Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey

This bottle has been on an extraordinary journey to reach this stage of its life. Propelled from the west coast of America, it was given a tour around Scotland before being dispatched to Daftmill by post and hand-delivered by Francis to my homestead. Thank you, Francis, Linh and everyone else involved in this escapade.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are the bread and butter of our whiskey (whisky) existence nowadays. I’m faced with an onslaught of marketing literature, social media posts, sponsored adverts, paid-for posts (often not disclosed #ad #bemorecandid) and sales galore. It can become fairly overwhelming at times, and Black Friday summed it up with emails gate-crashing my inbox every five minutes. In the end, I never purchased anything over the fake sales period, content to take my regular trip to Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh to make more informed purchases. There are no sales at Cadenhead’s nor several other independent shops and bottlers because they offer value all year round.

This Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey isn’t one you’ll see in the UK. The 80-proof edition is stocked by some specialist retailers such as the Whisky Exchange for £40.95 while this 100-proof variant remains out of touch. However, it is widely available in America, and will set you back around $25, I believe, for a four-year old that is naturally presented and non-chill filtered. The mash bill is elusive but must feature at least 51% rye with the remainder made up of malted barley and corn.

Unfortunately, I expect this release to be a step down from my only previous exposure to the brand. This came in the form of a rare bottling opened at the Glasgow Rare & Old show a couple of years ago—namely, a 1909 Overholt that underlined just how much more expressive and layered whiskies were back then. As much as I’d like to say to everyone to try pre-war or pre-Prohibition style whiskies, such things don’t grow on trees. Even pre-1980’s Scotch is becoming increasingly elusive and expensive simply because these whiskies offer the chance to compare and contrast with today’s increasingly limited and wood-aggressive whiskies.

A word, if I may, on the exporting of the Old & Rare Show to the metropolis of London. It is a loss and a disappointment that Scotland has lost something (again) to London. In some respects, the international vibe of the show and general cost of attending is arguably more attuned to its new environment. Many wannabe attendees I talked to over the years just couldn’t stomach the entry fee, and those that did were disappointed on another level by the canteen. Either way, I found it did serve a purpose, though I didn’t attend last year; buying a second car, two travel cots and a Bugaboo Fox with all the trimmings would impact on any whisky festival budget. Instead, I rallied some friends, and we raised nearly £500 for a Glasgow homeless charity. Call it whatever you want, the event was good fun and very informal. We may do something similar again this year if I can find the time to orchestrate it.

The show organisers would have preferred Scotland, and Edinburgh would have been a perfect candidate, if it wasn’t for the immovable object that is Edinburgh council. It is the council’s loss as well as one for many of the locals. Let’s hope a future north of the border can be re-established; however, I fear that once settled in London, it will remain there.

Now, not every whiskey back in the 1980s or earlier is superior to what’s on the shelves today That said, a fair summarisation is the balance is certainly with the past I can vouch for this on a Scotch front, and my increasingly regular forays into old whiskies from America are coming to the same conclusion. Things change, and not always for the better. Big business, economies of scale and small changes throughout the acquisition and production process might not have much of an impact, but build these up across the decades and a series of changes and hey presto! The end result in your tumbler doesn’t taste like it once did.

Jim Beam is responsible for the brand nowadays, which dates back to 1800’s, and in American terms, that’s almost Stonehenge. Rather than regurgitate information, I’d direct you to an informative article that is on the Daily Beast (what a name) from 2016 that documents the rise and fall of Old Overholt. An update to the story came in February 2018, when Overholt announced the launch of this 100 proof rye whiskey. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.

Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey – review

Color: brown sugar.

On the nose: cracked black pepper, cinnamon, oats and toffee. Some orange peel, wood chips and upon opening the bottle: coconut. This dissipates over time, leaving banana chewits and agave smoke. There’s nutmeg, corn flakes and a creaminess. Water reveals orange oil and polished oak.

In the mouth: pecans, brown sugar, lots of pepper and a pleasant rustiness. Ginger, balsa wood, brown toast and a youngish feel to the limited palate. Pepper returns on the finish. Water brings out more oak, toffee and cardboard.


This fills the need of a whiskey you can rely upon without breaking the budget. Solid and placed sufficiently well on the value scale: there is little to grumble about. The higher strength is worthwhile, as I can only imagine how mundane the 80-proof variant well is. Friends recommend it for using in cocktails, which is an acknowledgement of its limitations. As good as whiskies are in mixology, they should be judged on their solo efforts, and this 100-proof edition is worth checking out.

Score: 5/10

There is a commission link within this article but as you can see, such a thing doesn’t affect our judgement.

  1. John
    John says:

    Interesting. It seems like this BiB stays true to the lighter style of Old Overholt in terms of rye. I wish you could have did a side by side with the 40% one though.

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