By Richard Thomas
Although whiskey distilling came strangely late to Australia, the continent-country south of the equator has been making big strides since the legal obstacles were cleared away in the 1990s. Whereas most countries follow either the Scots-Irish model of relying heavily on malted barley or the North American mixed mashbill model, Australia does both… or at least it does now, thanks to Belgrove Distillery and the 100% rye whiskey it released in September 2013.
Contrary to the usual, North American maturation format for rye whiskey, where the whiskey is aged in either small barrels of varying sizes or full casks of 53 gallons, Belgrove reportedly did both, using both small barrels and full-size barrels (50 liters/13 gallons to 200 liters/53 gallons). The result is obviously a no-aging statement product, what with such aging variables as the source barrels present, and is bottled at 42% abv. Belgrove’s 100% rye is not chill-filtered.
In the glass, the whiskey has a good-bodied gold coloring. The nose is light and airy, with the traditional sweetly spicy scent of rye, with the spicy aspect leaning on a strong mint note. The flavor isn’t quite as sweet, having a dry and somewhat woody aspect to it. I would say the flavor reminded me of a chamomile and mint tea with a whiskey kick, but for that dry and oaky streak. The finish opens on a moderately bitter and tannic aftertaste, but from there winds down warmly and pleasantly.
This is a decent rye, but my feeling is that the maturation isn’t just quite there yet. Perhaps the proportion of small barrel whiskey is too high, or the small barrel whiskey in question has been aged too long, and that is what is making the whiskey a little to dry for my taste. However, for a country where the only experience of native rye whiskey is embodied in Belgrove Distillery, this batch is a good start.
A 500 ml bottle of Belgrove 100% Rye retails with Australian web vendors for 150 AUD ($130).