By Kurt Maitland
Twelve Five Rye Whiskey is made at Iowa’s Cedar Ridge Vineyards and Distillery by the Congenial Spirits Company, an outfit billed as the first licensed distillery in Iowa since the age of Prohibition.
This rye is distilled in small batches using a European-engineered, 80-gallon Bavarian copper pot. Twelve Five’s mashbill is comprised of 70% rye, 15% malted barley and 15% corn and is aged for a minimum of two years in charred American Oak barrels.
Cedar Ridge then takes the additional step to let the rye “rest” in aluminum containers for four months, a process they believe helps the flavors to better blend. Those following the Kentucky Bourbon Heist case and acute industry observers will be familiar with the use of stainless steel and aluminum kegs for indefinite whiskey storage, because it is a neutral container and ends the maturation process while preserving the whiskey. The rye is then bottled at 47.5% or 95 Proof.
Color: Young Copper
Nose: When I first opened this bottle and got a whiff from my glass, the first thing that hit me was dill and lots of it. What it really was the scent of young, fresh rye. With a little time, the nose weaves past the rye and leads you to a path edged with cloves, ginger, sandalwood and hints of coconut.
Taste: At first blush, I didn’t know what to make the Twelve Five Rye. It lacked the woody taste that I’ve come to expect of many a young whiskey and the dill like nose from the rye made it stand out from the from other ryes I frequent. Once you give it a little air and a little time (treat it like you would a wine and let this dram breathe) you will be rewardedThe mouthfeel meaty and viscous, with a little oaky astringency before you get to the sweet, spicy finish.
With a little water, toffee reveals itself in the nose along with a bit of gingerbread and caramel. The addition of water takes away a little of the fruity sweetness that I found in the finish but brings a subdued vanilla to the proceedings. Usually, I prefer my whisk(e)y without water but I find that this release remains a quality dram either way.
Finish: The finish on this is sweet, reminding me of cherries covered in dark chocolate. Then it turns to a slightly woody, clove and allspice note that clings to your mouth the longer you drink it.
This will not be an easy dram to get a hold of, unless you live in the Southern California area. A limited quantity of 2,500 cases of Twelve Five Rye whiskey was the initial release and it is currently available in the greater Los Angeles area and San Diego, with plans to expand to other markets with nationwide over the course of 2015.
If you can find it, a bottle should set you back $50.