Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Blue Run. 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.
Blue Run is a still-young range of whiskeys recently launched at the high end of the bourbon market. The company was founded by a group of friends with high-level experience in a variety of industries. A cadre of former executives joining forces to launch a luxury whiskey brand positioning itself as “the future of bourbon” is not the type of story that really interests me. What does interest me, though, is that they have engaged Jim Rutledge, the celebrated former master distiller for Four Roses, to help them build their brand.
Working with Rutledge demonstrates an understanding of the management group’s outsider status in the wider world of bourbon and softens my initial impressions of a bunch of rich guys barreling into an industry they enjoy but might not understand. If Blue Run is being run with an appreciation for the talent and achievement in American distilling, the brand’s ambition to fill a luxury niche is much more achievable. Furthermore, it should be of interest to the nerdiest among us to experience Rutledge’s work outside of the institutional strictures of the established Four Roses brand.
Rutledge has worked in an advisory capacity with most of Blue Run’s products, but he was contracted as the master distiller overseeing production of their Kentucky Straight High Rye Bourbon offering at the up and coming Castle & Key Distillery. This bottling comes from just 100 barrels distilled from a mash bill of 65% yellow corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley, and aged in Bardstown and Frankfort, Kentucky.
Tasting Notes: Blue Run Kentucky Straight High Rye Bourbon
Vital stats: 111 proof, aged 4 years, and available for an price of $172
Appearance: Light golden color with thin but durable legs
Nose: Honey toast gives way to baking spices–nutmeg, ginger–that tickle the nose a bit.
Palate: Sweet and a bit earthy, I got alternating impressions of trailside blackberries and pu-erh tea and was exceedingly happy with both. The rye spice follows in short order, accompanied by the heat from the 111 proof, and fades into a gingery-sweet finish.
I’m not going to beat around the bush: this is really good stuff. This dram produces no fewer than three distinct aromas/flavors that are major nostalgia bombs for me personally so I’m not impartial here, but even if I’m working to evaluate objectively they are all complementary and gently layered together.
This is a limited release, marketed and priced as a luxury product. This will, unfortunately, make it inaccessible to many drinkers due to either availability or cost. That said, if you have the opportunity and the “liquid” funds to get yourself a bottle, I say go for it. There’s plenty that makes this an interesting and special bottle–a distilling legend producing a limited run rye with an ascendant distillery is a much better story behind than I was initially expecting–and the bourbon itself packs the flavor to be much more than a conversation piece. If you miss out on this run, the interviews and press surrounding this bottle indicate that there will be subsequent bottling with time, and those will absolutely be worth watching for.