Whiskey Review: Thirteenth Colony Distilleries’ Southern Rye Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Thirteenth Colony Distilleries’ Southern Rye Whiskey

Production of distilled spirits in Georgia in general is often credited to Scotch-Irish immigrants, who started producing moonshine upon settling in the area in the late 1700s. This continued over the years, coming to a head leading up to and through Prohibition as moonshiners were targeted by the feds. (Fun fact: According to a Georgia tourism site, it was “cat-and-mouse” car chases – federal agencies going after moonshiners, especially in North Georgia in the 1930s-40s – that directly led to the creation of stock car racing, and ultimately NASCAR.)

It wasn’t until 2009 that Georgia’s first (legal) distillery opened since Prohibition – Thirteenth Colony Distilleries. in Americus, Georgia, a small town with a rich history. It was formally founded in 1832 by General John Americus Smith, and evolved into a thriving cotton plantation known for a time as the “Metropolis of Southwest Georgia.”

“Made by friends for friends” speaks to the beginnings of Thirteenth Colony Distilleries, which was formed from an idea stemming from discussion about making moonshine as holiday gifts for family, friends and colleagues. It attempts to carry this sentiment through to its dealings and production as a full-fledged distillery, today producing award-winning, small-batch whiskey, gin and vodka.

Thirteenth Colony first introduced its line of whiskeys – Tennessee, American and Rye – in 2012. Its Southern Rye Whiskey earned a Gold Medal in the 2013 Fifty Best Domestic Rye Whiskey. I got to try this rye – bottle 2212, batch 2014 (hand-numbered by head distiller Graham Arthur).

Tasting Notes: Thirteenth Colony Distilleries’ Southern Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: 96% rye, 4% barley. After the whiskey ages for an undisclosed amount of time in new American oak barrels, it’s finished with French oak spirals and bottled at 95 proof in a beautifully-shaped 750 mL bottle. It retails for about $30 and up.

Appearance: Sturdy legs. Bright, ruddy copper.

Nose: Orange and stone fruit pie. Coriander and peppercorns. The toasted part of a roasted marshmallow.

Palate: Sweet toffee and preserved pear come forward first – likely thanks to the bit of barley in the mash – and then comes the rye and note of herbs. There’s a peppery spice (not overwhelmingly so) and toasted caraway. It’s pleasantly warm and there’s a subtle whisper of a little smoky quality.

The Takeaway

It’s mild and an easy sipper, but also doesn’t get lost in a whiskey-forward cocktail. For its (unspecified) young age, it is balanced and interesting. Some of its depth likely comes at least somewhat from the French oak spiral finishing involved in the aging process. Some may view that as a shortcut, but the result works.

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Sarah Coppola