Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by J. Rieger & Co. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
The fifth of an annual release, Rieger’s Monogram Straight Bourbon Whiskey comes from Kansas City-based craft distillery J. Rieger & Co. This newest expression is the first time a Monogram bottling has been a straight bourbon whiskey. The 2022 Monogram release is composed of whiskeys 6.5 to 10.5 years old, and highlights flavors developed using century-old Oloroso sherry botas.
Kansas City was a destination for those seeking reprieve from the hardships of Prohibition in the 1920s and ‘30s, even earning the nickname “The Paris of the Plains.” Pre-Prohibition, J. Rieger & Co. was known as the largest mail-order whiskey producer in the U.S., notable even now, as mail-order spirits have become more popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, J. Rieger & Co. was eventually plagued with the negative effects of Prohibition and was forced to close shop in 1919. Then, in 2014, after intense research and planning, J. Rieger & Co. relaunched the brand under the tutelage of Dave Pickerell, a veteran of the industry who was known as the “founding father” of craft distilling.
With the Rieger’s Monogram series, the distillery attempts a fusion of high-quality production with craft innovation. Co-founder Ryan Maybee says of this year’s expression, this release “is very special to us as it’s a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a first of its kind for the Monogram label.” There will only be 1,887 bottles released, with availability reserved for the J. Rieger & Co. distillery and a few other retail spots around Kansas and Missouri.
Though there is a rich history behind the J. Rieger & Co. distillery, which is always fascinating to explore, my tasting of Rieger’s Monogram Straight Bourbon Whiskey admittedly left me cold. There is a darkness to the bourbon that implies a rich, mature, full flavor profile that the whiskey ultimately lacked. And a strange chemical note on both the nose and palate couldn’t be ignored throughout, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.
Tasting Notes: Rieger’s Monogram Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: Bottled at 103 proof (51.5% ABV). Blend of straight bourbon whiskeys between 6.5 and 10.5 years old. Finished up to 48 months in nearly 100-year-old Oloroso sherry botas that previously held Williams & Humbert Drysack 15-year Oloroso Especial. Production of 1,887 bottles. SRP $129.99/750 ml.
Appearance: Deep, dark maple in color with medium viscosity.
Nose: Straight away I got an intense sulfurous odor on the nose of an unlit matchstick. It was not a pleasant introduction and unfortunately didn’t dissipate the longer I left the whiskey to breathe. I did attempt to pick out other notes and got hints of brown sugar and plum, along with more bitter nuts, like an almond skin.
Palate: While the nose was jarring, the whiskey itself is subdued, with notes of bitter citrus peel and a meatier essence, some savory spices and cranberry, with kind of a chemical aftertaste that lasts too long to be enjoyable.
Whiskey Review: Rieger's Monogram Straight Bourbon Whiskey
I was surprised at how little this whiskey appealed to me. I tend to rarely be disappointed with bourbon but found Rieger’s Monogram to be too bitter and chemical tasting to really enjoy. I may enjoy this in a Manhattan, or a similar cocktail that adds some natural sweetness to the whiskey, as I felt that was missing from the spirit.
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Jerry Jenae Sampson
Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.