By S.D. Peters
I first learned of Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in 2010, about a year after the company’s founding. I was planning a trip along the Whiskey Trail, and in the midst of gathering information about the more established distilleries along the Trail, I discovered that a Rye whiskey was being distilled just up the road from me, in Purcellville, VA.
No better gateway to the past than the present, I decided, and set off to visit Catoctin Creek Distillery.
Spontaneity has its rewards, but not that day: the distillery was closed. However, a local eatery, mentioned on Catoctin Creek’s website at the time as a good place to try “the local stuff,” was open. I sat myself at the bar and ordered a taste of Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye and Mosby’s Spirit (the distillery’s entry in white whiskey market), followed by light lunch of grilled whitefish with roasted red potatoes. On the way home, I stopped by the local ABC and purchased a bottle of the Roundstone Rye. I haven’t had a chance to drive back to Purcellville yet, but I do pick up a bottle of Roundstone Rye every now and then.
The Whiskey Reviewer’s Jake Emen, who toured the Distillery and spoke with it’s co-owner and distiller Scott Harris, has written a superb piece on the distillery, so I’ll refer readers there for a more informative look at the company and it’s products. Now, to the whiskey…
My tasting for this review came from Batch #B11-RR-11, which was aged just under three years. (The Batch # and the Age statement are handwritten on the bottle, a nice personal touch that speaks of the pride Catoctin Creek takes in their product.) Roundstone Rye is 100% organic Rye, and is bottled in a traditional, cork-stopped bottle at 40% ABV (80 Proof).
It’s not only a unique Rye, but a unique entry in the exclusive class of 100% Ryes. It’s the least Rye-like 100% Rye I’ve had, yet still very much a Rye of the New Breed, having a particularly characteristic sweetness I’ve detected in other craft Ryes. Lacking a decent metaphor, I’ll go with a simile: it’s like peppering a piece of fruit.
In the glass Roundstone Rye has a golden honeysuckle glow, with a scent of wildflowers and spring meadow heading the nose. Slowly, India ink, honeyed leather, and a air of country woodshop permeate the meadow, swirling together in a very delicate balance that ends with a mild hint of banana! To the taste, it’s initially quite fruity, with a touch of almond extract before a light spice spreads out, reminding you that this is a Rye. The smoothness on the palate continues into the finish, as the Rye fades into a short but satisfactory dessert of honeyed gum.
What really makes this Rye distinctive is a subtlety throughout. While it suggests a commanding sweetness, the spicy undertones of Rye remain until the finish, tempering the sweet so it’s less like candy, and more like a rich, organic fresh fruit.
A 750ml bottle of Roundstone Rye costs $38-$40. Look for it in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Wyoming.
Since its introduction, Roundstone Rye has garnered numerous awards and accolades, including Silver from the 2010 New York International Spirits Competition and from the American Distilling Institute in 201, and most recently, Gold from Good Foods Awards in 2013.