By Randall H. Borkus
Black Maple Hill Rye is not a distillery, but a label owned by Paul Joseph from California. Joseph worked with Kentucky Bourbon Distillers “KBD “ (now known primarily as Willett, and bottlers of Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, etc…) for many years. So, Black Maple Hill whiskey was originally sourced from KBD, who in turn sourced their own whiskey from somewhere else. There have been varying opinions relative to the true sources of this famous nectars made by the Black Maple Hill brand. At present, the label for the straight rye tells us it is made in Oregon: “Produced for Black Maple Hill® by Stein Distillery® Joseph, Oregon”.
For me, the main problem isn’t where it came from so much as finding a bottle, which is what I advise everyone to focus on as a general rule. In this specific instance, Black Maple Hill Oregon Rye is not regularly available in the Midwest, and if you do find it the price point may stress your pocket book. Then again, if you are into buying rye whiskey regularly you are comfortable paying more now than you would have anticipated just five years ago.
My first pour of Black Maple Hill Rye came from the shelfs of one of my favorite restaurants downtown Sarasota Florida, “State Street Eating House + Cocktails”. The Black Maple Oregon was just sitting there on the shelf, surrounded by a deep collection of other rye whiskeys. There is a sense of antiquity about the label which is a sketch of a Kentucky forest, with script writing, making for a very rustic look. The bottle is short and stout coming in the standard 750ml. The real question for me was will the rye hold up or disappoint my taste buds? After all, I’m always in search of the next best whiskey flavor spectacular!
The color is a dark brown with copper overtones. On first pour the glass gives off an assorted nose with hints of licorice, dried fruit, and almond or nutmeg all nestled in a stealthy reminiscence of oak. The vapors are not overpowering and easy on the nostrils. I took some extra time here to admire the aroma and found it a pleasurable beginning to this taste adventure.
The mouth feel is thin with a medium warm sensation on the tongue and an upfront sweetness of licorice and more almond and nutmeg. The juice settles in the back of the throat with candy sweetness, nutmeg, hints of pistachio and oak spice. It has a medium finish that is warm and smooth with a tingle of sweet cinnamon, nutmeg and that reminiscence of the oak spice.
This juice drinks like a smooth young whiskey. The ABV is 47.5% with no age statement, with some observers guessing it is in the two to four year range. Overall, this whiskey is good, but for my money it is just overpriced as there are so many enjoyable rye expressions available to the rye whiskey craving mobs.
I was able to secure a bottle for $79.99 in Sarasota, and found available online in a wide range running from $70 to $150.