$60 for the Pikesville.  There's real competition in the whiskey world at that price range.  It does have the qualities that I would love Rittenhouse BIB to have at its $25-$30 price range.  I almost wonder if the first few batches of Heaven Hill's (DSP KY-1) Rittenhouse BIB were 6+ years old, like Pike, and the new Ritts are barely 4.  In any case, Pikesville 6yo is not only not the second best whiskey world, it won't even be the second best whiskey you drink this week.

Availability - Most US specialty retailers have Ritt BIB in general
Pricing - $22-$30
Rating - 78

Availability - Some US specialty retailers
Pricing - $50-$60, though some shops are now trying to sell it for $100
Rating - 84