Whisky Reviews: Catoctin Creek Rye Whiskies (Roundstone Single Barrel, Distillers Edition)

, | August 2, 2022

Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as a review sample by Catoctin Creek Distillery. 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.

Catoctin Creek Distillery is located in Purcellville, Virginia, where President and Chief Distiller Becky Harris and her husband, Founder and General Manager Scott Harris, hand craft their rye whiskies (and yes, they opt for the “whisky” spelling). When it opened in 2009, theirs became the first legal distillery to open in Loudoun County since Prohibition. 

Catoctin is pronounced “Ka-TOCK-tin.” The word is derived from the Native American tribal name Kittocton, which translates roughly to mean “place of many deer.” Catoctin Creek uses traditional methods inspired by pre-Prohibition styles to create their whiskies, such as sourcing all of their ingredients locally, using small pot stills and new, charred 30 gallon American oak barrels, proofing their spirits with Virginia spring water, and incorporating family recipes.

Taking their cues from mid-Atlantic distilling traditions, their whiskies focus exclusively on rye. Their flagship Roundstone rye, which is distilled from 100% unmalted rye, comes in an 80 proof bottling, a 92 proof bottling, and a cask strength bottling. All are single barrel releases bottled without chill filtration that are also organic, vegan, kosher, and gluten free

This review focuses on the 80 proof and 92 proof releases of Roundstone Rye. The 80 proof Catoctin Creek Roundstone Single Barrel Virginia Rye Whisky is the distillery’s flagship expression. It uses a mash bill of 100% organic Virginian rye, fermented and distilled in a copper pot still. The distillation process takes over nine hours, which allows for the maximum amount of flavor to be extracted from the rye grain before it’s aged for 2-3 years in new charred Minnesota white oak and Virginia white oak barrels. 

The Catoctin Creek Distillers Edition follows the same formula of using 100% locally sourced organic rye. It’s bottled at 92 proof without chill filtration as a single barrel product. Additionally, what sets this rye apart from Catoctin Creek Distillery’s flagship rye is that only certain barrels make the cut.

In a prepared statement, Harris said, “For a few years now, we’ve been putting whisky away for storage, we pulled some of the more interesting barrels from the back of the barn and decided to release these at a higher proof: a whisky specially curated for flavor, while still being remarkably smooth, as is our existing 80 proof Roundstone.” 

In May of 2022 Catoctin Creek was awarded #1 Best of Virginia for Distillery in Northern Virginia in Virginia Living magazine. Catoctin Creek Virginia Rye Whisky won Double Gold in the 2018 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, and Catoctin Creek Distillers Edition Rye Whisky won a Gold Medal in the Wizards of Whisky World Awards in 2016 and the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition in 2015

Catoctin Creek Rye Whiskey review

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Single Barrel Virginia Rye Whisky and Distillers Edition Rye Whisky (image via Jennifer Williams/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Catoctin Creek Roundstone Single Barrel Virginia Rye Whisky

Vital Stats: Aged 2-3 years, 80 proof (40% ABV), mash bill: 100% organic Virginia rye, 750 ml MSRP $44.

Appearance: Chestnut

Nose: A broad aroma profile with woody oak, smoke, sweet bread, black tea, green peppercorn, and rock salt. There is also an intriguing note of high-end Tequila.

Palate: At 80 proof (40% ABV), there is low burn on the nose and the palate. Flavors include cereal, malty, spicy, raisin, black currant, sweet prunes, hints of clove, nutty, dried fruit, butterscotch, and hints of cigar, with a creamy long finish that coats the tongue.

Final Thoughts:  Overall, I found this to be a highly complex rye whisky with a pleasant long finish that insisted I spend additional time trying to suss out its many flavors.

Score: 4.5/5

Tasting Notes: Catoctin Creek Distillers Edition Rye Whisky

Vital Stats: Aged 3 years, 92 proof (46% ABV), mash bill: 100% organic rye, 750 ml MSRP $52.

Appearance: Russet

Nose: On the nose are notes of warm caramel apple, citrus, and sea salt.  Similar to the 80 proof rye, it also offers the surprising hint of high-end Tequila on the nose, without tasting like a Tequila. 

Palate: The palate offers warm baking spices, cinnamon, buttery peppermint, hazelnut, dried figs, and vanilla. The well-rounded long finish offers delicious notes of buttery peppermint, caramel apple, hazelnut, and sea salt. 

Final Thoughts: This 92 proof rye delivers a well-rounded complexity of flavors similar to Catoctin Creek’s 80 proof expression. However, it offers a slightly more robust, spice-forward flavor profile. This is a smoky, woody, and hearty rye overall, with a well-balanced and broad flavor profile offering lots of interesting character notes between the nose and palate. 

Score: 4/5

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Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams is a former Dallas, Texas bartender of 15 years where she developed an appreciation for patrons with a healthy respect for great whiskey. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 2019 where she graduated from Portland State University as an English Literature major with a minor in Writing. While...