Editor’s Note: This whisk(e)y 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 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.
Whiskey producer Steve Groth is an Ernest Hemingway enthusiast. Groth is better known in the whiskey world as a co-founder of Angel’s Envy and owner of Mahalo Spirits Group. Mahalo produces Papa’s Pilar Rum, named after the author’s fishing boat. The rum isn’t the only project Groth has launched in ode to Ernest: in late November 2022, he helped release a whiskey named for the author.
To produce this straight rye whiskey, Groth teamed up with seventh-generation Master Distiller Ron Call and his sons, Clayton Call and Master Distillery Jacob Call. There’s a lot of weight behind the names. Ron Call is Master Distiller at Papa’s Pilar, though he got his start in the mid-70s following in his own father’s footsteps at Jim Beam. Jacob Call, who has a long career in distilling, just left his most recent project relaunching one of Kentucky’s original distilleries, Green River Distilling Co., after his father oversaw its initial rebuilding and production under the name O. Z. Taylor.
The first release from the team, the Hemingway Rye 1st Edition, was available to pre-order through their website in late November. The 972-bottle run sold out quickly (there may still be some floating around at regular retail though). It is a blend of two straight ryes – 94% nine-year-old Indiana Straight Rye Whiskey and 6% four-year-old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. The whiskey was finished in Oloroso Sherry casks that were used to finish Papa’s Pilar rum. Oloroso is a fully oxidized Sherry, known for nutty and dried fruit notes.
Tasting the spirit was certainly a worthwhile endeavor and a fun tribute to an author who has inspired countless numbers of writers, artists, businesses, apps, and more. This isn’t even the first project to tie “Hemingway” and “Whiskey” together, though the first with actual alcohol inside. Let’s explore.
Tasting Notes: Hemingway Rye 1st Edition
Vital Stats: A blend of nine-year-old and four-year-old straight rye aged in new, charred oak, 50% ABV, mash bill: undisclosed, but at least 51% rye, SRP $149.99/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is golden brown in color.
Nose: When first opened, I pick up a touch of chemical notes like acetone nail polish remover alongside a strong yeasty note. Though this does not blow off with time, more flavors rise to the surface, including savory nutty aromas, red berry notes, baking spices, and raisins. There’s a powerful vanilla extract note that pairs nicely with a hint of blackstrap molasses and brandy-soaked raisins. The aroma is dark and intense, much as expected from a sherry- and rum-influenced rye.
Palate: The palate is moderate in body with grippy, fine tannins and a fiery presence. The flavors open up into notes of melted dark chocolate, Raisinets, and stewed peaches. Its sweet notes are nicely balanced by the aggressive palate. The finish is long and decedent like an ice cream sundae, with notes of whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and cherries. It concludes with a bitter note like crushed allspice. Water brings the sweetness to the forefront, with hints of Swedish coffee bread, fruitcake, and pomander balls. Sip this after dinner or with your favorite winter desserts.
This whiskey offers up what I love about rye: beautiful spice and intense confectionery flavors. The sherry- and rum- influences add intrigue and keep the palate fresh. It goes down easily. Those fortunate enough to have scooped up a bottle will be heartily pleased. Those interested in future releases can keep an eye out for launch news here and subscribe to the company’s email newsletter on their homepage.
User Review3.43 (14 votes)
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...