Whiskey Review: Cooper River Rye - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Cooper River Rye

I grew up near Philadelphia, basically on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Coming from that area, when one hears “Camden, New Jersey,” one does not often think whiskey. One might instead think of Camden’s less than savory safety reputation (under dispute by city officials). Or, on a more positive side, perhaps Camden’s established, extensive aquarium might come to mind?

Wait…when did this site become a Camden tourism guide? Since Cooper River Rye Whiskey came out of there. Because, as you’ll find out, it’s definitely something to write home about.

James Yoakum, founder of Cooper River Distillers, grew up in Kentucky and moved to Philadelphia in 2003 for college. Although his time in Philly exposed him to craft beer, he also became interested in whiskey to connect with his southern roots. Home brewing, along with pride in his adopted hometown, led to distilling, which led to the creation of a distillery.

Cooper River Distillers makes the first whiskey to be mashed, fermented, distilled, aged, and bottled-for-sale in New Jersey since Prohibition. It’s all done right there at their distillery in downtown Camden. The company started with Petty’s Island Rum in April of 2014, and added two other rums: Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum, Rye Oak Reserve Aged Rum, and the unaged Silver Fox Rye the following year. 2016 brought Single Run Series Whiskey, Copper & Vine Garden State Brandy, and Cooper River Rye. This year, they came out with Cooper River Bourbon.

Cooper River Rye’s mash bill is 63% rye, 23% corn, and 14% malted barley, with a portion of the barley and all the corn and rye sourced from New Jersey. (As someone who ate a lot of Jersey corn growing up, this is encouraging—even living on the West Coast with its garden bounty, I still miss New Jersey corn and tomatoes.) It’s fermented with a rum yeast strain for about six days, distilled in a copper alembic still, and aged just over a year in new, charred white oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Cooper River Rye

Vital stats: 86 proof; aged just over a year in new, charred oak; mash bill of 63% rye, 23% corn, and 14% malted barley; milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, aged, and bottled all in downtown Camden, NJ.

Color: A shiny, rich light brown, with an orange hue to it. Dare I call it a Trumpian sort of shade?

Nose: Browned butter, cinnamon-raisin toast, nougat, a newly cut tree in the rain.

Palate: It’s complex, yet extremely drinkable, with a rich, spicy finish. It starts smooth and finishes with rye’s peppery bite, but it’s a very mild one. More of a nip than a bite, really. Its short aging time means that it’s not tremendously oaky.

The Takeaway

This is so, so easy to drink and really quite enjoyable. The craft is evident and it’s a delight on the palate. Remember those commercials about “the softer side of Sears?” This is like the softer side of rye. It speaks softly but carries a big punch. If this is their first go-round and they’ve only been around for a couple years, I’m quite excited to see what they do next. And it might be time to get some real tomatoes.

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