Classification: Straight Rye
Company: CVI Brands
Distillery: Stein Distillery
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: NAS (Aged at least 4 years based on label requirements set by TTB)
Color: Yellow Gold
MSRP: $80 (2022)
Black Maple Hill is a brand that has always been shrouded in mystery. First introduced in the early 2000’s, the brand was created by CVI Brands, which is a non-distiller producer and spirits importer based out of California. While the source of their early whiskey was never confirmed, it was rumored to originally come from the Stitzel-Weller distillery and then later Heaven Hill. In the mid 2010’s, the brand started sourcing from Stein Distillery out of Joseph, Oregon. While the brand still retains its distinctive old-timey monochromatic label, the whiskey produced by Stein Distillery comes in a shorter squatter bottle versus the original Black Maple Hill bottlings of the brand’s beginnings.
An intriguing fusion of scents kicks the sip off, led by dill, peanut brittle, and fresh rye grain. Inhaling deeper reveals scents of teak wood, light cinnamon applesauce, and light bark. The array of scents is incredibly earthy and forms a combination I haven’t experienced in a rye before. Surprisingly light for the proof, the nose provides enough weird uniqueness to intrigue you and pull you in further.
Similar to the nose, the palate contains fistfuls of fresh dill and light peanut brittle. An undulating rye spice joins the mix along with a serving of light sweet oak. The dill provides a bold presence, making the palate vegatative in nature. To that point, the dill is too overpowering, creating a unique yet slightly unbalanced overall midpoint for the sip.
True to form, an explosion of fresh dill kicks things off and is joined by muted vanilla and rye spice. Light dry oak and candied peanuts join the mix along with a dollop of heat. As the other flavors fade, all you're left with is a light heat and peanut and dill combination which lasts a surprisingly long time. Much like the palate, the dill makes the end of the sip slightly lopsided and leaves you asking what just happened here?
To say that Black Maple Hill Oregon Rye is unique would be an understatement. From the opening scents of the sip, right to the very end of the finish, the rye is one of the more unique tasting ones I've ever tasted. The amount of dill and peanut brittle found throughout is certainly something that needs to be tried to truly grasp the odd composition of flavors.
However, being unique doesn’t necessarily mean being great either. While the dill and peanut focused flavors add a certain level of intrigue, they’re also this rye’s downfall. Overpowering at times, they make the experience more about the strangeness of their presence than a cohesive overall composition of flavors. This is a case where cranking up something to 11 is good in theory, but not necessarily in execution. That said, being different has its place, and Black Maple Hill Oregon Rye needs to be recognized in that regard.
In the early 2010’s, Black Maple Hill was a low priced brand that most people ignored on the shelf. When the bourbon craze hit a few years later, the sub $50 bourbon exploded in price and saw its value go up dramatically on the secondary market. The brand’s quality didn’t matter either, the brand had cemented itself in bourbon lore.
Fast forward to present day, and Black Maple Hill continues to be a sourced brand, however, the distillery is now known (at least in the rye’s case) and it certainly tastes a lot different than before. A NAS rye for $80 can be a hard sell even in today’s market. Throw in the fact that it’s a uniquely vegetative sip that most rye lovers normally don’t seek out, and the value just doesn’t add up.
An oddball combination of dill and peanut brittle make Black Maple Hill Oregon Rye a whiskey that you’ll be scratching your head over.
Having been afforded the opportunity to taste and review hundreds of various American whiskeys, ones that contain an untraditional flavor profile tend to really stand out. And to say Black Maple Hill Oregon Rye is untraditional would be an understatement. Rye lovers who approach this whiskey expecting bold rye spice and other traditional rye flavors are in for a surprise. Bold dill dominates throughout making for an incredibly vegetative sip that will instantly turn many off. The sip itself isn’t bad per se, even with its vegetative focus, however, this aspect makes the whiskey quite polarizing and prevents it from reaching its full potential.