Hard Truth Sweet Mash Rye and High Road Rye Whiskey Reviews


Our story today begins in Nashville. That’s Indiana, not Tennessee. The year was 2015, and if you can picture it in your mind’s eye, there was a restaurant called Big Woods Pizza, and on its small second floor, a distillery was about to be born.


As what can sometimes happen, this micro-distillery quickly outgrew its space, and two years later, the team broke ground to construct a newer, larger facility. In 2018, Hard Truth Distilling Co. relocated to its new 325-acre Hard Truth Campus.  


Hard Truth’s Head Distiller is Bryan Smith. He and his team create sweet mash spirits versus the typical sour mash most distillers utilize. If you look at those terms at face value, one could assume that a sweet mash tastes sweet and a sour mash sour. However, those terms have nothing to do with “sweet” or “sour” flavors. Instead, a sweet mash means the distiller uses new grain, yeast, and fresh water every run.


In contrast, a sour mash involves recycling parts of the previous run. Sour mash lends to consistency batch after batch. With a sweet mash, consistency is far lower, but it gives distillers a universe to explore.


“We’re proud that Hard Truth is at the forefront of what we believe is a sweet mash rye revolution. Sweet mashing – a process in which each batch of whiskey begins with entirely fresh ingredients – typically results in whiskeys that are softer and have a more complex palate. And even though the process is more labor intensive, meticulous and costly than sour mashing, we believe the result is a rye whiskey that is both distinctive and delicious.” – Bryan Smith


Speaking of distinctive, check out the cork that Hard Truth has designed for its package. Little details make it easier to get noticed on a store shelf!

When I attended Galena Whiskey Weekend this past March, one of the brands pouring was Hard Truth. What I tasted was enough to pique my interest. Hard Truth graciously provided me with samples of its Sweet Mash Rye and High Road Rye in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s #DrinkCurious and dive deep.


Hard Truth Sweet Mash Straight Rye


  • Mashbill: 94% rye, 6% malted barley
  • Age: Over two years in new, charred white oak 53-gallon barrels
  • Batch Size: 30 barrels
  • Alcohol Content: 57.9% ABV (115.8°)
  • Price: $74.00 for a 750ml


Appearance: A neat pour into my Glencairn glass revealed a liquid the color of rust. It created a medium-width rim that produced a curtain of thick tears yet left huge droplets behind.


Nose: As I sniffed the inside of my glass, I discovered roasted coffee, cocoa, caramel, nutmeg, apples, and apricots. Inhaling the vapor through my lips, I found more coffee.  


Palate: This barrel-proof Rye had an oily mouthfeel. Flavors of dark chocolate, molasses, and rye spice hit the front of my palate. At the middle, I tasted apricots, stewed peaches, and nutmeg. The back included cinnamon, black pepper, and charred oak.  


Finish: Black pepper and charred oak led the way, with dark chocolate and nutmeg following closely. The finish ramped up slowly, leading to a slowly-built black pepper and barrel char crescendo.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The Sweet Mash Rye drinks at its stated proof, but it takes patience to recognize it. That’s because it starts mild and then becomes sneaky. I was impressed with the transition from savory to spicy to sweet to spicy; plenty of layers keep an experienced American Rye fan busy. On the surface, $74.00 for a two-year whiskey seems pricy. However, it hits all the checkboxes you’re looking for. This is an excellent pour and well worth the investment. It steals my Bottle rating.



Hard Truth High Road Straight Rye


  • Mashbill: Sweet mash of 55% rye, 36% corn, 9% malted barley
  • Age: Over three years in new, charred oak 53-gallon barrels
  • Batch Size: 30 barrels
  • Alcohol Content: 46.5% ABV (93°)
  • Price: $38.00 for a 750ml


Appearance: I poured this Rye into my Glencairn glass to sip neat. It possessed a bright, orange-amber color, and as it created a thin rim, it discharged wide, fast tears.  


Nose: The aroma started with a slight mintiness, immediately overpowered by thick butterscotch. I also smelled oak and dried apricots. When I drew the air into my mouth, there was a sensation of rye bread.


Palate: High Road’s texture was creamy and a tad silky. The front of my palate found caramel, praline pecans, and cocoa. Midway through, I tasted vanilla and maple, and the back offered charred oak, nutmeg, and toasted rye bread.


Finish: The medium-long finish consisted of dried apricots, chocolate, oak, salted caramel, and honey-roasted almonds.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I could easily see High Road as a great introductory American Rye for folks who haven’t done much toe-dipping into the category. However, even if you’re an experienced enthusiast, you will love this whiskey. At only $38.00, this is one hell of a bargain, and it earns every bit of my Bottle rating.


Afterthoughts: These are two delicious whiskeys made from two completely different mashbills. If I had to choose only one, I’d grab the High Road Rye. It was mind-blowingly awesome. 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 to do so responsibly.