Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.
My thoughts on the Corsair Artisan Distillery couldn’t be more bifurcated.
On one hand, Corsair is located in my beloved hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. (Corsair’s first distillery began operations in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 2008, but they added a Nashville distillery in 2010 and a malthouse in 2014.) I love Nashville; I love Nashville businesses; I love small distilleries. I want desperately to love Corsair.
Alas, on the other hand, while living in Nashville I always found myself disappointed with Corsair’s bizarre experimental drams. Their highly praised Triple Smoke I mistook for an expired bottle of liquid smoke that had been left in a glovebox all summer.
On yet another hand—if I may borrow a third from a generous reader—Darek Bell and Andrew Webber are just the kind of creative and talented eccentrics capable of making the most out of this moment of craft liquor excitement. Not beholden to tradition or even common sense, they don’t hesitate to serve up a quinoa whiskey or a malted oat whiskey or a barrel-aged gin—or attempt (however ridiculously) a peaty scotch or a tarragon and hibiscus absinthe. They’ll try unheard-of combinations of wood for their barrels and their smokehouse (from black walnut to sugar maple to pear to persimmon), as if every permutation of grain and lumber must be checked off a list. God bless their crazy souls.
But if you’ll allow me just one more hand, I can’t drink this stuff without closing my eyes, lest my tasting be compromised by the surge of stomach acid at the back of my throat when I look at the bottle labels or consider any part of their marketing scheme clearly designed by a team of frat-boys. The bottles are adorned on both cap and over-sized label with the visage of three self-satisfied bros strutting their stuff in sunglasses and suits, presumably just after binge-watching Entourage when they should have been finishing up their coursework for that online MBA program advertised on late night cable. Font of choice? Anything better suited to a Wes Craven flick. The brilliantly crafted liquor is then sullied further with names like “Insane in the Grain,” “Hopmonster,” or “Buck Yeah.” Are these artisan whiskeys or rave club specials featuring Robitussin and caffeine? Their slogan is “booze for badasses.” I’ll have the booze; hold the badassery, if that’s what it is.
Having run out of my hands and yours, let’s call it a wash and taste the liquor—this one called Ryemageddon, made with malted rye and chocolate rye. Of this, I can finally say something with clarity and confidence: it’s good.
I admire Corsair’s dedication to injecting malted grains into the American whiskey scene. The result offers a strikingly pleasant nose—and this one is drop-dead gorgeous. In fact, it smells so lovely, I barely notice the taste. I assume it’s fine. I don’t care. I just want this complex, floral, malty aroma in my sinuses forever.
Vital Stats: 92 proof. There’s no age statement, but I’m willing to bet it’s quite young. We do know that it’s an aged version of Corsair’s Wry Moon white whiskey. 80% malted rye and 20% chocolate rye. $45-65.
Appearance: Amber with a faint, brick red tint.
Nose: The aroma leaves absolutely nothing wanting: yeast, honeysuckle, licorice, milk chocolate, hot caramel. Can I buy it as a scented candle?
Palate: I’m truly so overwhelmed by the aroma that the flavor comes across as a bit vague, indistinct. It’s not quite as sweet or floral or chocolaty as the scent suggests, though those notes are still present. I taste cinnamon, butter, toast, cloves, black pepper, and peat smoke (from the malted rye, I assume). It offers a wonderfully balanced mouthfeel and tingle without overwhelming spiciness or burn.
I’m grateful that the chocolate flavor is detectable but very subtle. That gentle rye fire stays put in the mouth and lingers, but not too long. No off-notes in the aftertaste.
If I strip away all the other factors that might skew my opinion—the comically horrific aesthetic taste of the brand designers, the other lines of remarkably clever but sometimes poorly executed whiskeys in Corsair’s portfolio, the desire to love a hometown hero—I’m left with a unique rye unlike any I’ve had before that is, believe it or not, also quite pleasant, especially on the nose.
This is a bottle I would pick up again any day. The aroma is simply remarkable and a worthwhile experience all on its own. The flavor doesn’t meet that high bar, but I don’t know what would.
FINAL SCORE: 89/100
User Review5 (1 vote)
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Mark is a poet, writer, editor, and cheese monger. He’s also a real trip on karaoke nights. After leaving a career as an English professor, he started a small business at ParagraphDoctor.com and moved to Portland. Now he’s all about birds, bourbon, and breweries. His ridiculous birding blog can be...