OLD MAYSVILLE CLUB RYE
Bottled in Bond
MASH BILL – 100% malted rye
PROOF – 100
AGE – 4 years
DISTILLERY – Old Pogue Distillery
PRICE – $76
WORTH BUYING? – Not for me, though I did give it a second try and that says something…
I ordered a bottle of Old Maysville Club Rye from an online seller in New York a handful of years ago out of curiosity, and to bring the cost of shipping per bottle down on my order. (A little mind trick whiskey fans play on ourselves—as if we’re saving money rather than spending more!) My key point of reference for ryes I especially liked back then was the standard Willett Family Estate Small Batch Rye, still only aged 3 years at that time. Maysville, aged 4 years and presented in a stately wine bottle like Willett, seemed like a good candidate.
The F. Scott Fitzgerald era country club label design, and that it is only available in a handful of eastern states (KY, IN, IL, NY) also gave it the allure of rarity. And Old Pogue Distillery being a rather small operation with roots going way back, focused exclusively on two products, piqued my interests in both small artisanal endeavors and history.
Needless to say, Old Maysville was quite different than Willett. Maysville’s 100% malted rye mash bill offered a similarly untamed wildness as Willett’s much more traditional rye/corn/barley mash bill. But the Maysville flavor profile leaned heavily into the malt. The nose led with malted rye grain, honey on dry toasted rye bread, and a dried caramel glaze. The taste showed sweet sun tea, more malt, malty taffy, and old fashioned malted candies of some kind. The finish again led with malt, then toasted sugars, toasted dry honey. It was all very like the Bio Honigwaffeln I used to buy in Germany—sweet in a slightly sharp, crystalized way, very dry, and bready. Overall it tasted a bit too young and raw for me.
Time passed and my rye journey went down many more paths. I became a huge fan of the 100% malted Old Potrero Rye, especially the cask strength single barrels, which always seem to allow the rye grain the full range of its wildness. So, recently when I was again ordering up a couple bottles from that New York shop, I thought I’d revisit Old Maysville, and I added a bottle to my cart.
When I uncorked it, the aromas and flavors were immediately familiar. But now they tasted more nuanced than I had remembered. That could very simply be the result of my own palate now being more nuanced by experience. Perhaps I was tasting things I couldn’t recognize four or five years ago. It still tasted a bit young and raw to me overall. But I was curious. So I let it sit for a bit.
Now it’s three weeks after uncorking. Here are some brief notes, taken on the third pour and tasted in both a traditional and Canadian Glencairn.
COLOR – pale dirty amber with a range of accents that catch light well
NOSE – bright malt, fresh long-stemmed grasses, dried leaves and herbs, crusty wheat bread, faint cinnamon and black pepper, faint caramel when I really search for it, and in the Canadian glass a vanilla note emerges alongside the caramel
TASTE – there’s the caramel, almost like a syrup, rich and bright, drenched with a chewy maltiness, some crystalizing fruit sugars
FINISH – a nice tingly pepperiness, the caramel syrup, and of course the malt.
OVERALL – malt, malt, and malt, bright and lively, dry and drying overall, met on the palate by that nice surprising current of caramel syrup
Juicier in the Canadian Glencairn’s roomy bowl as compared with the more confined and focused traditional Glencairn, Old Maysville Club is nevertheless a study in bright, young, dry malted rye flavors. The sweet caramel, vanilla, and syrup aspects sneak in to attempt balance. But malted rye rules the day.
I do appreciate this more now than I did a handful of years ago. There is a richness to the flavors it’s offering, and the nice contrast between the drier and juicier aspects. But it’s ultimately an intellectual appreciation more than a sensorial one, and that isn’t enough for me in the end. Especially at the price.
Ah well. I tried. I don’t regret this second purchase. Returning to early destinations on a long journey can be fruitful. In this instance the gain is a matter of introspection into my own tasting journey. Although my language for expressing my tasting experiences has definitely grown over the years, it’s reassuring to realize my palate was sensitive back then as well.
I attribute this to growing up in a forested, agricultural area, where I had regular access to fresh and real foods. Also, my mother was a chef who took her cooking seriously, continually refining recipes over years. Her basic rule for any meal was that it needed to look good, taste good, and be good for you. Presentation, taste, and nutrition were given equal value. No exceptions. Even desserts obeyed this trifecta, so one could fully enjoy them as the pure pleasure dessert intends to provide.
Old Maysville Club doesn’t quite achieve this trifecta. The presentation is excellent, from the elegant bottle to the invitingly clear whiskey itself. The taste is heavy on malt and dry herbal elements at the expense of balance or contrast. And as for being good for you, it’s whiskey. It’s medicine. Not much to say there.
I can understand why someone might actually really dig this rye. I’m a big fan of Old Potrero, after all, and that’s a decidedly intense malty experience. It’s not for everyone. Same goes for Willett. Some people swear by Willett. Others swear at it. I certainly don’t find Old Maysville Club unpleasant. It’s just not a tasting experience I tend to favor. I love the edginess and especially the chocolate notes that can come from malt. And I love the herbal aspects of rye. But I love these best when they’re paired with strong fruit or rich caramel notes, and that’s not the case here.
Given its price, I don’t consider Old Maysville Club a mixer. But on flavor alone it would undoubtedly make a good one. Mixing it into a bright Spring or Summery cocktail might also bring out the “club” in Maysville Club, conjuring long porches and beautiful vistas. (Not that I frequent country clubs. For all I know country clubs ended with the Twentieth Century…!)
If you’re curious, give it a go. If not, no loss. There is a lifetime of rye whiskeys to be had.