I love peated whiskeys. Peated American whiskeys are so rare that when I stumble upon one, I just feel like a kid at 4:30am on Christmas morning who can't wait for Mom and Dad to wake up so I can bust into my presents. I have samples that I have to review, but sometimes I shove something to the front of the line because it is so unusual that I must satisfy my curiosity.
That's exactly what happened when the FedEx dude dropped off a package of Islay Rye from Grand Traverse Distillery. I couldn't psych myself up too much, otherwise, it would bias my opinion before I had a chance to try it.
"Islay Rye is a small-batch Rye Whiskey that takes two of our favorite things and combines them ton something awesome and unique! [T]his is a Rye Whiskey with a heavy nod to Islay Single Malt Scotches." - Grand Traverse Distillery
The first thing to know about Grand Traverse is they're not sourcing anything. It is a grain-to-bottle distillery located in Traverse City, Michigan. It utilizes a custom-built Arnold Holstein still. All of the grain is supplied by Send Brothers Farm in nearby Williamsburg. The Rye itself is distilled from a mash of 80% rye and 20% peated malted barley. It carries no age statement, which means it is at least four years old and is non-chill filtered, then proofed to 90°. A 375ml bottle runs about $50.00.
How's it taste? Well, before I get to that, I thank Grand Traverse Distillery for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let's #DrinkCurious...
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Islay Rye appears as a bronze amber. It created a medium rim that left a heavy curtain that fell back to the pool. Behind that were fat, slow drops.
Nose: The smell of peat filled the room, so much so that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow commented how strong it was. But, as I raised the glass to my face, that peat was surprisingly muted. Aromas of grass, oak, malt, caramel, nutmeg, and rye. When I inhaled through my lips, I discovered brine and grass.
Palate: The mouthfeel was thin and oily. I had no issues having it fill every corner of my mouth. The first flavors were peat, dry oak, and earth. Mid-palate, mace, allspice, caramel, and dill take over. Then, as it approaches the back, banana, citrus, tobacco leaf, and rye spice round things out.
Finish: The long, dry, and sweet finish was a blend of clove, dry oak, raisin, citrus, and rye bread.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Let's talk about a few things. I really, really enjoy Islay Scotch. This isn't it, it isn't even close, and to be fair, I didn't expect it to be. The peated malt was a nice addition but the rye overwhelmed the barley. This was absolutely unique, and that's something I find attractive. Value is part of the recommendation process. At $50.00, that's not obnoxious. But, this is also a 375ml, so in reality, this is a $100.00 bottle comparatively speaking. For me, the return on investment wasn't there. I enjoyed this, I'd enjoy it a lot more if it were less painful on the wallet. I'm giving this one a Bar rating - you should definitely try this for yourself before making the commitment. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It