By Father John Rayls
This tasting experience was a pleasant surprise, because make no mistake, Diamond State Rye Whiskey is young. In fact, it’s very young.
I sampled batch/bottle 3-591 from January 18, 2017, which had spent 11 months in new oak casks. Typically, age is a very good thing when applied to whiskey production, but it’s not simply a matter of older is always better. I’ve had 23 year old whiskey that wasn’t as good as the 21 year old from the same distillery. In addition, I’ve experienced some young whiskeys (under 2 years) that, far from disappointing, have grabbed my attention and held my interest. This is one of the those attention grabbers.
Painted Stave Distilling is the first distillery in Delaware since Prohibition, following in the long-settled wake of Dover’s Levy and Gloskings Distillery, the last to close in the state. Painted Stave has deliberately tried to forge a connection between the two distilleries.
This rye is a double distilled whiskey from a mash bill of 68% rye, 25% corn and 8% malted barley, aged in a 10 gallon new oak barrel, and bottled at 92 proof. There is still a little controversy surrounding the use of smaller barrels, but the argument for using them is still the same: to gain color and oak flavoring in a shorter time period.
In the glass, Diamond State Rye has medium brown coloring, with polished brass highlights. The legs are astounding. They are thick and long and persistent. The nose is noticeably young, but filled with (new) leather and sweet corn, all on top of green oak. There is a very slight alcohol burn if you inhale too deeply.
The mouthfeel is creamy and luxurious, so much so, in fact, that you might be hesitant to swallow. The palate is light and filled with sweet creamed corn, caramel and light oak. However, the transition to finish happens very quickly and is filled with powerful spice. The spice begins with light, sweet cinnamon and allspice and refuses to quit. It changes about midway to a dominant pepper finish that is relentless, but interesting.
Some might be tempted to see it as drinking hot, but there is enough complexity there to not simply dismiss it as a hot, young rye whiskey, and there is a difference between spicy heat and alcohol heat. The cinnamon never really leaves the finish, but does take a backseat to the pepper while continuing to make its presence known. If you love a high rye bourbon, you will love the constant play between the sweet and spicy in this rye.
Expect to pay around $40.00 per 750ml bottle.