Say “rye” to anyone in the UK, and if they know that it’s a style of whisk(e)y, they’ll say “America”. Or possibly “Canada”, if they’re deliberately trying not to go for the obvious choice, or are in fact Canadian.
But for today’s rye we’re heading east. To Holland, in fact, and who better to cover a Dutch rye than Malt’s brand new Dutch writer, Noortje? But I put my name on the spreadsheet before she did, so you get me instead. That’s how Maltocracy works.
I’m a fan of Millstone whiskies, and have been for a couple of years. I’ve become even more so in the last month or two, but that’s another story. Their focus is on barley and on rye, which appeals to me, as they’re the grains that make me tick most. Wheat makes me tick about as much as a broken clock that didn’t tick to begin with. Or at least wheat at the age that new US distilleries insist on chucking it out these days. Give it a decade in Kentucky and we’ll talk.
Today’s rye could be seen, by the cynically minded, as something of a gimmick. Almost everything about it has to do with the number 100. 100 proof (50% ABV to you and me), 100 months in barrel, 100% rye mashbill, 100% new oak. And then loads of other 100s that you can read on the label, but which don’t really mark the whisky out as unique, per se.
A 100% rye mashbill puts my thoughts more in line with the Canadian high-ryes from Alberta and Hiram Walker than it does with the fairly low-rye Kentucky mashes. That said, it’s an increasingly common move from US craft distilleries at the moment too, so there’s a lot of competition in this category at the moment, particularly at £62, which is what this whisky will set you back. (On Master of Malt, anyway; Whisky Exchange weirdly have it for a tenner more.)
So, most important question, is it 100% tasty? (God, there’s a clunky shoehorn for you. My apologies.)
Millstone 100 Rye Whiskey Review
Colour – Caramel.
On the nose – Very classic for a high rye. Despite years in virgin oak, this is a story of the grain; fresh rye bread tops black pepper, all overlaid by wafts of sweet honey. Something of sandalwood, orange zest and light violets haunt the background, segueing between impressions of the floral, the fruity, and the lightly botanical.
In the mouth – For two seconds – literally no more – it seems that the dry and spicy nose is following through. And then suddenly everything sweetens dramatically; though not to the point that it becomes in any way cloying. The violets are amplified, and smothered in citrussy syrup, as if green, yellow and orange fruit pastilles had been blended together. The honey, pepper and slight cinnamon return, taking us back to that new oak, and fresh rye bread becomes the dominant characteristic on the finish. As expected with rye, it’s fairly medium bodied, but very intensely flavoured. Alcohol adds vivacity, but not burn.
Gimmick or not, this is a very well-judged rye. There’s still the vigour and liveliness of youth, but actually this whisky has progressed beyond youthfulness to offer plenty of more developed characteristics too. In virgin oak rye terms I guess it’s creeping towards middle age. It’s extremely drinkable; the nose is decent but the palate really steps things up, and adds a tonne of fruit. As I’ve found to often be the case with Millstone.
I really like it. It stands up to the price tag, and it certainly stands up to equivalent-priced rivals west of the Atlantic. Get your wallets out, fellow rye fans.