Whiskey Review Round Up: Rock Town Rye Whiskeys - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review Round Up: Rock Town Rye Whiskeys

Rock Town Rye WhiskeysEditor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as free samples to review by the party behind them. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.

We recently reviewed a trio of bourbons from Little Rock, Arkansas’s Rock Town Distilling. As discussed previously, Rock Town is a small but growing distillery—the first in Arkansas since Prohibition—that’s been gaining some critical accolades recently, most notably an inclusion in the 2015 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisk(e)y Bible.

Moving forward from the bourbons, we are now on to two different rye whiskeys from Rock Town: their standard Arkansas Rye Whiskey, and their Single Barrel Reserve Rye, currently only available at the distillery. Both of these ryes are made with a mash bill of 52% rye, 38% corn, and 10% malt. That’s a new recipe as of batch 12, before which the distillery used a 88%/12% mix of rye and barley.

The aging times, however, differ, as do the barrels the two whiskeys are put up in. The Arkansas Rye is aged in 15- and 25-gallon charred oak barrels; we don’t get an age statement, but as with the Arkansas Bourbon, it’s probably safe to assume it’s on the younger side, given the extra-small barrel size. The Single Barrel Reserve does come with an age statement—26 months—and is aged in standard 53-gallon barrels. The Arkansas Rye is bottled at 46% ABV, while the Single Barrel Reserve is bottled at barrel strength, which meant 57.9%, in my case.

One final note: the Single Barrel Reserve I tasted was from barrel 22; currently, the distillery is selling bottles from barrel 39.

Tasting Notes: Arkansas Rye

Color: Amber

Nose: Some light clove spice, together with tropical fruit like banana. Honey and nutmeg after a few minutes.

Palate: a slight rubbery, chemical note opens the palate, followed by stronger spice, darker fruit notes like blackberry, and some wood. Fairly light on the palate.

Score: 83

Tasting Notes: Single Barrel Reserve Rye

Color: Deep red-brown, like black tea

Nose: A fairly strong rubber/ink note is the first thing I notice, followed by banana chips, maple syrup, and honey

Palate: A chemical note again opens the palate. Neat, it’s followed by strong wood, and some spice. With some water, the woodiness is, unsurprisingly, lighter, and I get more maple syrup, along with apricot and butter. A little drying, and not as heavy as I’d expect based on the color.

Score: 82

Final Thoughts:

Despite the “reserve” designation, I found I actually like the Arkansas Rye a little better than the single-barrel version. Though neither has a particularly strong rye character, the single barrel still tastes noticeably raw. I’d be interested to try the more recent bottling, from barrel 39, which the distillery told me is comparatively spicier. In any case, both of these ryes are decent, but nothing to write home about.