By Jake Emen
Out of Traverse City, Michigan, Grand Traverse Distillery, now in its sixth year of operation, produces a range of spirits including a spectrum of whiskeys, such as their bourbon. Grand Traverse prides themselves on their status as artisan distillers, able to handcraft their products and impart their own standards for quality and flavor. For instance, like many small, artisinal whiskey-makers, they don’t chill-filter any of their whiskeys, including their Ole George Rye Whiskey, which we’ll examine here.
Ole George Rye Whiskey is a pure, 100% straight rye whiskey, with all of the rye sourced in state within Michigan, at the Send Brothers Farm. It’s triple distilled in a copper pot still, and is bottled straight from the barrel at 46.5% ABV (93 proof).
Ole George has a deep copper color in the glass. Its first impression on the nose is a bit of a surprise, there’s a sweetness there, while the rye spice is not as strong as you would expect of a straight rye. It’s there, but that initial sweet blast is what catches your attention.
On the palate, Ole George’s rye character does shine through. This is a smooth, easy drinking rye, with a chewy mouthfeel and a flavorful spice that doesn’t overpower you. Its profile is further mellowed by a light caramel flavor, but you’ll also notice a bit of smoke, and a hint of an oaky wood in there as well.
The finish is long, even and warming, without a sharp burn. What you will notice is a lingering spice on your gums and around your mouth which encourages you to take yet another taste.
With ice, Ole George becomes chewier still, robust. The rye becomes more of a canvas for the rest of its components to display themselves, as opposed to the central note.
This is one of the smoothest and most flavorful rye whiskeys I’ve had the pleasure of sipping on, and that’s certainly how this whiskey is meant to be enjoyed. Its complex and true enough to the category of rye whiskey to be dear to the heart of any rye-head, but also quite approachable as well.
Ole George has a varying price tag. It has a suggested retail of $32 for a pint, and $54 for a 750 ml bottle. However, it has a very limited availability, and I’ve seen it priced at $65 at the sole online distributor.
Ole George Rye Whiskey won a double gold at the 7th annual ADI conference and competition in Denver this year. Also in 2013, it took home a gold medal as best in category for an aged rye at the Artisan American Spirits Awards.