RITTENHOUSE RYE BOTTLED IN BOND
Single Barrel #7944749 selected by K&L (2022)
MASH BILL – 51% Rye, 37% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
PROOF – 100
AGE – 4+ years
DISTILLERY – Heaven Hill
PRICE – $38
WORTH BUYING? – Yes!
Early on in my whiskey journey, the standard release Rittenhouse Rye was a bottle I frequented. Solid taste, solid proof, mixes well, stands alone well enough. A good affordable go-to that rightly earns its place on any bar or home shelf. (If I’m remembering correctly, my first accidentally-too-drunk-off-whiskey night at home was with a bottle of Rittenhouse!)
But as time went on I moved on to other ryes. Pikesville, the older and higher-proof sibling to Rittenhouse, lingered a bit longer on my shelf. But soon I moved on from that as well. No reason beyond the so many fish in the sea principle, and me wanting to put my money toward new experiences.
So when the good people at Heaven Hill decided to release single barrels of Rittenhouse, and one showed up locally, I thought that was a good excuse to revisit this ol’ dependable rye brand.
So here we are, a week and a half after uncorking (uncapping, actually) and three pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – pale but rich oranges that shift in the light exceptionally well
NOSE – soft yet vibrant dry rye spice, black pepper, cinnamon, oak, cherry, cooked apricot, caramelized brown sugars like in a doughy breakfast pastry
TASTE – more caramel here, also roasted mixed nuts, dry rye grasses and spices, oak
FINISH – caramel, the roasted nuts, a nutty chocolate, a faint drizzle of the fruit notes like a syrup, and a gently fading prickly heat
OVERALL – a perfectly fine, not flashy, no pretense rye with simple ambitions
It’s as if the whiskey says, Sip me on my own if you must, and I’ll be there for you, but I’m happiest in a crowd. Meaning, Mix me! Mix me!
Taken on its own, however, this Rittenhouse single barrel offers something very like my memory of the standard release: an uncomplicated rye that sways casually within its dependable chocolate, oak, nut, and rye spice notes. I don’t need to sip this neat. I don’t imagine ever having a craving for it. But for something good that I don’t want to think too much about while I’m doing other things, I’ll be reaching for this.
As for its role as a mixer—which BTW I do not consider a pejorative at all, as there are excellent and exceptionally $$$ ryes that are so particular they’d likely make terrible mixers—it seemed appropriate that I put this bottle to that taste test as well.
I chose a hybrid cocktail, an Old Fashioned Maple Brown Derby. Here is the recipe:
2 oz Rittenhouse Rye.
1 oz freshly squeezed and fine strained ruby grapefruit juice.
1/4 oz maple syrup.
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters.
Combine the above in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe.
Express mandarine orange zest over it and discard.
Garnish with a trimmed mandarine orange peel and/or stemmed cherry.
COLOR – pale pink grapefruit
NOSE – very mandarine orange, cherry, and grapefruit
TASTE – creamy caramel, maple, candied grapefruit, cooled baked cherry, graham cracker
FINISH – caramel, graham cracker, soft grapefruit peel, cream, light cherry syrup
OVERALL – excellent if I do say so myself
Here the Rittenhouse becomes very discreet. It’s there. But where, exactly? I suspect the graham cracker, caramel, and cream notes are attributable to Rittenhouse. They harmonize nicely with the gently bitter citrus and sweetly savory maple. The dash of Peychaud’s seems to weave subtly into the grapefruit’s own bitter character. Garnishing with both the orange and cherry might be more factors than one needs. But I enjoyed the play between the softer, rounder cherry notes and the mandarine orange’s zingier sweetness. They seemed to make good friends with the grapefruit’s sweet but slightly bitter tendencies.
I took a sip of the rye neat after having enjoyed the cocktail. Now its creamy nut butter notes come forward more distinctly. The chocolate and oak also join forces and lean in together. Altogether it’s actually coming across with even greater balance, and richness, now than it did pre-cocktail. Interesting.
A point in favor of cocktails being the forum Rittenhouse feels most free to be itself. My takeaway from this tasting is that, on its own, Rittenhouse might be best enjoyed not first but after others have broken the ice. Also, it makes a solid backbone to a cocktail. In short, Rittenhouse is a rye whiskey that gets the jobs done.