Copper Fox Rye Whisky

  • Rating: 9
  • Value: 9
Type: , ,
Classification: ,
Ingredients: ,
Proof: 90 proof (45 %)
Age: 14 months - Bottled 1/24/10
Price: $38.00 750 ml
Price Range:

Singular, a touch exotic, and lovely- just the way we like them .

Notes: This is a new whiskey from Copper Fox Distilling. This rye is unique in several interesting aspects: first, they use 66 % rye and 33 % hand malted barley as the mashbill ( read recipe)- most ryes use a lower percentage of rye (most expensive grain in any whisk(e)y) with the legal minimum being a paltry 51%. The second point is they don’t use any corn. Corn in rye is in my view the same as rice in a beer- a cheap adjunct that dilutes flavor from what it could be. Third, they hand malt their barley (meaning they make it themselves which is a demanding if tedious process). Fourth, they smoke their barley (very similar to the peating of scotch barley in terms of process) with a mix of 60 % apple wood and 40 % cherry wood which imparts a unique batch of flavors. Fifth, they age the whiskey in used bourbon barrels in which are added a series of new and used apple and oak chips.Sixth, the whiskey is then dumped and put in a second used bourbon barrel to finish. Seventh, it is non chill-filtered so you are not sacrificing taste for clarity or to avoid chill haze- this is a relatively rare exception in the whiskey world. Also it may be noted that this rye is a small batch from the mixing of a very small group of barrels – this is a small microdistillery not a multinational conglomerate.

Appearance: Patinated bronze in the bottle – gold/brass in the glass, flawless purity. Good bit darker than his Single Malt. Nice edge line on the glass when you swirl it, smooth layer of whiskey on swirling with scattered long legs – seems like a rye characteristic to have larger legs along with droplets.

First Impression: A lovely complex rye bouquet. The smoked barley malt along with the apple and cherry wood (both used for smoking the malt and as chips) really adds some flavor layers that nuance the rye spice. A melange of citrus, whispers of apple, dried fruit and leather, dried orange peel, nutmeg, dried cherries with a lot of rye backing it all up. Complex bouquet overall and a lot of fun to sort out..

Taste: Nicely oily body and mouth feel generating warmth wherever it touches. Loads of fruit and spice balanced against the rye and malt with the smoke and fruits all adding to a complex compote of goodness. Dried orange peel, hints of cherry, vanilla, oak pepper, and cinnamon. Lingering mid to long finish is spicy, slightly sweet finish with a notable aromatic almost perfume like notes of fruit and rye. Nice oak and char notes balanced off against the spice and sweet.

Drinks: Rye is, of course, the proper whiskey for a Manhattan. Bourbon was later substituted as rye was on the brink of extinction for a number of years until recently, but rye was the original ingredient.That being said, most of the rye in the late 1800s to 1950s was not aged much – and certainly not smoked. This is a very nuanced expression of a rye for mixing zest and spiciness to stand up well to mixers without being overly assertive. For traditionalists, there is also of course the Sazerac Cocktail, the recipe from the Sazerac website is:

The Original Sazerac Cocktail
Take two heavy-bottomed 3 1/2-oz. Bar glasses; fill one with cracked ice and allow it to chill while placing a lump of sugar with just enough water to moisten it. Crush the saturated lump of sugar with a bar spoon. Add a few drops of Peychaud’s Bitters, a jigger of rye whisky and several lumps of ice and stir briskly. Empty the first glass of ice, dash in several drops of Herbsaint, twirl the glass rapidly and shake out the absinthe. Enough of it will cling to the glass to impart the desired flavor. Strain into this glass the rye whisky mixture prepared in the other glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass, but do not put it in the drink.

Cigars: Works well with Ashton, Rocky Patel or Dunhill – natural or Cameroon wrappers.

Bottle: Old-style heavy clear glass with gracefully curved shoulder, straight neck and screw cap closure. Hand dipped wax seal but using a softer bees wax type rather than a hard brittle, frustrating and messy sealing wax. Also they have added a pull tab which makes it a lot easier at the whisky without resorting to sharp objects. A breeze to get open – I get frustrated when I can’t get to my whisky.

Final Thoughts: In the last few years we have seen the rebirth of rye whisk(e)y which before then was a rapidly disappearing whiskey. There have been a number of very interesting ryes coming out, many of high quality. But they all have been rather the same in style; gone are the Monongahela, Pennsylvania and other regional style ryes. Up till very recently we were left with damn little to chose from – a slightly deeper but narrow taste profile to chose from.

However, this rye signals a new chapter of rye whisky making with the use of hand malted, smoked malt, the double wood treatment, and the use of apple and cherry woods in both smoking and aging. These are bold steps at not just reviving a whisky category but also an attempt to capture new population of rye drinkers along with creating a new style of rye. The apple and cheery wood treatments give you a lot of wood while adding fruit to the mix resulting in a slightly fruity,woody, and eminently drinkable rye that will be a great addition to any mixologists’ (professional or amateur) back bar or liquor cabinet. Singular, a touch exotic, and lovely- just the way we like them .

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