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James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey

Sweet and fruity but no punchiness

1 282

@Pierre_WReview by @Pierre_W

16th May 2015

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Overall
    82

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  • Brand: James E. Pepper
  • ABV: 50%

Elijah Pepper began distilling whiskey in 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. During the War of 1812 he built the first log cabin distillery in Versailles, Kentucky. Eventually, he passed the family business on to his son, Oscar, and then on to his grandson, James E. Pepper. Among those who, in the 19th century, called Pepper Whiskey (or “Old 1776 Whiskey” as it became known) a favourite were Presidents Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant. However, the success did not last and in 1958 the James E. Pepper distillery was closed when the bourbon industry fell on hard times; the aged stocks were sold off into the 1970s. A few years ago the James E. Pepper brand was acquired and re-launched by the Georgetown Trading Company which had done extensive historical research and apparently spent years collecting and sampling original and perfectly preserved James E. Pepper whiskey. Referencing to the material collected they began distilling new James E. Pepper whiskey, both bourbon and rye variations. For this rye expression James E. Pepper uses a MGP (Midwest Grain Products) straight rye whiskey with a 95% rye mash bill (the rest is malted barley); the whiskey is aged for a minimum of three years before being bottled.

The nose is rich, and full of caramel and fudge. Then there are apricots and peaches, followed by distinct mint flavours. All in all this is a very fruity and quite fragrant nose.

The palate is medium-bodied and spicy. The dominant element here is rye bread, together with notes of mint and oranges.

The finish is surprisingly long and quite spicy, with notes of vanilla, lemon, and chocolate being the main players at this stage.

Compared with the other (admittedly few) rye whiskeys that I have tried this James E. Pepper expression was very sweet and fruity. It was not bad, in fact not bad at all, but at the end of the day I missed the punchiness that I have grown to love with rye whiskies. What is more, the minty flavours got to a point where they became too much for me. I opened my bottle two months ago and at the time of writing it is about half full, so if fellow connosr member @Victor is correct this might get better after a few more months. For the time being, however, I consider this certainly worth trying once in your life but it is definitely not my favourite rye whiskey.

2 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

@Pierre-W, thanks for a very interesting review. I hadn't known about the history of the James E. Pepper brand.

Certainly Midwest Grain Products Ingredients, of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, makes a very different, more rounded style of rye whiskey than do distilleries like Heaven Hill (Rittenhouse), Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, or Jim Beam (Knob Creek). Spearmint is also a more common flavour with MGP products than it is with almost any other rye distillery. Certain yeasts generate spearmint flavours. Some individual Four Roses Bourbons get the big spearmint too. Personally I like spearmint, but not in whiskey.

Usually it is the fruitiness which often develops with air exposure with US rye whiskies. If you've already gotten the big fruity from your MGP rye whiskey, I am not sure that you will get much more development from your James E. Pepper. I doubt that more air time will give it any additional focus, other than eventually adding a sour note. More 'punch' in the flavours? Probably not.

So far I haven't tasted James E. Pepper 1776 Rye Whiskey. I am intrigued by your description of it as very sweet. That is quite unusual with US ryes. They are usually quite dry. The only US ryes which I think of as sweet are Wild Turkey 101 and High West Rendezvous. High West Rendezvous uses MGP rye as one of its two vatted ingredients.

4 years ago 0

@Pierre_W
Pierre_W commented

Hi @Victor, this was indeed rather sweet, something that I was not really prepared for when I tasted it for the first time. The sweetness itself what actually rather pleasant, to be honest, and it certainly made this a very drinkable dram. If it had not been for the mint flavours I might have given a much higher rating, but here we go. As you, I like spearmint but I had rather not taste it when drinking whisky.

4 years ago 0

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