Friday, December 4, 2020

Catoctin Creek "Life's A Peach" Barrel Select Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


I gravitate to the unusual. Anyone can enjoy something mainstream, but it takes a true #DrinkCurious attitude to wander into the unknown. There is something almost magical about it, the feeling that you're in a population of, if not just yourself, then something small.

Recently, the folks at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company (pronounced Ka-TOCK-tin) sent me a bottle of their new, limited-edition Life's a Peach Barrel Select Rye. That's certainly an unusual name for a whiskey - I'd think that was something more appropriate for, say, brandy. Lo and behold, this is a Virginia Rye finished for a year in their Short Hill Mountain peach brandy casks. I found that captivating - I've had plenty of barrel-finished whiskeys, I've had brandy-finished whiskeys, but I can safely say that, until today, none has ever been finished in peach brandy casks.

If you've never heard of Catoctin Creek, it was founded in 2009 by Becky and Scott Harris. Becky is the chief distiller, Scott is the general manager. The distillery is located in Purcellville, Virginia at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Catoctin Creek is the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since Prohibition.

Life's a Peach is distilled from a mash of 100% rye. It doesn't carry an age statement, but we do know that means it is at least four years old. Before finishing in the peach brandy casks, it spent however long in new, charred oak barrels. This whiskey is non-chill filtered and bottled at 80°.  Becky indicated she tried this at several different proofs before settling on 80°. Life's a Peach yielded only 540 bottles, and a 750ml will set you back $45.90.  Aside from the distillery and its website, Catoctin Creek distributes in AZ, CA, CT, DC, FL, ID, IL, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WY, as well as a handful of other countries. Considering the limited number of bottles, I'm going out on a limb and assume that most of what's available is from the distillery and its website.

We know this is unusual, but does that mean it is any good?  We'll find out now.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Life's a Peach offered a dull, brassy color. It didn't really leave any sort of rim on the wall, and the whiskey just crashed back into the pool with thick, watery legs.

Nose: You'd think peach would be obvious, but it wasn't. Oh, it is there, just much more subtle than I would have guessed. It was joined by oak, mint, and bubble gum. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the peach became more dominant but was married with sawdust.

Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy and full-bodied. With the proof, I expected it to be thinner. Oak was strong on the front of my palate, along with vanilla cream. At this whiskey crossed the middle, I tasted stewed peaches, rye spice, and almond. On the back, it was clove and cocoa.

Finish: The tasting ended with dry oak, clove, and peaches. It went on monstrously long, and it took a while, but mocha phased in out of nowhere and rounded things up before fading.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I said I gravitate to unique, and Life's a Peach is definitely that. In my experience, 80° tends to work well with malted barley, less so with corn or rye. Life's a Peach deviates from that line of thought. Because this is so unusual, I can only imagine what this would taste like at a higher proof but I'm willing to trust Becky's judgment that 80° worked best. 

If you're looking for a standard rye whiskey, Life's a Peach isn't going to make you happy.  But, if you are adventurous, I believe $45.90 will provide an enjoyable experience and give you something to talk about (and share) with your friends. I found it fascinating, and as such, offer my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

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