Classification: Straight Rye Finished in Tokaji Casks
Company: Penelope Bourbon
Distillery: Sourced from MGP
Release Date: August 2022
Age: 6 Years (Company confirmed that it is 6 years, 11 months)
Mashbill: 95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Color: Golden Honey
MSRP: $80 (2022)
Penelope Tokaji Cask Finish Rye Batch 1 is the first ever rye released by Penelope Bourbon. The company finished the rye in used 350L Tokaji wine casks imported from Hungary. The first wave of Tokaji finished rye will consist of 3 batches, with each batch consisting of approximately 250 cases. While the age stated on the bottle is 6 years old, the company confirmed that the sourced rye is actually 6 years, 11 months old.
The Tokaji barrel finish is instantly noticeable the moment you inhale the aromas wafting out of the glass. Defined scents of sweet sugary ripe grapes, honey, and oak pop and suck you in. Further exploration brings about brown sugar, dried raisins, and light rye spice. Nuanced and well constructed, the nose will delight anyone who is familiar with Tokaji wine. It provides for a nice twist on the standard 95/5 rye mashbill, by focusing less on typical floral or spice scents, and instead drawing out a more well-defined aroma that you typically don’t get from a standard wine barrel finish.
A wall of dry tannic oak instantly greets you. Once the wall settles, distinct notes of sharp rye spice, whipped cream sweetness, fresh ripe strawberries, and leather make themselves known. Considering the initial dose of dryness, the rye sports a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel. It’s a very unique contrast between the three distinct groupings of dry flavors, sweet creaminess, and rye spice. While the wall of dry tannic oak is a bit on the heavy side, overall this is a great example of the new dimensions that barrel finishing can add to a standard product readily available in the market.
Sharp rye spice carries over and barrels its way forward. Mouth-sucking dry oak, honey, leather, and white peppercorn quickly follow. As the finish carries on, the dryness of the oak remains although it backs off from its initial appearance and is also joined with a light nuttiness and a dab of citrus sweetness. As the finish continues to linger, you’re left with a subtle dry oak that hangs around for a surprisingly long time. The Tokaji barrel finishing is less noticeable here, instead imparting more oak versus the fruitier and creamy flavors it imparts on the nose and palate.
Barrel finishes in every shape and form have seemed to hit the market in recent years. That’s why it’s always a surprise when a brand uses a new barrel finish that hasn’t been explored before in the American whiskey space. Sure it’s been done in Scotch before, with Glenmorangie’s A Tale of Cake serving as a good example, however, it hasn’t taken hold with American distillers and brands yet. That is until now.
Tokaji is a unique wine from the Tokaj wine region that spans from northeastern Hungary to southeastern Slovakia. It’s a famously sweet wine that was once coveted by nobles throughout Europe. It’s a distinct wine with its own distinct production style, and also a personal favorite of mine. However, knowing how sweet some versions of Tokaji wine can be, I was unsure how an American whiskey, particularly an aged rye, would turn out.
Credit needs to be given to Penelope Bourbon for pushing the boundaries of their creativity with Penelope Tokaji Cask Finish Rye. Not only is this the company’s first-ever rye that they’ve released, but they’ve found a way to take a standard 95/5 MGP rye mashbill and make it distinctly their own. The rye pulls out sweet notes from the barrel finish that greatly enhance the traditional 95/5 rye profile. Yes, there’s room for improvement, especially around the dry oak found in the palate and the finish, however, overall this is one of the more unique barrel finished whiskeys released this year.
Barrel finished whiskeys can run the gamut of price points. Coming in at $80, Penelope Tokaji Cask Finish Rye Batch 1 delivers a reasonable above-average value. It’s not just the fact that this is a new barrel finish type used, it’s also that this is a well-defined almost 7 year MGP rye that delivers an all-around interesting sip. Considering how many sourced young MGP ryes sell for $50-$60, Penelope hits the right price point for this unique barrel finished higher age rye.
Penelope takes the road less traveled for their first ever rye, resulting in unique tasting rye that will please those adventure seekers looking to try something new.
Penelope Bourbon isn’t afraid to head into new territories of wine barrel finishes that others haven’t ventured into yet. They started with their Rosé Cask Finish Bourbon and doubled down with their Tokaji Finish Rye. The barrel finishing is undeniable, adding impactful flavors to a well-known sourced rye. While there’s room for improvement, the first batch delivers in all the ways that Tokaji lovers will appreciate, along with those who like wine barrel finished whiskeys in general. If you’re looking for a unique yet flavorful barrel finished rye, take the time to seek out Penelope Tokaji Cask Finish Rye Batch 1.