If you’re unfamiliar with American Rye whiskey, there are two major classic styles: Pennsylvania and Maryland. Pennsylvania style, also called Monongahela style, is often spicy, bold, dry, and with a more significant oak influence. It typically has a mashbill of rye and malted barley.
Maryland, on the other hand, is milder, with fruit and floral notes. It comes from adding corn to the mashbill. Due to the added ingredient, Maryland-style rye is sweeter and tones down the more pronounced spiciness of its Pennsylvania cousin.
Leopold Bros. of Denver is a distillery headed by the much-respected Todd Leopold. My impression of Todd is he likes to do things that distillers have abandoned. Founded in 1999, the distillery has the largest malting floor in the United States. Everything is done in-house. There’s no sourcing of anything, including the botanicals from the garden just outside the open fermentation tanks. Those botanicals create the wild yeast used in, well, everything.
Perhaps Todd’s most well-known project is the revival of the three-chamber still, the only working version in the United States.
Today I’m exploring Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye. Todd made Maryland-style rye in 2011 before any Maryland distilleries revived the process. Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye’s remaining stocks were shelved three years ago. That allowed the whiskey to age five years on the distillery’s earthen floor warehouse. In 2022, it was re-introduced as a Bottled-in-Bond whiskey. It is non-chill filtered and packaged at its legally-required 100° and can only be obtained for $80.00 at the distillery’s Denver tasting room.
I’m giving a big shout-out to one of my amazing friends in Denver, who gave me a sample of this American Rye and asked requested my thoughts. So, let’s #DrinkCurious and taste what it is all about.
Appearance: I sipped this Rye neat from my Glencairn glass. The liquid appeared as a brilliant orange amber and formed a medium-thin rim. Slow, syrupy tears rolled down the wall.
Nose: There was not a spice punch to my nostrils that I would have expected. Instead, I smelled a perfume of floral rye, honey, lemon zest, vanilla, and oak. My tongue encountered honey and lemon when I pulled the air through my lips.
Palate: A full-bodied, oily texture coated the entire inside of my mouth. The front of my palate tasted the floral botanicals from the distillery’s garden. I can’t tell you what specific flowers are involved, but they were prominent and diverse. Midway through, I encountered pear, honey, and peach, while the back featured cinnamon, cocoa, and oak notes.
Finish: A spice bomb exploded in my mouth featuring wood tannins, rye spice, and cinnamon Red Hots. Those flavors stuck around for several minutes before they eventually subsided. A warming sensation was left in my throat.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Based upon what I read of Maryland-style Ryes, the back of the palate and finish took me by surprise. The spice was anything but mild. Yet, I wasn’t disappointed. Those flavors reminded me I was sipping on an American Rye, not some other whiskey type.
Leopold Bros. Maryland Style Bottled-in-Bond Rye is one of those whiskeys you’re not going to run across every day. It isn’t MGP, Barton, or Heaven Hill. At the same time, it isn’t like what I’ve tasted from Sagamore Spirit. Instead, it is in a class by itself. And, because of that, it earned my Bottle 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.