SOLOMON SCOTT RYE
Single Barrel #172 selected by Seelbach’s (2021)
MASH BILL – 60% rye, 35% corn, 5% malted barley
PROOF – 102.2 (cask strength)
AGE – 4 years
DISTILLERY – Spirits of French Lick
PRICE – $64 (includes shipping)
WORTH BUYING? – Very much so, yes!
My introduction to Spirits of French Lick was a bottle of their standard bottled-in-bond release of Lee W. Sinclair Four Grain Bourbon, and a Seelbach’s cask strength pick of their Mattie Gladden Bourbon. Though at uncorking I was iffy about them both, after only a week of them airing out in the bottle I began to come around—especially to the Mattie Gladden, which I found particularly well balanced.
None of Spirits of French Lick’s offerings are very old—typically around four years. All are crafted from carefully selected small-farm grains, barreled at relatively low entry proofs, and bottled unfiltered, all in an effort to capitalize on flavor. The distillery’s motto, “respect the grain,” has been demonstrated in each bottle I’ve had. They manage to balance the flavors of the grains themselves with various fruit, candy, and spice notes. The whiskeys may be young, but they’re quite mature for their age, and very smart.
By “smart” I mean they are at once nuanced, compelling, pleasing, surprising, and as fun to study as they are to enjoy free of scrutiny. Spirits of French Lick whiskeys are a great host—they entertain thoughtfully and with wit.
So, being a big ol’ rye fan, I was delighted to pick up this Seelbach’s single barrel pick of the Solomon Scott Rye Whiskey and see what Spirits of French Lick would do with a rye!
Open now for about a month, a handful of pours into the bottle, and tasted in both traditional and Canadian Glencairns, here are some notes in brief.
COLOR – rusty oranges and toasted yellows
NOSE – fresh clean grains, bright stone fruits like apricot and peach and baked nectarines, raspberries and dried goji berries, subtle creamy caramel, faint oak and black pepper, oolong tea, all very vibrant and refreshing and relaxed like a sunny Spring day heading toward sunset
TASTE – very true to the nose, the fruit elements now juicier and richer, with a syrupy viscous quality to it all, like thick fruit compotes with spices and herbs
FINISH – the fruit, tea, subtle oak and grain elements linger together gently but vibrantly and at length
OVERALL – a very good rye, fresh and fruity and alive and ready for an outdoor Spring or Summer picnic with all the fixin’s…
Sipping this rye, my sense memory goes back to that Seelbach’s pick of the Mattie Gladden Bourbon. I looked up my notes and sure enough, the fruit aspects I get here show there as well. The two whiskeys also share a well-blended quality, their grain flavors present and pleasant without being “grainy.”
And, like my other experiences with Spirits of French Lick, we’re not in Kentucky anymore. Nor Tennessee. Nor MGP’s corner of Indiana. A thread running through my three experiences is a particularly vibrant and refined quality, balancing fresh grain and fruit flavors with exceptional finesse.
I dare say this rye may be my favorite Spirits of French Lick bottling so far. The proof is just right, supporting the flavors with just enough heat. The variety of flavor is exceptional and mouthwatering, like great fresh baked bread slathered in thick globs of homemade sweet fruit compotes and jams, dusted with a dash of black pepper to give it some savory kick. It goes down very easily and I find myself constantly reaching for the glass. This could be a dangerous one!
I look forward to sharing this with friends on sunny afternoons, in the backyard or at a picnic. It could make a great dessert unto itself. It would be a shame to drown it in a cocktail. But I imagine those cocktails would be well served by it, so, why not?
My faith in that rambunctious grain, rye, is reaffirmed with this Solomon Scott Rye Whiskey. Malted, rye can ooze with chocolate and fudge. Blended carefully with corn and barley, it can pop with spices and fruits and herbs. Rye is a tough little kernel with a rich bounty of flavor to offer when put to creative use. Spirits of French Lick have indeed put the grain to good use and made something special out of it.