Classification: Blend of Straight Ryes
Company: Wolves Whiskey
Distillery: Willett Distillery and an Undisclosed Distillery in Indiana
Release Date: December 2021
Mashbill: Undisclosed blend of 6 year old 51% rye whiskey & 6 and 7 year old 74% rye whiskey
Color: Dirty Gold
MSRP: $220 (2022)
A unique blend of effervescent scents mixes along with sweeter notes. Immediately noticeable are forest scents of evergreen and pine sap that are intertwined with hints of brown sugar and a cinnamon crust akin to what you’d find in a dutch apple pie. Rounding out the scents is a dollop of fresh rye grain and baking spice. It’s a pleasing combination of scents to kick things off.
The nose provided an accurate preview of what was to come, as the midpoint of the sip reveals a great base of syrup flavors, brandied soaked raisins, light caramel, and butterscotch. These flavors are balanced out with white peppercorn, rye spice and light oak. The rye presents a great chewy mouthfeel that adds to the character of the palate. Nicely balanced overall, the flavors play really well together resulting in a truly easy sip to enjoy.
The finish transitions to a more traditional rye with oak and rye spice immediately being noticeable. White peppercorn and light leather pile on top to reinforce this point. As these flavors fade away you’re left with a rye spice that produces a crescendoing heat. It’s a lingering finish to the sip and affords you the ability to contemplate before going back for more.
Wolves Whiskey uses a very hands-on methodical and slow approach to distill their own whiskey. The company states that “Master Distiller Marko Karakasevic creates a small batch (10 barrels) of distillate over a 10 day period, sleeping in four hour shifts so that he alone can make each cut, selecting “the heart of hearts” for double distillation in the small still.” Somewhat oddly, The Rye Project, Volume One doesn’t involve the use of whiskey distilled by Wolves Whiskey, instead this is a purely sourced blended rye that is a more common background in today’s market.
What does add a spark to this release is that two of the three whiskeys being used in the blend come from the Willett Distillery. Willett has certainly made a name for itself in the world of whiskey. A distillery with a storied past that regained popularity in the late 2000’s/early 2010’s thanks to the aged stock of whiskey that they slowly released into the marketplace. Today, these aged bourbons and rye command heavy dollars which has helped fund the company while their own distillate is slowly released and continues to age.
Willett is not a name you think of when it comes to collaborations involving blended whiskey from multiple distilleries. In fact, to my knowledge, this is one of the first collaborations they’ve done in recent years with another distillery’s whiskey being involved. While the resulting rye blend is certainly successful at what it sets out to be and will please rye lovers and chasers of the Willett brand, it’s the fact that Willett is even involved that makes this a unique rye. It’s a good reminder that uniqueness for a whiskey comes in all shapes and forms and isn’t always defined by just taste, grain, or wood type used.
While limited releases have always been a thing, it truly seems like they’re abound in the world of American whiskey today. Not that there’s anything wrong with being labeled a limited release, it’s often justified due to the fact that the process of creating the whiskey is hard to duplicate, or the fact that it produces a super unique end result that hasn’t been seen before. But carrying a limited edition label comes with a price.
In The Wolves Rye Project - Vol. One, Batch One’s case, that price happens to be over $200. A large part of that is due to the incorporation of the Willett name and distillate in the blend. Over the last few years, Willett has become one of the hottest distilleries in America. Wolves Rye Project - Vol. One prominently displays the Willett Distillery crest below the Wolves “W” on the front of the bottle, and is adorned with a large oversized cork capped with that same “W.” You wouldn’t be faulted if you thought this was a Willett release from Willett themselves.
The bottle has a premium feel to it when you pick it up. That all said, $200 for a blend of Willett and undisclosed Indiana rye is a big pill to swallow. Many who will chase and buy this rye will do so due to the fact that it contains Willett whiskey. However, for the price being charged, many of those same consumers might prefer to see a standalone 6 or 7 year rye for that price (or less). Now this isn’t discrediting the work that Wolves Whiskey has put into this blend, as the resulting rye truly produces a nice sip. The company has certainly managed to produce a luxury whiskey in both looks and backstory, however, if you’re correlating the best with the highest price tag, The Wolves Rye Project - Vol. One, Batch One misses the mark here.
A rare collaboration with Willett Distillery, Wolves Whiskey brings to market a luxury rye (with a luxury price) that delivers a sip that will please most.
The Rye Project, Volume One Batch One is an interesting rye on many levels. At first look it comes across as a luxury hype project that is capitalizing on a popular distillery’s brand name. Driving home this sentiment is the brand’s sleek bottle with its white label, stamped Willett crest, oversized cork and burlap white bag with the quote, “The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.” It isn’t until you move beyond the packaging and start to sit with the actual whiskey resting inside, it becomes clear that this rye was carefully put together.
This collaboration certainly helps to expose more whiskey drinkers to Wolves Whiskey and piques my interest to see what future projects the company brings to market. The sip delivered by The Rye Project, Volume One Batch One is full of sweeter and spicier flavors that encourages you to take your time to explore. It contains the familiar pine notes that I’ve come to expect from recent Willett rye distillate, however, they’re more tempered and are nicely balanced by the addition of the Indiana rye. Sporting a high price tag will turn many away, yet for those who are able to purchase a bottle, they’ll find a nicely blended rye that will certainly please, and a unique collaboration that you can discuss when sharing this whiskey with others.