Whiskey Review: Broken Barrel Heresy Kentucky Straight Rye

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Broken Barrel. 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.

Skepticism is all well and good for new whiskey production methods, but sometimes someone hits on a development worth pursuing. Enter: Infuse Spirits. Launched in 2012, Infuse Spirits made a name for itself (literally and figuratively) by crafting vodkas and bitters by infusing all-natural ingredients. Pick up a bottle off the shelf, and it will have the key flavoring components, whether shaved ginger or ribbons of lemon zest, floating in the bottle.

It doesn’t seem like an unnatural extension for the company to experiment with infusing whiskey. Instead of adding flavor infusions directly to the bottle, they flipped the cask finishing model and infused batches of whiskey in tank with barrel staves. After, of course, breaking apart some barrels. In 2019, founder and CEO, Seth Benhaim, spun off Infuse Spirits’ Broken Barrel and Heresy Rye whiskeys under the company name Broken Barrel.

Benhaim uses a unique production method to finish his whiskeys. Instead of moving aged whiskey into separate casks or barrels to pick up flavor, known as finishing, he infuses the whiskey by soaking various types of staves in the whiskey directly. After aging for at least two years, whiskey barrels are selected and batched into tanks, where staves from a variety of cask and barrel types are added. Broken Barrel’s standard mix of staves is a combination of 40% ex-bourbon, 20% Sherry cask, and 40% new French oak barrel staves. You can find the list of stave types, dubbed the “oak bill” by Benhaim, on the bottle. He argues that finishing impacts 80% of the whiskey’s flavor, so his emphasis on disclosing the stave types comes as no surprise.

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Though the bourbons in the core lineup have undergone some changes, the Broken Barrel “Heresy” Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey has seen little change. Since its inception, Master Distiller Jacob Call has distilled its base spirit. Call distills the whiskey under the private label production company Owensboro Distilling Co. at the Green River Distilling Co., which until recently went by the name O.Z. Tyler Distillery. Since its launch, the Broken Barrel “Heresy” Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey has been finished with their standard mix of staves, as detailed above. As the only rye, it is an outlier of the core lineup.

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye review

Broken Barrel Heresy Rye Whiskey (image via Broken Barrel Whiskey Co.)

Tasting Notes: Broken Barrel “Heresy” Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: Aged for at least two years in new, charred oak barrels, 52.5% ABV, mash bill: 95% rye and 5% malted barley, SRP $35.99/ 750ml bottle.

Appearance: In appearance, the Broken Barrel “Heresy” Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is a light golden yellow-orange.

Nose: The aromatics in the glass are intense with strong citrus, roasted nut, and herbaceous notes. I detect notes of fresh grapefruit zest, Seville orange marmalade, and Earl Grey tea alongside aromas of hot asphalt, boiled peanuts, red cherries, and ivy. The interplay between the citrus, leafy aromas, and industrial aromas is appealing and complex. Of the entire Broken Barrel line up that I have tasted, this has my favorite combination of aromas.

Palate: The whiskey is thin in the mouth with a moderate pepperiness. Its sweeter flavors are reminiscent of red watermelon, fresh cantaloupe, orange zest, and red apples. It also shows notes of old chewing gum and teaberries. On the finish, a cinnamon notes lingers alongside a gingery spice. I found the aromatics more appealing and complex than the flavors on the palate.

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It brings a lot to the table as a mixer, and this is my preferred application over drinking neat. I was pretty skeptical of the finishing regiment mostly due to my experience with cheap wine flavored with wood chips, but it’s a surprisingly tasty and complex product for the money. Though aging with staves may help save money on cost, it is not a detriment to the finished whiskey. There’s nothing to suggest over-extraction or an inferior base whiskey. I suspect that this type of finishing will remain controversial. But if it continues to result in well made and appealing whiskeys, time and tastings will convert nay-sayers.

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Suzanne Bayard

Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...