Broken Barrel Heresy Rye review [In Depth]

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye

Alex author
Founder, writer
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Broken Barrel Heresy Rye Details

Distillery: Broken Barrel

Type & Region: Rye, USA

Alcohol: 52.5%

Composition: 95% rye, 5% malted barley

Aged: 2-4 years old

Color: 1.0/2.0 on the color scale (deep copper)

Price: $40

From the company website:

This Rye whiskey is distilled in Owensboro Kentucky – just like our bourbon. However, it is unlike any rye whiskey you’ve ever tasted. Charred French oak gives a woody body to the spirit, while ex-bourbon (still soaked from the previous tenant) and ex-sherry cask staves all join forces to create a fiery, yet balanced and smooth taste and finish. We use the same proprietary Oak Bill™ to embolden this rye whiskey and give it an uncommon and untraditional taste and character. Aged a minimum of two years.
Call it sacrilegious, call it untraditional, call it heresy—we won’t be offended. But trust us. Once you taste it, you may begin to question the tradition yourself.

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye overview

Broken Barrel dabbles in virtually every type of American whiskey: bourbon, American whiskey, and rye. Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen a wheat whiskey yet. Anyway, Broken Barrel brings their “hulk smash” stave collection and finishing process to Kentucky rye whiskey, which hopefully leads to some interesting results, just as it has with their bourbon.
In short, stave finishing is the process of putting oak staves (staves meaning pieces of wood in whatever shape) into whiskey and letting those staves infuse character into the whiskey. The process is similar to the barrel finishing process. With barrel finishing, you pour whiskey into a barrel, and the wood imparts new traits into the whiskey.
With stave finishing, you put the wood staves into the whiskey, which may or may not be in an oak barrel. And if it sounds familiar, Maker’s Mark does the same thing with Maker’s 46 among other bourbons.
There are some benefits of stave finishing.
  • You are not limited to how much liquid you can pour into the barrel. You can put any number of staves into as large or as small a container as you want, potentially giving you more control over the process.
  • You can use different types of staves at the same time. With barrel finishing, you are “stuck” with one type of barrel, unless you go through the painstaking process of disassembling a barrel and re-assembling it with different staves. I don’t think that anyone does that, it’s too time consuming. With stave finishing, you can mix and match staves, which Broken Barrel does, to create some type of profile.
  • The inside, outside, and sides of the staves contact the whiskey, meaning more interaction. With barrel finishing, the whiskey interacts with the inside, a little bit of the side as it soaks into the barrel, and none of the outside.
The stave bill is as follows
  • 40% ex bourbon
  • 40% new french oak
  • 20% sherry oak
I find that French oak usually adds a nice effervescent and shimmery oakiness, similar to Maker’s Mark 46. Sherry oak, used to age sherry, could add some dark fruitiness and oakiness.
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other stave-finished rye whiskeys. There are a lot of cask finished ones, including those from Sagamore Spirit and Bardstown Bourbon Company, but that’s a very different process. So, Heresy Rye has that added uniqueness that hopefully brings unique results.
Let’s find out what this unique stave finished rye can do in this Broken Barrel Heresy Rye review.
Thank you to Broken Barrel for providing this bottle. All opinions are still my own.
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As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye smell

The scents have honey, fennel, candied pineapple, baked apples with cinnamon, toasted oak, clove, and a little darker apricot, orange peel, ginger, and roasted coffee. Broken Barrel Heresy smells pretty good with a nice overall fruitiness and tropicalness, so I think that it has solid richness and range.
That said, it doesn’t have the impact I’d like for it to have, especially at 105 proof, which is not low at all. The staves and rye work together well, and so far there’s a lot to like although I’m not blown away from it
After swirling and 15 minutes of rest, I get honey, licorice, and green grape wrapped up in a more fragrant toasted oak, pineapple, darker baked red apple, clove, cinnamon, mint, and coffee with more background dark toastiness.
Broken Barrel Heresy Rye continues to smell bright, pleasant, and fruity with backing fragrant oakiness, but I feel like there’s just not much extra richness or complexity to keep me engaged. The first level of goodness is there, but it can’t break the surface to be more than that.
The staves probably are doing a lot, and I suspect that the background coffee and darkness come from the staves, which enhances the younger rye.
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Broken Barrel Heresy Rye taste and aftertaste

The flavors have honey, fennel, pineapple, roasted oak, caraway seed, orange peel, green grape, cinnamon, and a little mint. While the flavors overall are bright, fruity, and tropical (as it often is with rye), there is this lightly bitter oakiness and earthiness on the back. I don’t know what’s causing it, be it rye or oak, but I don’t love it.
At first, the flavors are good but not great, so I hope that “chewing” brings out even more good. There’s some really great rye out there, and this isn’t one of them yet.
With hard “chewing”, I taste honey, licorice, pineapple, green grape, a darker fruity sweetness, vanilla, mint, toasted oak, cinnamon, clove, earthy caraway seed, and some light bitter earthiness and oakiness in the back. Now there’s more sweetness, fruitiness, and herbalness, which pushes back the light bitterness. It’s good enough, but nothing stands out.
With a few more sips though, I get a little bit of this dark fruity sweetness that’s starting to get my attention. It’s this extra layer that came out of nowhere, and that’s a nice addition. It’s a darker plum-like sweetness that gives me that little bit more depth and maturity to make it interesting. It took a while to appear, but I’m happy that it did.
The aftertaste starts with honey, fennel, pineapple, and roasted oak at first followed by lingering licorice, toasted oak, green grape, and caraway seed.
After “chewing”, it leaves honey, baked red apples, something that might be plum, licorice, roasted oak, clove, nutmeg, and caraway seed with lingering licorice, oak, and clove.
Overall, Broken Barrel Heresy Rye tastes good with a hint of complexity hiding beneath, but it’s still not necessarily anything remarkable or memorable.
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I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye Rating

Mid shelf+
Broken Barrel Heresy offers a bit of a strange experience that is good but often nondescript, but it does eventually pull out its last trick to get it to “Mid Shelf+”. For probably 75% of this review, this was going to get a “Mid Shelf” rating, albeit borderline “Mid Shelf+”.
Eventually, the dark fruit sweetness peeks out just enough in the flavors and I finally get something that has me intrigued. I don’t know what took so long, but it’s a nice hint of maturity and complexity within an otherwise solid but unimpressive whiskey. It is good enough to be “Mid shelf+”…barely but good enough.
Most of the time, Broken Barrel Heresy offers what I consider a fairly “standard” experience for a rye, although that itself is no means a bad thing. What I mean is that it’s mostly bright, herbal, tropical, and earthy as rye whiskeys tend to be, but there are a few small twists, primarily with a hint of extra background darkness and some more fragrant oak in the scents. But for the most part, I struggled to feel engaged because of the lack of richness and depth, although I certainly am not disgusted or displeased by it.
For better or worse, this is probably my least favorite expression I’ve had from them so far.
Broken Barrel Heresy is one of those rye whiskeys that I think you’ll end up enjoying if you get it, but there isn’t a compelling reason to search it out. If it’s there in front of you and you’re curious, sure, give it a try for $40. For me, I’d rather have Green River Rye, which comes from the same distillery, is better (in my opinion), and is a few dollars cheaper.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)