By Richard Thomas
Greenville, South Carolina’s Dark Corner Distillery bills itself as producing the “World’s Best Moonshine,” but they also have the singular distinction of being the first distiller of rye whiskey in the history of the state. Earlier this summer, Dark Corner turned out a 115-bottle batch of its Carolina Straight Rye, and in the process they made a little Palmetto state history.
I’ve been fond of South Carolina for its shores and its history since my boyhood, and for those who don’t know it, Greenville is not Charleston. It’s hill country Southern, right across the state line from Nantahala National Forest, quite the contrast the storied plantations of the state’s central and coastal regions. With that in mind, the reason for the distillery’s moonshine-orientation should be obvious.
Yet here we are focused on their milestone straight rye whiskey. Aged for 26 months, the rye was made in Dark Corners’ 80-gallon copper pot still from a high-corn mashbill of 60% rye, 30% corn and 10% malted barley, and bottled at 80 proof.
In the glass, Carolina Straight Rye has a bright, coppery mid-amber appearance. Although speaking to the whiskey’s youth, it’s a nice color for a two year old rye.
The nose smacks of floral citrus and dried red fruit sweetness, with a thick dollop of creamy vanilla stirred in. I also detected a crisp but small note of pine.
Compared to the nose, the palate experience was light, but flavorful. The dried fruit and citrus sweetness mellows out and expands into pipe tobacco, the pine note transitions to cedar, and a little pepper comes out. The finish is light, but carries a little warmth and lingers for a good long while.
Given that it’s the end of summer, my first thought upon taking a couple of sniffs and sips of this whiskey was “if I were sitting in any part of South Carolina right now, this is the whiskey I’d want to sip on the porch and on the rocks.” The whiskey’s youth gives it a light-yet-flavorful character that just makes it ideal for drinking out in the heat, and that same aspect makes it impossible for ice to subdue or ruin it.
My second thought was that it was a very nice sipper for a young rye, but even so, it was still just barely in straight whiskey territory. This was the first batch of Dark Corner rye whiskey, and it’s at least as enjoyable as standards such as Old Overholt. That makes it a very good start on rye-making indeed.
This first batch of Dark Corner Carolina Straight Rye was, as previously noted, limited to just 115 bottles that went for $65 apiece. That batch is now sold out, but with a start like this, people who can easily get to Greenville should keep an eye out for Batch #2.