A couple of weeks ago I took part as a judge in Spirits Business magazine’s Global Whisky Masters. Or to be more precise, the Irish, American and World Whiskey Masters 2016. It was – I’m sure you’ll understand – a day of very hard work. On my particular table we spent the morning working our way through a great many American and Canadian whiskies. Here’s a little of what I was looking at most of the day:
Repeat for many dozens of whiskies, tasted blind (any bottles were tied in bags) and which were served up in numerous ‘flights’. I actually relished the opportunity to get to know some more obscure whiskies from across the pond, because for years the choice for US whiskies has been slim-pickings. I must say, though, that I was very impressed with the quality (especially in the single malt category). After the event had finished up, we were allowed to take home a treat or two. One of the bottles I picked up was what I thought was a very interesting rye whiskey: Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye – Cask Proof.
The Catoctin Creek Distilling Company is ‘the first distillery in Loudoun County Virginia since before prohibition’. A family owned distillery, which is certified organic and kosher, produces numerous organic spirits and liqueurs, including rye whisky, brandy from Virginia wines, and gin. Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye – Cask Proof is bottled at 58% ABV and costs around $90 a bottle. (Post-Brexit, I’ve no idea what that is in pounds anymore. Probably £9,000.)
Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye – Cask Proof Tasting Notes
Colour: polished mahogany.
Nose: a tartness of redcurrant, mixed with strawberry jam. Vanilla. Toffee. A streak of menthol, that turns to aniseed and fennel. There are some notes of molasses, raisins and prunes even, with just a slight touch of soy sauce. After it’s opened up come blood oranges, or maybe an orange syrup or marmalade.
In the mouth: quite a chewy texture, but a wonderful balance of sweetness and bitterness from the wood as a first impression. And it follows very well from the nose: again, that tartness from the redcurrant, with wood tannins creating a nice cloying mouthfeel. Peppermint. Then the sugary goodness: molasses and prunes again. Blackcurrant. Elderberry. A slug of port before drifting into a slightly woody finish. For it’s the balance on the finish, again of the sweetness and the bitterness, which makes this such a great whiskey.
It is really very good. I suspect batches may well be different, but I thought this particular one a terrific whiskey to spend time with.