By S.D. Peters
There’s not much that needs to be said about the Pepper brand nor it’s 3rd Generation heir, Col. James E. Pepper, that the Whiskey Reviewer hasn’t already said – or that can’t be found nicely summarized on the back of this Rye’s bottle. The Pepper brand is currently owned by the Georgetown Trading Company, a company whose history, like that of the iconic brand it’s re-launched with the 1776 Straight Rye and a complementary bourbon, dates back to the American Revolution, and it’s nice to see it back on the shelves.
Back in the day, Col. J.E.P. nicknamed his whiskey “Old 1776,” an homage to the Revolutionary-era recipes it followed. James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey rejuvenates the Colonel’s “Pure Rye” recipe – the precise grain bills for which are laid-out in an historic letter, written by the Colonel and recently discovered during the extensive research that went into the Pepper brand’s relaunch. The Rye has a 90% rye mash bill, is bottled at 100 Proof in dark, vintage-style cork-stopped bottles, and is not chill-filtered.
Its deep copper hue exudes leather, oak and caramel, is heady with spice, and sweetened with a splash of clover honey. Pepper (appropriately) and clove command a flavor that’s chased by honey-sweetened blackberries. The finish is laced with peppered chocolate shavings long, and quite smooth for 50% ABV. Light citrus lingers with vanilla and mixed berry long after the initial finish fades.
Distilled in Indiana and bottled in Bardstown, KY, James E. Pepper 100 Proof 1776 Straight Rye whiskey has a big name behind it, and should be relatively easy to find at your local whiskey purveyor. Expect to pay between $25-$30 per bottle – a good price for a Rye whiskey of this caliber.
James E. Pepper 100 Proof 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey was a Gold Medal winner at the San Francisco 2013 World Spirits Convention.