MASH BILL – Unstated (rumored 39% corn, 51% rye, 10% barley)
PROOF – 110
AGE – 6 years
DISTILLERY – Heaven Hill Distillery
PRICE – $50
BUY AGAIN? – Yes
I was up late recently after a very long work day, organizing my whiskey bottles and occasionally sipping a wee bit at things I hadn’t tried in awhile—refreshing my memory alongside my weary brain and body. I noticed my open bottles were predominantly bourbons, secondarily scotch whiskies, and with only a single rye option uncorked. I dug behind a box to pull out a dusty bottle of Pikesville, a rye I love by memory but realized I hadn’t actually had a pour of for maybe even three years! My current bottle has been gathering dust for about as long.
So I cracked it right then and there. It was luscious—all roasty caramel, smokey clove and rye spice, with a nice peppery flare to it. But it was late and I was several sips of several whiskeys in and so my mouth was a kind of infinity-bottle of its own. I figured on another night I should give old Pikesville its proper, individual due.
Here are some brief notes, taken three nights after uncorking and three pours into the bottle, and tasted in a traditional Glencairn:
COLOR – a nice, slightly rusty orange with brass accents
NOSE – black pepper, fresh autumn rye herbs and spices, backed by a thick, rich, gooey, old fashioned caramel, all so nicely balanced
TASTE – that rich old fashioned caramel and the rye spices sharing the main event, the rye now leaning into its autumnal floral aspects, with crystalizing honey, a bit of chocolate, and something like buttery grilled thick-crusted bread
FINISH – a mild pepperiness lingers most prominently, with some of the rye florals and spices, but the other flavors and aromas all fade fairly quickly
OVERALL – Nose for the win, with the taste a close second, while the finish comes off as a bit of an after thought…
I’m very glad to be revisiting this wonderful sipper. The nose is so pleasing and so easy to enjoy. I wouldn’t call it complex. But I wouldn’t call it simple either. It balances the aromas it offers superbly, and is eminently agreeable. The taste then offers a similarly balanced experience, opening up to additional flavor variations on what the nose introduces.
The finish, then, is a surprising disappointment. It’s not bad. It’s just not much of anything. In contrast to the taste and nose, the finish is forgettable. And that’s not a great note to end on. It’s like a story without a third act. Maybe this explains why I remember loving Pikesville, yet haven’t reached for it in so long. It’s great out of the gate, really good in the middle, and then…
…what were we talking about?
By which I mean that on a night of sampling I’m likely to move on to other more complete whiskey experiences and not fully remember Pikesville. It’s an interesting experience: to like two-thirds of something so very much, and to find one-third neither here nor there. And to consider what this hole in the dramatic arc of the whiskey does to the overall experience and my memory of it.
The presentation is great. I love the bottle shape and label design, and the very raw wooden-looking cork. The color of the whiskey is deep and vibrant and inviting. The aroma and taste are as I’ve described, entirely pleasing. And how often do we get an age-stated whiskey at a hefty 110 proof anymore in these bourbon-boomed times? But Pikesville then slips out of the party early, seemingly unfinished. Time passes and I look around and wonder, Hey, where’d Pikesville go?
If you’re also familiar with Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond, it’s Pikesville with two less years on it and 10 fewer proof points. I remember liking Rittenhouse very much as well. And yet I notice I haven’t had a bottle of it in the house for a couple years. At half the price of Pikesville, Rittenhouse serves a different purpose—easy sipping bottom-shelfer, super useful for cocktails, a no brainer buy. …And yet I don’t buy it often.
What I take from this experience is just how important the finish is to a whiskey. Without it, things literally just trail off…
I still like Pikesville. Even if I might forget to finish this bottle of it.