Whiskey Review: Hard Truth Distilling Caramel Malt Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. 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 in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

If you’re not from the Midwest, you may not have heard of the institution that is Hard Truth Distilling, but you probably will soon. Located in Nashville, Indiana, the distillery advertises itself as “Indiana’s largest destination craft distillery,” and has even announced plans to expand its facilities, promising 24/7 production, a new rack house, and new distillation equipment to keep up with ever-increasing demand.

The brand recently released a series of “Sweet Mash Ryes” featuring three different variations on the theme, at barrel strength no less! Each batch no larger than ten barrels in size, which is a very limited release. For those newer to whiskey, “Sweet Mash” is when each new batch of whiskey begins with a freshly made mash, rather than reusing a portion of the spent mash from the previous production cycle, which would be considered a “Sour Mash.” The benefit of using “Sour Mash” is that it helps to control the PH balance during the fermentation process to ensure that unwanted bacteria doesn’t enter during this critical part and negatively affect the flavor.

While this method is still used today by many distilleries, modern advances allow distillers to buy enzymes that can be added during fermentation in order to achieve the same results. Ultimately, this allows the distiller to not be married to the flavor profile of a previous batch because there is no recycling of flavors from one batch to the next. This can give the distiller a little bit more leeway with creativity and variance from batch to batch.

It is especially helpful when using different mash bills because it allows the separate grain recipes to really come through, rather than getting muddled with a different recipe’s flavors. Not surprisingly, this is exactly what Hard Truth Distilling does with these three, small batch variations.

For this Caramel Malt variant, the brand noted the “caramel is roasted half as long and is more like caramel corn or sticky toffee in its flavor contributions.”

Hard Truth Distilling Caramel Malt Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey review

We review Hard Truth Distilling Caramel Malt Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey, made in a “sweet mash” style. (image via Ryan O’Doherty/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Hard Truth Distilling Caramel Malt Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: 58.7% ABV. Mash bill: 51% Rye, 38% Corn 11% Caramel Malted Barley. Aged in American Oak barrels. Price range: $80-90.

Appearance: Golden Amber.

Nose: Vanilla sweet with just a hint of maple and familiar rye spice.

Palate: Immediately sweet and syrupy on the palate. Followed by that vanilla flavor on the finish. Peppery rye spice throughout to pleasantly balance out the overall flavor.

Whiskey Review: Hard Truth Distilling Caramel Malt Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey


My second favorite variation of Hard Truth Distilling’s limited release Sweet Mash Ryes, and it’s a close second. This particular variation has the most peppery rye spice to it, which I really enjoy, while also balancing a pleasantly-sweet vanilla flavor that comes through on both the nose and the palate. If you’re new to ryes or a seasoned veteran, I highly recommend looking for this at your local liquor store.

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Ryan O'Doherty

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I'm a former distiller at Jackson Hole Still Works in Wyoming. Fan of whiskey, golf, and especially whiskey and golf together.