July 27, 2018
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Region: Kentucky, USA
Type: Rye Whiskey
Composition: 51% rye, 39% corn, 10% barley
Aged: 6 years in virgin American white oak barrels
Price: $45 (750mL)
From the Heaven Hill website:
“Prohibition shuttered most of the once-booming Maryland Rye industry, but Pikesville, produced since the 1890’s, re-emerged in 1936 and became the lone brand to keep this style of Rye alive. Having stored away extra-aged barrels, Heaven Hill reclaims the past with Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey. Pikesville is a high-proof, super-premium straight rye whiskey, drawn from specially selected barrels aged at least 6 years. Rye Whiskey is enjoying a renaissance, led by mixologists and aficionados who enjoy its full flavor, its mixability and its long and storied history.”
Pikesville Straight Rye, a Heaven Hill product, is modeled off a Maryland brand that it purchased a few years ago. Pikesville rye is 6 years old, 2 years older than its cousin: Rittenhouse rye, and costs an extra $20-30. Before prohibition, Maryland, as well as Pennsylvania, was a hub for rye whiskey production. Maryland had been quiet since, until the recent rise of craft distilleries in the area. At 51% rye, this is the bare minimum amount a rye whiskey can have.
Heaven Hill Lineup of Reviews
Evan Williams Bottled in Bond begins with sweet caramel, brown sugar, and honey with vanilla and roasted marshmallows, immediately followed by a noticeable floral, malty, and nutty crushed peanut shell scent. For better or worse, it has the same polarizing nutty “Beam funk” that’s also in Booker’s. A little bit of cherry, orange, and a slice of baked apple on top of cornbread also contribute to the sweetness and nuttiness to provide a little extra complexity. Moderate amounts of slightly musty roasted oak influence add cinnamon, nutmeg, and raw cocoa, and the corn mash provides a slightly buttery coconut milk scent to round out the nose. For 100 proof, the alcohol in Evan Williams BIB is also well subdued.
Swirling really kicks up the alcohol, so I suggest that if you swirl it, give it a moment to calm down afterwards. Now I’m able to smell a little more vanilla buttercream and coconut vanilla hazelnut coffee creamer, as well as slightly musty pine wood and a handful of crushed peanuts. While Evan Williams Bottled in Bond / White may be “cheap”, it smells more expensive than it actually is.
The color here is pretty standard, no surprises. It has a copper color. On the color scale it is about a 1.5/2.0. In addition, the heads really cling onto the sides of the glass, definitely showing that there’s a lot of alcohol in it.
For a lack of a better word, this smells awesome. It’s incredibly floral and grassy, with moderate alcohol and an underlying caramel base. It’s like smelling a flower that’s only a little sweet so you mostly smell its leafy and earthy parts. There’s also the smell of freshly cut grass. Subsequent smells reveal a mix of caramel nougat and brown sugar, as well as the very clear scent of roasted peanuts right after you crack open the shell and smell the nuts and dust from the shell floating in the air. As the glass slowly empties, honey finally emerges, no longer hidden by the alcohol.
Strangely, Pikesville Rye doesn’t have as much rye spice as I would expect from 51% rye (usually pepper and mint), but once the glass is empty and I let it sit, I start to finally get the slightest minty and peppery smell of rye bread.
Just like the smell, the taste is intense, yet pleasant. The intensity isn’t from the alcohol, but the rich flavors. The first taste is full of nuts and brown sugar, making me think of peanut butter. It’s not too sweet, but savory. As I keep drinking, I taste more peanuts, and just a touch of chocolate and mint. There’s also a strong grassy, leafy, nutty, and malty taste, like when you’re eating pumpernickel bread and you bite into one of the grains and the husk is still there. Underneath all of that, there’s something reminiscent of vanilla, like frosting or bubble gum. Throughout, there’s only moderate alcohol burn. I don’t want to use the term “smooth”, but it’s more mellow than expected.
The aftertaste lingers and continues to build as I drink. After the alcohol burn subsides, there’s a slight citrus sweetness that’s very interesting. It might be orange, but it’s faint so it’s hard to say. There’s also a gentle bitterness from the wood tannins that leave my mouth dry.
Given how intense its flavors are, pairings with chocolate desserts, nuts, candy, caramels, fudge, and heavier foods with meat gravy make the most sense.
As a result, foods that likely will not pair well include delicate foods such as white meat, fish, summer fruits, and pasta with white sauce that will be overpowered by Pikesville Rye.