North Fork Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Some brands have fascinating backstories. I’m not talking about, Well, you know my grandpappy’s grandpappy was a distiller and he made the best sippin’ whiskey in the whole gosh darned state. He got caught and went to prison. One day, while cleaning out the attic on the old family farm, we found this locked toolbox. I pried it open and found his recipe inside! We’ve been making his whiskey ever since…


Instead, I’m talking about ones that come from brands like Glacier Distilling Company of Corem, Montana.


“In the winter of 2009/10 a group of friends gathered around the fireplace in a cabin along the North Fork discussing ski widths, fly lures, whiskey and other such academic topics. As the snow continued to pile up and the level of the whiskey bottle started falling to dangerously low levels, the conversation turned to more practical matters. Should this be Armageddon, how could these friends ensure safety and continue to provide for their families? They could guard The Pass and The Canyon. They could hunt and forage for food. They could chop wood for warmth. But where would they get their whiskey? Alas, something had to be done. One of them had to start a distillery. It was only prudent.” – Glacier Distilling Company


It took most of 2010 to get it up and running, but by December 28, the distillery was up and running. Its first release was an unaged Rye that sold quickly.


Nicolas Lee is the founder and head distiller. He was raised in North Carolina and had always been interested in distilling. He studied for a degree in Chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill, wandered the world, found a pretty girl from Montana named Victoria, married her, and the rest is history. There are two other distillers: Pat Cattelino, also the Director of Operations, and Jake Allen, who has double duties as the Production Manager. By the way, Victoria is part of the operation – she handles the distillery’s public relations.


The distillery has a plethora of offerings, including whiskeys, brandies, vodkas, gins, liqueurs and rums.


Today, I’m delving into North Fork, an American Rye Whiskey distilled from a mash of rye, rye malt, and corn. It aged at least two years in new, charred oak barrels. The back label suggests this whiskey is meant to be enjoyed in the great outdoors. It is packaged at 46% ABV (92°) and can be purchased locally or online from BigThirst’s store for $50.00 for a 750ml.


I was given a 375ml bottle by a friend who invited me to #DrinkCurious and review it.


Appearance: I poured this whiskey into my Glencairn glass to sip neat. It was the color of raw honey. A medium rim discharged fat, weighty tears that raced back into the pool.


Nose: North Fork’s aroma relied heavily on floral rye. Part of that could be due to the malted portion. There was corn, a bit of sawdust, and gentle mint. While it smelled young, it lacked a harshness that many similarly-aged ryes possess. I found corn and mint when I drew the air into my mouth.


Palate: This whiskey’s almost airy texture was an attention-getter. I tasted caramel and corn on the front. Leather and tobacco filled the middle, while the tastes of toasted oak and rye spice were at the back.  


Finish: The long finish ran 1:18 minutes, throwing it into the long category. It included rye spice, fresh leather, and toasted oak. As those fell off, clove took over until the end.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: North Fork Rye is likely correctly proofed. There’s no real burn to it, but there’s enough alcohol to allow you to differentiate flavor. There just isn’t much of it to pull; again, part of that can be attributed to the malted portion. Malted rye works; I’ve had excellent malted rye whiskeys. It makes for a softer drink (much like wheat) – however, you must have the correct percentage in the mashbill.


Sipped neat, North Fork Rye doesn’t hold up to its $50.00 investment. It isn’t a lousy whiskey, but it is unremarkable. It could make for a good cocktail base. Unfortunately, that’s now how my Whiskeyfellow ratings work. As it stands, it should be tried at a Bar first. 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.