By Father John Rayls
I received a phone call recently from NJoy, small, remote distillery on the Gulf Coast of Florida (Nature Coast to locals) in Weeki Wachee, Florida. They wanted to know about my writing up a review for their young rye whiskey, and I made the mistake of asking if it was sourced.
For my inquisitiveness, I received a 20 minute lecture on what “craftsmanship” means. What I learned during this 20 minutes was that Natalie and Kevin, the owner-operators of NJoy, care passionately about what they are doing. Kevin even claims to have made much of their operational equipment. So, they believe they have created a very unique rye whiskey and not just any whiskey. Imagine a rye whiskey with a mashbill of 100% locally grown rye (some of it grown by Njoy themselves) and bottled at 100 proof. I could feel my expectations starting to rise, but it’s only one year old.
At only a year old it begs the question of “how good could it be?” I admit my bias, here: I love entrepreneurs and these two definitely qualify. By the way, did I mention I also love rye? In addition, NJoy Spirit Distillery won a bronze medal from the American Distilling Institute for a young craft spirit. I had to tell them, ” OK, you have my attention… send me some.”
The bottle is beautiful, substantial thing, and the rye in it has a traditional look of dark amber with some threads of yellow depending on available light. It is of light to medium viscosity with short to medium legs. It really looks good sitting quietly neat in my Glencairn whiskey glass.
The aroma is of sweet caramel or even toffee, heavy oak, spiciness, vanilla along with some faint fruitiness. The smells are really fun to explore and add greatly to the pleasure of this rye whiskey experience.
Yet I cannot say that it really coats the inside of your mouth, but it still manages to create a feeling of biting into the whiskey as you allow it to rest in the mouth. The taste experience begins immediately at the front and middle of the mouth and provides a boatload of flavor. For a one year old (i.e. very young) whiskey, this really surprised me. Oak certainly drives the flavor, but it’s couched in custard and caramel with a grainy rye base. There is a medium to long finish driven more by the oak than the 100 proof alcohol. Surprisingly, there isn’t much of a burn on the nose or the palate.
While I tend to prefer an older, aged whiskey, but this is a very smooth and enjoyable whiskey, and would be an interesting whiskey to use as a base for cocktails if you enjoy a good rye foundation.
As a very small, mom and pop startup up distillery, keeping up with demand is always an issue. However, they are interested in growing the distillery appropriately and are working on availability. Initially Wild Buck Rye was only available locally, but it has recently been made available online. Pricing is in the $50.00 to $55.00 range, plus shipping for online purchases.