Thursday, July 15, 2021

18th Street Distillery 100-Proof Rye and 110-Proof Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes


Indiana makes some incredible whiskey. It may not be the first to come to mind, but Indiana is the home to MGP, and I'm sure you've likely heard of it. There are some excellent craft distilleries, such as Spirit of French Lick and Starlight.  There are others, many others, and one such entity is the 18th Street Distillery of Hammond. 

Founded in 2017 by Drew Fox, 18th Street Distillery shares production space with its older sibling, 18th Street Brewery. It is the first legal distillery since Prohibition to open in Northwest Indiana. The distillery has a 10,000 proof-gallon per year capacity. Everything is distilled on-site and not sourced.

Today I'll be reviewing both its 100-proof Rye and 110-proof Bourbon. Despite the fact the samples were provided to me by 18th Street Distillery in exchange for no-strings-attached reviews, when I asked for additional information, those requests went unanswered. I'm not reading anything into it, but it forces me to deduce and make assumptions about the whiskey as I explore it blind. In searching the Internet for more information, I found very little. Regardless, I would like to thank Drew for the samples and the opportunity to review his whiskeys.

100-Proof Rye

I was able to learn that the Rye is made from a mash of 70% rye, 20% corn, and 10% malted barley. No information was provided on aging, the type of cooperage, or anything else that I'd normally share. One assumption I'm making is that aging was fairly short in smaller, oak barrels. I'll explain why in a bit. I was able to find an online store that sells a 750ml bottle of this Rye for $42.99.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Rye presented as the color of deep, dark caramel. That color was the first clue. Assuming a maximum age of just under four years (remember, the distillery was established in 2017), this is amazingly dark for being that young. A medium ring was formed, which led to heavy, quick legs that fell back into the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of sawdust, barrel char, and cherry cola hit my olfactory sense. The sawdust was weighty, and that too hints as to both younger age and smaller cooperage. When I inhaled through my lips, it was as if cherry vanilla ran across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was a medium body and somewhat oily. At the front, I picked out rye spice, cherry, and sawdust. The middle was challenging, but I did find a hint of vanilla. Then, on the back, charred oak and rye spice.

Finish:  Medium in length, there were further clues to give credence to my suspicion.  The whiskey wasn't rough, but it was definitely young. There was more sawdust, joined by cherry, oak, and rye spice.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The flavor profile on this was uncomplicated. It was somewhat flat and seemed very typical of smaller cooperage being used. I'm absolutely willing to be wrong here, and I want to stress this is just what my experience tells me. That being said, I found nothing to remember aside from the sawdust and char. Rye does age faster than Bourbon, but this still needs additional time in the barrel no matter what the size. While I appreciate 18th Street Distillery 100-proof Rye being a true craft whiskey, it isn't something that I would spend $42.99 on. As such, the Rye takes a Bust.

110-Proof Bourbon

If finding information on the Rye was difficult, there was even less available on the Bourbon. I was, again, unable to learn about cooperage, age, or even a breakdown of the mash aside from it is a standard corn/rye/barley combination. Another online store suggested $48.99, but I saw another for $59.99. For the sake of this review, I'm going with $48.99.

Appearance:  Served neat in a different Glencairn glass, the Bourbon was slightly lighter in color than the Rye counterpart. I'd call it deep caramel as well. The rim was thin and the legs sticky, they took a bit to work their way down the wall.

Nose: Even though I allowed the glass to sit for about ten minutes, I was greeted with a blast of ethanol in my face. Once I was able to get beyond that, aromas of corn, nutmeg, vanilla, and peanuts came through. I brought the vapor into my mouth and only found ethanol that muted anything else. 

Palate:  A medium body led to corn and caramel on the front of my palate. The middle tasted of green, young oak. The back offered rye spice, pepper, and tobacco leaf.

Finish: Medium-to-long in length, the finish started with vanilla, corn, and tobacco leaf. While the tobacco leaf stuck around, it was joined by the greenish oak. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I'm a lot less sure of the cooperage for the Bourbon than compared with the Rye. The only real hint I have is the color, but again, as I don't know the age, there were no real telltale signs. I do suspect based on the amount of ethanol and the notes of green oak that this is a young Bourbon. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I enjoy plenty of younger Bourbon and Rye whiskeys. But, I didn't find much to like about 18th Street Bourbon. It was hot and lacked any real depth. 

To try and be as fair as possible, I poured another glass and this time added a couple drops of distilled water. That took care of the ethanol blast on the nose but failed to bring out other notes. The palate improved and transformed into stronger caramel notes, but it also featured even more green oak. 

If I were going to change something with this Bourbon yet not change the mash or cooperage, I would suggest lowering the proof at least ten or so points and have it rest longer in the barrel.  As it is, I cannot recommend it and, unfortunately, have no other option but a Bust rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

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