Whiskey Review: Far North Roknar Minnesota Rye - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Far North Roknar Minnesota Rye

Far North RoknarAs a native Minnesotan I was both nervous and excited to review a whiskey from Minnesota. Minnesota whiskies are few and far between, and those that I have tried have been less than refined. Add to that the fact that Far North Spirits, the producer of Roknar, is located in the teeny tiny town of Hallock at the very northern edge of Minnesota, and my doubts were high. My own home town in Southern Minnesota is approximately 27,000 to Hallock’s 1,000 and even there there’s hardly a whisper of spirit interest past utilitarian drunkenness. All things considered, I ended up being blown away by Roknar and Far North.

Far North Roknar rye whiskey is just one of many appealing-looking drams coming out of Far North Spirits in Hallock, MN. As we note in this recent article, Far North Spirits is distilling vertical integration to a T; with its “field-to-glass” ethic, Far North takes the grain-to-glass idea one step further, farming their own grains from which all of their spirits are distilled.

All of their spirits (save their Alander spiced rum, which is made from domestic sugar) are made from non-GMO AC Hazlet Winter Rye. 80% of Roknar’s mash bill, Hazlet is a rye that was developed in the ‘90s, and which fares very well in cold Canadian winters due to its shorter stature and ability to avoid tipping over in extreme weather conditions. Considering Far North’s geography, choosing grains that can survive Canadian winters must have been imperative to their success. The corn that makes up 10% of Roknar’s mash bill is a mix of Blue River organic corn, and Minnesota 13, a non-GMO heirloom yellow dent corn, a variety that in 1936 “was the most popular variety in the US Northern Corn Belt”.

Far North also practices seed-saving, and recently won a Good Food Award for their navy-strength gin, Gustaf. Beyond thoughtful production methods, the distillery also has clearly put a considerable amount of thought into the story behind their brand and each individual spirit. Influenced by Swedish family and a very Minnesotan Nordic sensibility, Far North’s Swedish spirit names and clean lines—both in design and flavor, make them an absolute stand-out and a gem of the proverbial grain belt.

Roknar clocks in at 95 proof, or 47.5% ABV. Though aged merely a year in 10 and 15 gallon oak barrels, and finished in sherry and cognac casks, it promises real oomph for such a young dram.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Medium-dark amber in the glass, Roknar has some serious legs and viscosity.

Nose: Melting gelato, dried rose petal, and honeycomb outline the nose, with fresh grain, a little spice, and dark cherry filling in. Rubber tires, molasses, and gingersnaps follow. The overwhelming takeaway from the nose start to finish, however, is honeycomb.

Palate: Butter poached plum, dried cherry, black pepper, and shortbread meet sawdust on the palate. Clean, simple, and rich.

Finish: On the finish, sawdust turns to cardboard and graham crackers, dried apple, honey, ginger, and more black pepper. Roknar’s finish is nice and long, without losing any simplicity—honeyed from start to finish.

Conclusion:

Overall, Roknar is a young whiskey with very clean lines. It is simple, elegant, and uncomplicated—and entirely delicious. Far North Spirits deserves a pat on the back for taking control of what can be a complex and convoluted system, and making a whiskey whose intentionality is obvious and whose production is crystal clear—and which is delicious to boot.

FINAL SCORE: 91/100