Classification: Straight Rye
Company: Sazerac Company, Inc.
Distillery: Old Fashioned Copper Distillery/Buffalo Trace
Release Date: Ongoing
Mashbill: Undisclosed (Buffalo Trace's high rye mashbill containing rye and malted barley)
Price: $80 (2020)
The E.H. Taylor, Jr. line contains a few staples such as Single Barrel, Small Batch, and Rye along with limited yearly releases. Unlike the others, E.H. Taylor, Jr. Rye is the only rye in the entire collection to date. Like the majority of E.H. Taylor releases, Straight Rye is Bottled-in-Bond. To be labelled Bottled-in-Bond, the whiskey must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at a single distillery, aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years, and it must be bottled at exactly 100 proof. Additionally, the Bottled-in-Bond label must clearly identify the distillery where it was distilled and where it was bottled, if different.
A rich warming scent of toasted oak is instantly noticeable. This is unique for a rye, as oak usually isn’t the most powerful scent, simply because the majority of ongoing ryes on the market are relatively young. Rye spice, pepper, and baking spice follow, providing the typical rye notes one would expect. Interestingly, delicate scents of mint and pear are interwoven adding some freshness to the aroma. It’s an excellent nose overall that nicely balances the expected with the unexpected.
It's hard to deny the rye spice this whiskey features, as it hits hard and fast, yet quickly becomes tempered as the palate opens up. The focus then moves to vanilla, pear, nutmeg, and a dash of pine. This transition makes for an interesting sip, as too often rye whiskeys are one-dimensional. This whiskey also has an oily viscosity which coats the tongue in cinnamon and baking spice flavors. As an added bonus, the mouthfeel greatly enhances the whiskey and takes an already admirable palate to even greater heights.
A much more typical rye finish consisting of cinnamon, nutmeg, and anise. It starts a little hot, but gently fades and mellows with the help of additional oak notes. Its oily mouthfeel transitions to provide an herbal aftertaste that further mirrors the freshness found in the nose. While it may not be the highlight of the sip, its finish is effective and certainly has its moments of welcomed intensity.
While Buffalo Trace doesn’t disclose exact mashbills, we know they have two different rye mashbills. One is a low-rye mashbill that is used to make Sazerac Rye, Sazerac 18 Year, Thomas H. Handy, and Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. The other is a high-rye mashbill that is used exclusively to make E.H. Taylor Rye. With the high-rye mashbill omitting corn, E.H. Taylor Rye is quite a bit different tasting from Buffalo Trace’s other rye products as it is much more spice forward and lacks noticeable fruit sweetness.
Although E.H. Taylor Rye doesn’t feature an age statement, its bottled in bond destination makes it at least four years old. An estimated nine years old is often thrown around, and based on how oak forward and complex it is, that might be fairly accurate. This then puts it on the short list of ryes with a similar constitution, such as Michter's Rye 10 Year and Redemption Rye 10 Year to name a few. Because E.H. Taylor Rye leans more towards a classic rye profile, it doesn’t come across as unique tasting as ryes from WhistlePig, High West, or Barrell. And while Bulleit Rye 12 Year has an impressive age statement, it's not really in the conversation quality-wise. This ultimately puts E.H. Taylor Rye in more of a familiar territory, yet it offers just enough character to make it stand out on its own accord.
I can’t even count how many times I passed on purchasing a bottle of E.H. Taylor Rye. Despite the E.H. Taylor brand being known for its high quality floor for their standard releases, it was the Rye’s price point that was the main deterrent for me. With so many quality and interesting options under $40, I had a hard time being convinced I should spend double or sometimes even triple on a E.H. Taylor Rye.
Premium rye whiskeys in general still have a lot to prove commanding top dollar for releases (Wild Turkey Cornerstone is a good recent example of this). For one, there just aren’t many of them, and the ones that are highly rated, like Sazerac 18 Year, high aged Willetts, and Van Winkle Family Reserve, for example, are hopelessly hard to find. E.H. Taylor Rye isn’t the easiest rye to find either, but at least tends to show up from time to time. When you do see it, $80 seems like a lot, but its price is comparable to its contemporaries, such as WhistlePig, Barrell, Michter's, and Redemption. You’ll quickly find out after sipping it, $80 isn’t as big of a number as it first seems, and is actually right on the money.
E.H. Taylor Rye hits home with a classic rye profile, and fully justifies its price with unique flavor accents, mouthfeel, and excellent overall sipping quality.
With the explosion of interesting under $40 ryes on the market that are giving the premium rye category a run for its money, I had a hard time believing E.H. Taylor Rye had much to offer me that a less expensive bottle couldn’t. Even in the premium rye category where there are some solid offerings, I feel like they remain a harder sell than premium bourbons. So I wasn’t excited with the thought of dropping $80 on a rye that was perhaps marginally better, even if it was in fact a better whiskey.
Overall, I’m quite impressed by E.H. Taylor Rye. Its tempered oak and rye spice are nicely threaded throughout its sip, with a lovely mint, pear, and herbal accent, and an oily mouthfeel that’s icing on the cake. It showcases exactly what a classic rye profile whiskey is supposed to be, while adding a dash of uniqueness. Don’t miss a chance at grabbing a bottle and taking your time sipping it. This is a great rye that excels as a sipping rye where its virtues are fully on display.