77 WHISKEY BiB RYE
MASH BILL – 100% rye
PROOF – 100
AGE – 6 years
DISTILLERY – Breuckelen Distilling
PRICE – $74 (includes shipping)
WORTH BUYING? – Yes!
I’ve been a Breuckelen Distilling fan since trying a mighty 2021 cask strength SiB release of their Wheated Bourbon, followed closely by a similarly impressive Single Malt SiB. I selected their 4-Year Bottled in Bond Rye as a gift for a friend, Kenny Toll, and his fiancé now wife. They’d been together for 4 years, and met and bonded in Brooklyn, where they still live. So a 4-year bonded whiskey made in Brooklyn seemed a fitting tribute.
After some weeks I thought I might get a bottle for myself. But alas, it was sold out at Seelbach’s, my online source for all things Breuckelen Distilling. However, a few weeks later they got in some bottles of a 6-year BiB Rye release. I couldn’t click “Add to Cart” fast enough. Good thing, too. It sold out pretty quickly!
This was in the spring of 2022. Then late one night in early 2023, I was contemplating what new bottle to open up, and a text came through from Kenny, who was in that moment enjoying a pour from his bottle of the 4-year and sent me a snapshot. I had my answer.
At uncorking I was wowed right out of the gate. Malt, mandarine orange, chocolate, cedar syrup, rye syrup, a sweet and savory crystallized pine sap straight from the pinecone, really textured and interesting. And good! Reminded me very much of the most recent Rubicon Ryes I’ve enjoyed. The flood of syrupy wood elements didn’t seem like it should work, but it sure did.
Then quite suddenly my senses leapt way back in time, to a crystal bowl of old fashioned candies, which Mrs. Alicea always had at the ready when the neighbor kids came knocking at her sliding glass door. We’d sit and chat with her for a few minutes in her parlor. It seemed a true old fashioned parlor, complete with bone-white lace doilies, upholstered furniture, and a sturdy wood coffee table, which I imagine was either handmade by her fireman husband or an heirloom brought over from Italy by them when they immigrated. Between short answers to her questions about school or our pets, we’d carefully pick through and enjoy some handful of individually wrapped candies of the complex sort not made commercially. Layered ingredients, looking like colorful strata in the ancient earth, with dense, unusual flavors that during those years of my childhood were only to be found in that crystal bowl—licorice, anise, orange marmalade, vanilla and caramel and marshmallow taffies…
So here we are back in 2023, one week after uncorking and four pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using both Canadian and traditional Glencairns.
COLOR – very vibrant and syrupy oranges that really play in the light
NOSE – dark pine notes, dried maple syrup, malt, crystalizing honey, butter, faint fresh rosemary still on the branch, bright, both fresh and textured
TASTE – syrupy, with the dark pine notes leading, supported by creamy caramel and milk chocolate
FINISH – pine, cedar, lemon, licorice, rosemary, caramel, cream, eventually milk chocolate, and a lingering soft peppery prickle from the proof…
OVERALL – a spectrum from bright to dark, led by pine and malt and backed up by creamy and sweet candy notes
Today this is much more reminiscent for me of Rubicon Rye than that crystal bowl of candies from ye olde childhood. I’m especially transported to the Summer 2022 Rubicon batch, and, even more so, the Fall 2022. I didn’t post about that Fall batch, but, like this 77 Whiskey BiB Rye, that too featured strong sweet currents—chocolate, maple, a touch of cherry—to balance and soften the drier, spikier pine aspects. The two whiskeys are also roughly of similar age, and made from 100% rye. Most notably it is the strong pine and malt combo that pulls them together in my sense memory.
That crystal candy bowl is still there, however. It wafts in and out through the cream, caramel, and licorice notes. But ultimately I’d guess this rye will appeal less to fans of old fashioned candy than to fans of sweet and rustic wood notes. Pine can sometimes go Pine-Sol for people, especially combined with a substantial bottling proof. I get that. But perhaps because I grew up surrounded by thousands of pine trees in their multiple species, these whiskeys conjure up pleasant and very specific sense memories. I can pick out the needles from the bark from the sap from the cone, how dry or wet, in the tight cold of winter or loosening heat of summer. Pine has a natural sharpness to it as compared to the rounder notes of oak. Pine paired with malt can come off as astringent. But pine can also have great textural nuance and a hybrid minty/floral softness, and malt its nice chocolate and cream qualities. So when a malted rye whiskey strikes the balance between these, it can be a superb experience.
And an uncommon one! It’s the smaller craft distilleries that seem to experiment most with 100% rye, and especially malted rye—e.g. Breuckelen, Dry Diggings, Laws, Old Potrero… These offer a distinct experience from either the ubiquitous non-distiller producer (NDP) bottlings of MGP’s 95% rye / 5% malted barley recipe—e.g. Hughes, Templeton, Old Carter, to name just a few drops in the ocean—or the corn-tempered mainstream ryes like Pikesville or Sazerac or Elijah Craig.
What I particularly enjoy about Breuckelen’s entry into the 100% rye genre is the finish. It moves like the sun from dawn to dusk. The brighter, punchier notes arrive up front, then gradually give way to the softer, darker notes. Likewise things go from drier to sweeter. This is a distinctly more rugged landscape—sandy soil, granite, wind-twisted pine trees, wildflowers bright like fire—than the wide sloping fields of the bluegrass state, for example.
And again I find myself likening a New York whiskey to the Northern California terroir and its whiskeys. This happens for me with certain McKenzie whiskeys as well, another NY brand. It’s an interesting connection I wouldn’t expect, yet here it is again. I’d be curious to taste these various whiskeys with an up-state New Yorker to learn what the same aromas and flavors conjure for them.
In short, another worthy rye on the journey.