A very solid New York State Empire Rye at a decent price- unlike a number of the others
This is yet another expression of Rye from our (more or less ) local distillery, Honeoye Falls Distilling.
This is the first batch of Rye Whiskey we have as a sample that uses the 53 gallon Char 3 Barrels. It is also their first batch of rye designated an Empire Rye.
Honeoye Falls Distillery is one of the newer distilleries in the Rochester and Finger Lakes area. Located about 30 minutes south of Rochester it is nestled in the hill and drumlins of the Finger Lakes area and draws its water from the nearby Finger Lakes of Canadice and Hemlock Lakes ( both of whom are water supplies also for the city of Rochester and known for the taste add purity of their water. They use a second-generation ( as I call it, significant improvements have been made over the first models) Artisan Still Works stainless steel steam-fired still with a column and copper inserts. This is their longest aged rye spirit called now called Grist and Saw Empire Rye made with the same grain mash bill as their vodka but brought off at a lower proof to preserve the flavors and characteristics to a greater degree than the Frozen Falls Vodka and aged in full-sized whiskey barrels.
The review of their first attempt Batch 1 which was aged in 5 gallon barrels for 3 months ( about all you can get from a 5 gallon barrel depending on char level and storage conditions) is here, The next release that I have reviewed was Batch 4 using 10 gallon barrels and aged for 6-9 months followed by Batch Number 6, Batch Number 9 (at 14 months of age) and Red Saw Rye Batch Number 13 in the ongoing series where I tracked the evolution of their rye. This batch is from a the industry standard 53 gallon American Oak barrel size with the same char level 3. It is showing significant changes/differences from its somewhat younger and significantly smaller siblings as outlined in the notes below.
They also produce unaged rye by the name of Lantern Light Rye Moonshine, a gin called Devils Bathtub Gin, a barrel aged Gin called Devils Bathtub Rested Gin , a GNS based London Dry type gin called Flower City Gin and their Red Saw Bourbon along with their Red Absinthe and a more standard Green Absinthe.
This is their 15 Batch of rye and it was put up in 53 gallon barrels and aged for at least 2 years in a char level 3 barrel which is over 8 times longer than their first batch in a barrel 1/10 the size of this one. The other batches/barrels were interesting experiments while they were honing this rye and are worth picking up if you can to see the benchmarks and progression that lead up to this version.
This 53-gallon barrel has significantly changed the wood to whiskey ratio and the extra aging allows for more mellowing and less aggressive oak flavors before it tops out, which could be many years from now.
Like many others, they have since abandoned the use of 5, 10, 15, and the 30-gallon barrels as they transitioned to 53-gallon fresh American oak barrels in their quest for longer and better aging of their spirits. Further reviews of later older batches using larger barrels and longer aging times will be found elsewhere in Spirits Review as they become available. Please use our search function to give them a look!
Notes: The rye is made from 85% very locally grown rye and 15% of the mash bill is a 6 row malted barley from Pioneer Malting, our local Maltster. The Grain is literally grown next door to the distillery – giving it much smaller carbon footprint than many and also locavore.
Appearance: Clear, nice dark red/golden color like a darker honey colored Baltic amber or tree sap. On swirling it coats the glass with a mildly oily coat then starts to show droplets along the edge line which slowly on the retreat of the edge line become small droplets or tears. The color is not much different from batch 9 in a touch or very slight shift towards a red note creeping in
First Impression: Lovely barrel notes, with heavy rye notes with the characteristic sweet and sour, bready notes, traces of heather, barley and mint with more vanilla from the char and a bit more mild and subdued ( in a good way) on the nose.
Taste: A significant bit more mellow than Batch 9 with more pronounced honey and mint notes, woody, spicy, with loads of grain with a slightly drying, nicely warming finish. Despite being one month older than Batch 9 the oak char is less overbalanced than the previous release and is falling more in line with the other notes rather than being out in front… While still quite a bit of oak char drying fade leaves a more honey mint fade with a nice grain, sweet-sour rye at the end.
Drinks: Rye was the predominant spirit in America long before bourbon and was the spirit used in almost all the classic cocktails that use bourbon today such as the Manhattan or Old Fashioned. One of the more refreshing points is that the proof is still high enough at 96 proof to stand up to mixing without fading out. If I was going to mx with an 80 proof rye I might as well be using vodka in my opinion. I want to have the rye shine but play nicely – the proof on this rye is just about right in my opinion
With the recent revival of rye, we are seeing a resurgence of the use of rye in these cocktails again and retaking its rightful place in mixing drinks. This rye with its grain forward and well-balanced woodiness makes a delightful Manhattan ( please use fresh and quality vermouth), Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Old Pal or Boulevardier.
The reduction in the oak notes in this rye allows for more of the other elements to shine through and start to add a multilayered complexity that was somewhat buried in previous releases.
Bottle: Clear glass 750 ML bottle that is vaguely apothecary-like in nature. BUT not the usual bell-shaped bottle, with a slightly concave bottom, rounded shoulders and a wider lip to the collar both fits the hand and is easy to pick up. The bottle is also somewhat taller and more balanced than than previous incarnations. The label is distinctive and easy to see at a distance or in poor light and graphics are high quality. This bottle is also distinguished from its sister bottles by a wholly reimagined label with a dark blue field, bronze gold lettering, and various arcane insignia and a bond type edging to the label itself. Bottle is topped by an attractive wooden top and a cream/tan synthetic cork to finish a distinctive and nice looking bottle that sits nicely on a shelf.
Cigars: Great with a Fuente Hemingway Signature or Work of Art either a natural or Maduro wrapper
Final Thoughts: A nice switching up in overall smoothness, bouquet, and overall drinkability. The oak is a bit more restrained more does work well in many cocktails. Scores are based against similar whiskies of longer age and same barrel size. This whiskey demonstrates an upward curve in the quality of the rye line and the evolution of skill and care taken.
A well laid out and fast loading site with easy navigation and a fair amount of information. The Honeoye Falls Distilling website needs updating in a few places but is a well-done site overall if a bit minimal compared to some