One of craft distilling’s finest achievements is their part in the resurgence of rye whiskey. In my opinion, the new ryes we see from many of these small producers are the best this industry offers. If innovation is the heart beat of craft distilling, rye is its rock star. But this feat does not come easy. Any craft operation worth a damn understands that in order to compete, they must concentrate on quality and putting a better spirit in the bottle. That is how you survive. That is how you grow a brand. Heritage Distilling Company, in our view, gets an A+ in this endeavor with their Elk Rider Series.
Rye seems to work well when bottled young. The grain’s spicy, lively flavors tend to pop more in its youth. No exception found with Elk Rider Rye, a 95% rye, 5% malted barley whiskey aged just shy of 2 years in a mixture of new 200L/50L/10L American oak barrels. Bottled at 46% ABV and non-chill filtered for a more full bodied flavor profile, this whiskey presents a great chance for HDC to distinguish itself in the sea of craft whiskey choices. A few points on Heritage Distilling Company’s process for the Elk Rider Series warrant a brief mention. As stated before, the challenge presented before any distiller, big or small, is how to design their production process around yielding the best spirit possible before barreling (maturation doesn’t fix everything). Justin Stiefel designed HDC’s process to provide optimum efficiency while maintaining quality for the classic flavors of the Elk Rider line. This starts with “Nonna.” Nonna is an Italian copper pot still custom fitted for HDC per Justin’s recommendations, and as a matter of fact this still is the first and only of its kind in America at present. Nonna’s still type is used for Grappa in Italy, but the 2,000L capacity unit is the centerpiece in HDC’s production of Elk Rider. This unique pot still produces a high flavor spirt which then travels over to a refining, 14 foot reflux column still. This column still sits atop a “doubler” or what Moonshiner’s call a thumper (re-evaporates and increases ABV). The three units working together effectively produce a double distillation in only one pass and still retain strong flavors for the Elk Rider whiskies. Let’s get to it…
SWC Group Review
Nose- Immediate warm rye bread. Then a lovely herbal patch of clove, mint, and juniper. Well balanced oaky sweetness. Green apples and light fruit, grassy. Best nose of the line.
Taste- Light body. Baked apple with cinnamon. Peppery.
Finish- Medium to long. Hints of green apple, warming. Crescendos to a dry, charred oak feel with nice cranberry flourishes.
Comments- What a bloody fantastic rye, our favorite of the Elk Rider line. Plenty of rye spice for the purists but just enough sweetness for the beginners. Impressive effort. I’ll take a double, neat.
SWC Rating – 88/100
Average Retail – $30
Disclaimer – HDC provided a random, un-altered bottle from their production warehouse for this review.
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