By Debbie Shocair
Given what I do, most whiskey fans presume I am opposed to flavored whiskey. On the contrary, I appreciate the flavored stuff as “gateway whiskey,” bringing into the fold those who still harbor reservations.
Such a gateway is The Cooper Spirits Co. Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye. Slow & Low has both an 8 year old and a standard, NAS rock and rye, and it’s the latter that is explored here.
Founded by the late and esteemed Robert Cooper, Cooper Spirits has revived a flavorful style of drink which hails back to before Prohibition, when it was common to serve unaged, sometimes unpalatable rye whiskey, alongside a bowl of rock candy, which could be added by the customer to “take the edge off.” It later continued in pre-mixed, bottled form as a pharmacy cure-all for the common cold. From there came the moniker “Rock and Rye.” This modern rock and rye is made in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia by Local 500, and serves as a respectable cocktail in a bottle.
While I normally give little credence to packaging, I like the square bottle topped by a thick and sensuous swirled neck, in part because that wonderful “glug-glug” of a new bottle is accentuated. The label on Rock and Rye claims to be “Our Famous Rye Old Fashioned.” I’m a tough sell on Old-Fashioneds, for the most part because so few barkeeps master the drink, so this was going be be interesting.
On the nose, R&R was resplendent with orange and honey. I found it odd that the rye whiskey actually took a backseat to the sweet fruit, but it was certainly pleasant.
At a respectable 84 proof, Rock and Rye was gentle in the mouth, with only a hint of tingle in the middle of the tongue. Flavor was a strong point in this expression of a bottled cocktail. Loads of bitter orange and honey, with the rye whiskey still taking the second string in performance.
The finish on Rock and Rye was nice and lingering, as you would expect a nice cocktail to provide. Set aside the expectations of a straight whiskey, and this flavored beverage is a lovely, easy drink.
Cooper Spirits has done a fine job of marrying the orange with the rye in a way that complements them both. I tried it both neat and on the rocks, and found I preferred it neat. The ice brought a spicy mouthfeel that overshadowed the balance of flavors. With a glut of flavored whiskies on the market and most of them copycats, Hochstadter’s Rock and Rye is a nice anomaly. A good, tasty segue for anyone wanting to set foot into Whiskeydom.
At a suggested price of around $22, Rock and Rye is a great option for any dinner, party, or quiet interlude.