Classification: Blend of Straight Ryes
Company: Stellum Spirits
Distillery: Sourced (from undisclosed distilleries in Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky)
Release Date: Ongoing (First released in March 2021)
Color: Dark Rust
MSRP: $55 (2021)
Stellum Spirits was launched in March 2021. According to the company press release, it is “a new national brand created to celebrate the modern-day whiskey drinker.” Stellum is produced by Barrell Craft Spirits, which is known for Barrell Bourbon and many other whiskey and spirits products. The inaugural flagship offerings include Stellum Bourbon (blended), Stellum Rye (blended), Stellum Single Barrel Bourbon, and Stellum Single Barrel Rye, all offered at cask strength.
Unlike the Barrell Bourbon and Barrell Rye lines, Stellum blends will not be a batched product where every batch is unique. Instead, it will be always available and consistent. According to an interview we conducted with company founder Joe Beatrice, “Stellum uses a “daisy chain” blending technique where a large portion is blended and then the rest is topped off with the same recipe and adjusted only with other cask strength barrels for taste and proof for consistency. This is a technique developed as a hybrid of our technique for constructing Barrell Batches and the reverse-solera we use for the Barrell Infinite Barrel Project.”
According to Beatrice, “The Stellum name is derivative of the Latin word stella for star. Stellium also has an astrological meaning of a group of planets concentrated in a house. Stellum is not a heavily branded release, but we do want to always touch on modernity and our reverence for balancing intuition and scientific method.”
A potent burst of rye spice and cinnamon buns is pleasant and lively. The aroma packs a punch, as it is quite warm, venturing into nose-tingling territory. Yet it works well as it further introduces complementary scents of butterscotch, black beer, and crumble apple pie streusel. A touch of pear and caramel apple help round out this delicious smelling nose.
Swirls of rich cinnamon, baking spice, nutmeg, and Bananas Foster start the sip off with an agreeable effect. The sip is nicely rich and warming, packing ample intensity and spikes of heat. Shades of fresh fruit in the form of apple and clementine flow in and out providing a soft contrast. What it lacks in overt complexity, the flavor profile makes up with enthusiasm.
A ramp up in heat brings with it amplified notes of cinnamon, rye spice, and also a touch of dryness. The finish hits like you’d expect from a typical rye flavor profile, but notably, a sugary cinnamon swirl aftertaste lingers far after the sip is gone. Its straightforwardness is satisfying, yet at the same time doesn’t go out of its way to impress.
Rye whiskey can be a very crafty spirit. There are plenty of solid ryes available on the market, but far fewer amazing ones compared to bourbon. For whatever reason, be it distiller’s experience distilling it, smaller output, or something more fundamental about the grain itself, I find it less common for a rye to truly impress me. Yet, it doesn’t make me give up hope and further fuels my drive to discover the next great one.
As popular as rye has become, releasing a rye whiskey is not a guaranteed home run. To Barrell Craft Spirits’ 29 Barrell Bourbon batches, they have released just 3 rye batches. Barrell Rye Batch 3 in particular was quite a unique tasting rye that blended rye from Indiana, Tennessee, Poland, and Canada. Yet for all of its uniqueness, it failed to make an immediate and lasting impact - traits I feel any amazing whiskey should exhibit.
Stellum Rye can have some notable gusto at times, yet also knows when to pull back. Lacking blatant complexity and subtlety, it instead offers hard and fast flavors like you’d expect from a typical rye. Stellum Rye is one of the better ryes on the market not because it's overly flashy or complicated, but because it delivers such a solid tasting sip. It finds balance in being potent and unassuming, yet manages to stand out in its own way because of it.
It’s impossible to talk about price when it comes to rye and not mention Pikesville Rye. The whiskey drew a line in the sand many years ago when it offered great quality aged rye at a $50 price point. Even to this day, it offers just as much quality and value as it offered in 2016. The fallout from its landing on the rye market has been long lasting.
Stellum Rye hits that same magic price point and thanks to its rock solid flavors and intensity, needs to be a rye staple in your whiskey collection. Keeping a certain amount of expectations in check, Stellum Rye packs more bang for your buck than the majority of ryes on the market.
Stellum Rye may not reinvent the wheel, yet it still offers steadfast value on the backs of affluent flavor and pitch perfect intensity.
There are a lot of good ryes on the market, but few truly great ones that immediately make an impact and later leave you with a lasting impression. I’m always on the hunt for such a rye, yet it is often a precarious and unsatisfying quest. I found one in the boldness of Alberta Cask Strength Rye 132 Proof, and another in the complexity of E.H.Taylor Rye. Stellum Rye is finally another that gets awarded into my own personal pantheon of favorite ryes that I will continue to always have on hand. It uniquely finds a place in between bold and complex and is able to carve out a satisfying middle ground it can call its own