“We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little, we went insane.” – Francis Ford Coppola

This is a screed espousing the joys of access. In the Digital Age we’ve become all too aware that information is at no shortage, should we simply make the effort to attain it. On this very website you can find an extensive log of spirits reviews to either educate or entertain yourself, often finding both. Our patience has been slowly reduced and our need to know has grown at a rate not necessarily commensurate with our collective knowledge. Indeed, access is a double-edged sword wherein the ease of attaining a certain thing can at times leave us reticent to actually attain said thing.

Let’s consider the long-heralded category of “budget whiskey” for a moment. The everyman – who, in all likelihood, doesn’t regularly peruse review sites in search of the next ballyhooed bottle – is well attuned to the pleasures of affordable whiskey. Either out of financial pertinence or in exhibiting the ultimate form of sophistication (it was da Vinci who said simplicity is such) this so-called “regular person” regularly buys the best tasting affordable bottles they have access to. Is Jim Beam white label or Evan Williams black label “better” than more expensive whiskey under the same brand portfolio? Typically not, but those flagship expressions offer a fantastic value in conjunction with their reliably high-quality flavor. Frequently, that’s all one needs.

That brings us to the subject of today’s review, the latest in a relatively new series of critically acclaimed whiskey coming from Green River Distilling Company. Green River’s legacy is extensive, but the story of the brand since its revival in 2016 is of particular interest here. Since 2022 when they released their first expression under the revived brand’s banner, Green River has become a shining example of fantastic “budget whiskeys” on the market today. While there are many whiskey enthusiasts who pine for the days of yesteryear and extol the virtues of vintage whiskey, there is no doubt that the technology of today is producing whiskey of a more consistently high quality than ever before. Because of that, we now have no shortage of exemplary affordable bottles lining liquor store shelves.

Green River Rye Whiskey is a blend of barrels between the ages of 4 and 6 years old, bottled at 95 proof (45.5% ABV), and showcases a 95% rye and 5% malted barley mash bill that was initially made famous by Indiana’s MGP Distillery. On that last point: it’s an interesting – albeit understandable – choice, as MGP’s particular style of rye has become one of the most enjoyed grain recipes in the country. That covers the part that’s understandable, but what makes it most interesting is the fact that pre-Prohibition Green River whiskey (“the whiskey without a headache” as it was then known) surely would not have featured this grain recipe. I wasn’t able to identify a time in history prior to 2023 when a rye whiskey was produced under the Green River label, so the new expression can best be seen as a direct reflection of modern consumers’ appetite for the category, which has grown by leaps and bounds since being on its deathbed in the late 20th century.

Access is a critical feature of Green River Rye because it hits shelves at a modest $35 price point making affordability one of its most attractive qualities out the gate. (Note: this was a bottle provided free of charge by the distillery, which will not affect the notes or score, but is being disclosed in the interest of full transparency). Will its quality seal the deal and make this a must-buy for budget conscious buyers and whiskey aficionados alike? We’ve only one way to be sure. As a final note on access: Green River is currently distributed in at least 24 states plus Australia which means that finding it locally shouldn’t be a problem for most of the country. Now, at last, let’s see if you should make the effort.

Green River Rye Whiskey – Review

Color: Pale amber with golden glints

On the nose: Bubblegum, mint, and cinnamon float out of the glass on first pass indicating a youthfulness that also carries a significant richness and cohesiveness. After a few waves of the hand those notes congeal with the addition of a faint black licorice note and a touch of baking spice. Again, these aromas all work well together and indicate a depth of flavor that hints at the relative age of the blend but also exceeds expectations for it.

In the mouth: The palate has more chewing gum and fresh mint leaf, which after the first sip can suddenly be found in spades on the nose. There’s a lovely viscosity here and the mint-and-sorghum introduction leads to a supple milk chocolate note at midpalate that gently fades as it transitions to the finish. From that point there’s some mellow baking spice which recedes with ease, further showcasing the silkiness of the mouthfeel.

Conclusions:

All told this is a very delicious, well rounded, and flavorful pour that greatly exceeds its price point. Make no mistake, this is appropriately priced at $35; indeed, this is what well-made affordable whiskey should taste like. But that’s what many folks who frequently shop on the bottom shelf already know, right? Sure, there are a great many bottles that sit near our shoelaces whose sole reason for being is to net cash for their creators. Some of those bottles tend to be one note at best, but there are the rare exceptions that contain a richness that can make the common man feel wealthy beyond his lot in life.

Score: 7/10

These accessible bottles, the ones that offer a drinking experience more in line with whiskeys at twice the cost, are well-worth celebrating. Access to expressions like the similarly aged Thomas H. Handy is already limited, and the hordes of those-in-the-know who are at each other’s throats to own bottles like that make them even harder to come by.

On the other end of the spectrum, in increasing numbers, there seems to be a range of options for those of us who know better than to subject ourselves to the insanity of the market. Quiet as it’s kept (because it happens day after day right under the noses of those snobs) some of us know that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. That said, there are few things in the whiskey world simpler than walking into your local store, grabbing a great bottle from the bottom shelf, and walking out two Andrew Jacksons lighter, but a whole lot happier. Green River Rye is a prime example of such quotidian refinement.

CategoriesAmerican

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