Reviews: Buzzard’s Roost Char #1 Rye, Cigar Rye, Barrel Strength Bourbon

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Buzzard’s Roost. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Buzzard’s Roost Sipping Whiskey, based in Louisville, Kentucky, is a woman-owned and led independent blender and bottler using pioneering techniques such as second-barrel maturation to produce all of their whiskies. They work closely with their cooperage to tweak every parameter of the barrel, from the seasoning to the charring to the development of their custom toast profiles. Buzzard’s Roost only uses brand new, 53-gallon white oak barrels that are carefully toasted and very lightly charred in order to deliver a specific flavor profile.

According to Jason Brauner, co-founder and Master Blender for Buzzard’s Roost, “We have a proprietary process to treat our barrels,” said Brauner. “We’ve built a huge taste profile that we’ve worked on for over three years.” Buzzard’s Roost’s second maturation technique follows a process that’s only been around for four decades, but has steadily gained in popularity. Brauner’s commitment to this practice, one which has been well received by whiskey enthusiasts, has resulted in several successful products in the Buzzard’s Roost lineup

Buzzard’s Roost has been awarded a total of seven medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Awards. Their whiskies are distributed throughout Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Mexico, and Arizona, with more states coming soon.

Buzzards Roost review

Buzzards Roost Char 1 Rye (image via Buzzard’s Roost)

Tasting Notes: Buzzard’s Roost Char #1 Rye Straight Rye Whiskey

Buzzard’s Roost Char #1 Straight Rye Whiskey is the evolution of the company’s first whiskey, formerly known as Very Small Batch, that was initially released in 2019. Char #1 Rye is a three-year-old Indiana rye whiskey crafted to be the main ingredient in cocktails as well as a sipping whiskey. Using Midwest Grain Product (MGP) of Indiana whiskey and toasted new barrels specially designed by Independent Stave Company gives this rye a “double oaked” treatment while staying on the lightest end of barrel charring.

While most whiskeys are matured in barrels at char level #3 or #4, Buzzard’s Roost Char #1 is matured in barrels at char level #1. Jason Brauner, co-founder and Master Blender for Buzzard’s Roost, explains the commitment to Char #1 for all Buzzard’s Roost whiskies, saying, “We use our barrels like a spice rack, with each bringing very intentional aromas and flavor profiles to the final blend.” Brauner also contends that they are the first whiskey brand to use Char #1 barrels for the second barrel maturation, namely “because of what it brings to the whiskey in terms of flavor and color.” 

The 15-second burn of the level #1 char used in the barrels lends a light smokiness that works well, especially since this is only a three year aged whiskey. There’s a delicate dry rawness of flavor that balances the sweet and spiciness nicely. Due to overwhelming sales upon its initial release in April of 2022, more will be released in the fall. 

Vital Stats: Aged 3 years, mash bill 95% rye, 5% malted barley,.105 proof, 750 ml bottle MSRP $46.

Appearance: Rich gold. 

Nose: Medicinal, nutty, vanilla, dried fruit, dried roses, caramel.

Palate: Peaty smokiness, black pepper, freshly peeled pecans, hints of caramel red apple peel and pine. 

Final thoughts: This whisky has a subtle texture that makes it very approachable, with a smooth medium-length finish that has a light but rich quality. The dry and smoky undertones work well with the sweet and spicy quality. 

Score: 4/5

Buzzards Roost review

Buzzard’s Roost Cigar Rye (image via Buzzard’s Roost)

Tasting Notes: Buzzard’s Roost Cigar Rye Straight Rye Whiskey

Buzzard’s Roost Cigar Straight Rye Whiskey is a new limited edition rye that launched in Spring of 2022. It is aged in new American Oak barrels that were cold-smoked with aged cigar tobacco leaves from Kentucky. It incorporates a four-year-old Indiana rye that’s finished in level #1 Char barrels, similar to the process used with their Char #1 Rye Straight Rye Whiskey. All of this brings out flavors that pair well with the aged cigar flavor profile. 

In a prepared statement, Buzzard’s Roost Co-founder and CEO Judy Hollis Jones said, “This expression showcases the skills of our blending and barrel team, who had a very intentional flavor profile in mind for this rye. It’s especially nice paired with a fine cigar.” Only three barrels were produced for the first launch in the Spring, but more will be released in the Fall. 

Vital stats: Mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, 105 proof (52.5% ABV), 750 ml bottle MSRP $75. 

Appearance: Chestnut/oloroso sherry color. 

Nose: The initial ethanol-forwardness is balanced out nicely by floral and citrus notes. I also noted hints of dark cherry and sweet cigar smokiness on the nose.

Palate: The nose rounds out the rich complexity of flavors on the palate like fragrant herbs, black pepper, and warm grass. It has an herbaceous tobacco flavor, smoky peaty and woody notes, clove, and a hint of black pepper.

Final thoughts: The initial heat on the nose is offset by its round texture and soft richness on the palate. It has a nice complexity in that it’s successfully both spicy and sweet, with a velvety mouthfeel and flavorful medium-length finish. Overall, the complex flavor profile is nicely balanced, making this a satisfying whiskey experience. 

Score: 4.5/5

Tasting Notes: Buzzard’s Roost Barrel Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Buzzard’s Roost’s Barrel Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey, released in 2021, was the company’s first bourbon and was included in Paste magazine’s Top 15 Whiskeys of 2021. Created from a blend of four to six-year-old MGP bourbons from two different high-rye mash bills and then aged in new, proprietary oak barrels, it is secondary cask matured and has been crafted for sipping on its own or for use in cocktails. Buzzard’s Roost’s Barrel Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey was a Gold medal winner at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Vital Stats: Mash bill is a blend of two MGP bourbons: 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley; and 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley, 114.4 proof (57.2% ABV), secondary cask matured, bottled in Kentucky, 750 ml, MSRP $83.

Appearance: Burnished copper. 

Nose: On the nose this whiskey is reminiscent of a red wine with its dark red berry and dark fruit notes, as well as vanilla bean. 

Palate: The palate offers a decadent range of flavors from cinnamon and clove to a malty smokiness and hints of woody vanilla.

Final Thoughts: Overall it is well balanced with an inviting moderate heat on the nose. The texture is light with a medium-length finish. Although it was very close, this was my favorite of the three. 

Score: 4.5/5

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Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams is a former Dallas, Texas bartender of 15 years where she developed an appreciation for patrons with a healthy respect for great whiskey. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 2019 where she graduated from Portland State University as an English Literature major with a minor in Writing. While...