Classification: Straight Rye
Company: Beam Suntory
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery/Old Grand-Dad Distillery
Release Date: October 2020
Age: 11 Years
Color: Yellow Gold
No Official Website At This Time
In 2020, Beam Suntory gave its Old Overholt brand an overhaul. In addition to moving its standard bottle from 80 to 86 proof and making it non-chill filtered, they also announced two limited edition ryes, a 4 year old 114 proof and a 11 year old 92.6 proof. As a nod to Old Overholt’s original heritage, the limited edition ryes were released in the Ohio and Pennsylvania markets only. Jim Beam announced that only 50 barrels were used for this release, resulting in just 600 cases being brought to market. The bottle states that it was barreled in 2009 and bottled in 2020.
A sweet bouquet of mellowed oak, buttered corn, and vanilla rest on top of light cinnamon spice. Mixed in is a subtle dose of spicey rye which brings balance to the sweetness. While I was hoping for a little more oomph from an 11 year rye, the mix of scents presents itself as a pleasant way to kick things off.
A flash of sweet caramel, vanilla, and oak open the sip, however these flavors are quickly overcome by a bold pop of rye spice. Exploring further brings flavors of cinnamon bark, along with light ripe cherries and green peppercorn. The mouthfeel is on the lighter side, however, overall the palate contains a great mix of spicy and sweet flavors that do a great job of showcasing the whiskey's time in the barrel.
The finish starts off on light notes of buttery oak, leather, and a touch of rye spice. Just as you start to wish for a little more heat, you’re treated to a slow ramp up to the intensity of rye spice notes, along with forthcoming notes of underlying dry leather and oak. This combination lasts for an incredible amount of time leaving you plenty of time to ponder the overall sip. The flavors are balanced, however it’s on the simpler side leaving you wanting just a tad more depth. It’s a suiting way to round out the sip.
Old Overholt is a brand that is rooted in American history. In fact it is said to be America's oldest continually maintained brand of whiskey. From its founding in 1810 in West Overton, Pennsylvania, Old Overholt has been one of (and at times the only) nationally distributed rye whiskeys this country has known. The brand relied on one lower proof rye whiskey up until the introduction of its bottled in bond variant in 2017. It took 210 years for the brand to receive its first limited edition bottling in 2020. For a brand that has never focused on higher aged whiskey, to all of a sudden have a 11 year rye introduced was exciting for lovers of the brand or just lovers of high aged ryes in general.
Age statements have recently been making a comeback for American whiskeys - for bourbon at least. Rye on the other hand is another story. Age stated ryes have never been in vogue, and that continues in the current state of the market. This holds especially true for ryes that are 10 years or older. Old Overholt 11 Year Rye joins a small club of 10 year or older ryes including Michter’s 10 Year Rye, Sazerac 18 Year Rye, and the recently retired line of Kentucky Owl Rye’s. Sadly all of these ryes have one thing in common, they’re all limited edition releases.
Old Overholt 11 Year Rye may be able to flash its membership card to this small elite club, but it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily on the same playing field as its age stated peers. While the others use their age to highlight the additional time in the barrel and pull out nuanced flavors, Old Overholt 11 Year Rye presents itself as an admirable rye, but nothing about it screams that it’s using its age to its advantage. Instead, it seems to be content to just be better than the standard Old Overholt versions currently on the market and nothing more.
While Old Overholt 11 Year Rye may not be able to match the flavor profiles of other double digit age stated ryes in the market, it does lead its peers when it comes to price. Even though this is a limited edition rye that is being brought to only two markets, Beam still chose to price it well below the competition. It’s really refreshing to see, especially during a time when prices for limited edition whiskeys continue to skyrocket.
In fact, Beam seems to almost want Old Overholt 11 Year Rye to blend in versus stand out. For example, others aim for unique packaging, Old Overholt 11 Year Rye instead utilizes the same exact bottle that Old Grand Dad 114 comes in. Sure it’s a cost savings strategy, however it seems suiting for this release. Its flavor profile may not be a huge standout, but it’s priced accordingly to the sip it delivers. This is a big deal, since it allows those curious to try out what longer aged ryes taste like without having to pay a triple digit price tag. For that, Beam needs to be given kudos.
Arriving in familiar packaging, Old Overholt 11 Year Rye doesn’t take advantage of its impressive statement, yet is an easy sipping rye that unfortunately will only be available to a select few.
Old Overholt 11 Rye is quite the conundrum. Going into this review I was irked that Beam chose to finally put out a first ever limited edition Old Overholt and also award it with a rare double digit age statement, only to limit it to two states. However, after actually spending time with this whiskey I’m not necessarily sure this is something to get upset about.
For those in the Ohio or Pennsylvania market, this is a nice nod to the origins of the Old Overholt brand, and a fun bragging right to tout if you buy a bottle. However, expectations need to be set about what this rye is and isn’t. While it is a pleasant easy sipping limited edition rye that is marked at a consumer friendly price, it isn’t a whiskey that will blow folks away. I ultimately ended up walking away wishing that Old Overholt 11 Year Rye capitalized on its time in the barrel more so than it ultimately did. In the end the extra 7 years of aging it was afforded resulted in a rye that is only a little better than their regular bottled in bond version.
This is truly a bottle that shouldn't produce FOMO, however with the state of today's market, most likely will. If you happen to have an opportunity to buy a bottle, do yourself a favor and open and enjoy it.