By Jake Emen
“Instead of using Scottish peat, we used Texas mesquite,” says the label on Ranger Creek’s Rimfire, a single malt whiskey made in San Antonio, Texas, and the second release of Ranger Creek’s Small Caliber Series, following their .36 Texas Bourbon.
It’s a catchy phrase, but more than that it speaks to the intent of Rimfire, a Texas-born, Scottish-bred, mesquite-smoked single malt whiskey. After a much-delayed legal labeling and classification process, spurred along in a small way by a helpful hand from Whiskey Reviewer editor Richard Thomas, Rimfire was released at the end of March, with a limited run of less than 500 cases of hand-numbered 375ml bottles. *
Rimfire is actually based on Ranger Creek’s Mesquite Smoked Porter — Ranger Creek is both a brewery and a distillery, or a “brewdistillery” in their preferred jargon. They basically brewed the same recipe as that beer, minus the hops, distilled it, and then aged it for six months in small barrels. The mesquite single malt is bottled at 43% abv.
The mesquite used for smoking purposes with Rimfire is sourced from a local farm, and Ranger Creek then takes the mesquite and places it into a converted 20-foot shipping container, using it as a huge smoker.
Having seen its billing as “a smooth, sweet, sipping single malt with just a touch of smoke,” I found it to be heavier on the smoke and drier than advertised, although still certainly suitable for sipping purposes.
The nose offered a molasses sweetness, hints of vanilla, and a sweet, charred aroma. A light, golden-amber in the glass, Rimfire is intense, smoky and sharp.
Rimfire has a biting, long finish, which is felt not only in your throat and stomach but resonates in your mouth as well. A bit of water or ice will highlight more of the flavor of that smoke, its mesquite backbone, while dulling its bite, and allowing its sweetness to linger through a warm, smooth finish.
While Rimfire pegs its ancestry from Scotland, I tend to think its roots are a bit closer to home, in Kentucky, at least in terms of what’s delivered versus what was conceived. Its sweetness and char called to mind more of a sharper bourbon than a sweeter single malt, to my taste at least.
The recommended retail price for Rimfire is $34.99. That might seem expensive for a half-sized bottle, but when you consider this is both a limited edition and a unique American malt, it’s actually pretty reasonable.
* This review was based on batch #1, bottle #2953, spring 2013