By Richard Thomas
It’s been several years since the mixology-driven Rye Craze damn near wiped Rye Whiskey off the shelves, creating a legitimate shortage of the type that saw even Old Overholt in short supply. At that time, craft whiskey was in its infancy and there were really only three styles of Rye to be had: the Kentucky “barely Rye” approach (i.e. rye content at 51 to 55% of the mashbill); the Canadian style(s); and Indiana’s MGP-made 95% Rye.
The strange thing is how Tennessee didn’t really have a Rye Whiskey thing going on, and I write that because it’s the other major American Whiskey state, second only to Kentucky. Ever the iconoclast, Prichard’s Distillery released the first fully home-grown Tennessee Rye in 2008. George Dickel introduced a Rye too, but it was hybrid from a production point of view: Dickel sourced the distillate from MGP, put it in tanks, and trucked it down to Tullahoma for the Lincoln County Process and aging.
Jack Daniel’s began closing the circle for Tennessee’s trio of well-established distilleries (Prichard’s opened in the late 1990s, well before the craft whiskey boom) a few years ago, releasing progressively more aged and polished versions of their Rye. Now that effort has reached proper culmination, not in a premium offering (that came in the form of the Single Barrel Rye last year), but in it’s mass market JD Rye. Like previous installments, it’s made at the distillery from 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley. Unlike previous installments, it’s reasonably priced. This time the Rye is bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV)
The whiskey has a typical rye look in the glass, with its oranged, light amber appearance. A coating of the inside of the glass streams legs.
A whiff of JD Rye reveals a fresh whiskey, fruity with orange zest and mildly herbal with mint and fresh cut grass. The flavor goes over to being very rye and cereals-forward, with a strong current of vanilla and peppery spices, a little orange zest and a teaspoon of butterscotch. The finish is, strangely, a little nutty, but nothing that jumps out at you as it is light and fades fast.
Jack Daniel’s Straight Tennessee Rye is a mass market creation, and in terms of rye content it sits in a zone between the MGP 95% Rye and the Kentucky-made Ryes. I think it’s lacking in the finish, but otherwise is a pleasant, flavorful sipper, and is as good as a slew of MGP-based Ryes in its price range.
Expect to pay around $27 for a bottle of JD Rye.