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Masterson's 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey

Average score from 2 reviews and 2 ratings 93

Masterson's 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey

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Masterson's 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey

This whisky is distilled in Alberta, by Alberta distillers, and is a rarity among whiskies - 100% unmalted rye whisky. As a straight rye, it is matured in new charred oak, giving it a big bold profile. 100% rye is unusual as a full component of a released whisky, though some canadian distillers produce and age 100% rye, corn, barley, and wheat whiskies as components of their blends. One reason 100% unmalted rye is unusual is because enzymes have to be added to the whisky to turn starch into sugar before the fermentation - and these microbial enzymes are grown and produced by Alberta Distillers themselves.

There are a few other Canadian 100% rye whiskies, including Alberta Premium (unmalted rye), Crimson Rye (100% Unmalted), Lot no. 40 (malted rye), and others, from time to time, such as the limited edition Collingwood 21 Year old (malted rye) - but this is the best of the lot. It is bottled by 35 Maple Street, a Californian company which selects and bottles the casks of Masterson's. They also have recently released a 100% unmalted barley whisky, and a 100% wheat whisky all produced and aged in Canada.

This review is for batch 5.

Nose: Oak has no problem coming off this nose; it's still spicy and honeyed too. It's rich, and deep. Vanilla, and rye that smells almost candied to me with the influence of charred wood. Elements of it are also slightly floral, as if there were a vanilla flower. It's a touch oily...this is very inviting and makes me extremely eager to taste. There are fruity elements to this too, with a touch of apricot and peaches and bananas. Dried apricot emerges after some time. And, with all the above, there's some pretty wonderful mossiness and earthiness - but it's still all balanced beautifully. There's a very slight chemical spirit component, slightly like petroleum, in the nose (which is also slightly present in Alberta Premium) - it fits in really well. What a nose! 97%

Taste: A nice spicy bite, this one. The oak comes in with some sweet and spicy rye, with an underlying graininess and earthiness. It is certainly mouth-filling. There are layers of vanilla, manuka honey, creamy caramel, oak, brown sugar, apple, and some nuttiness. There are some typical dried apricot notes I usually find in whiskies matured in new charred oak...90%

Finish: This is an enduring, complex, and full-bodied finish, as if the whisky hasn't left the mouth at all after it has been swallowed. A peppery rye fades to oak, vanilla, dried apricots, apple seeds, brown sugar, a touch of menthol, and a good dose of earthiness. What is more, there is a good underlying sweetness well matched to the very long finish. 95%

Intrigue: This is fabulous. Complex, deep, delicous...it's quite bold for a Canadian whisky, but, then again, it is bottled by an American company where the taste is for straight American ryes - big, bold, and oaky whiskies. This one is really, really good. 95%

Weighting the nose 25%, taste 35%, Finish 15%, and Intrigue 25% the overall grade is 94.

@JasonHambrey, yours in an interesting take. I do see your point, though this would be a place where our taste preferences differ a little. I think that you are certainly right that new oak flavours CAN overshadow the grassy elements and, to a much lesser degree, also the floral elements, of rye. The grassy elements of rye are less interesting to me than are the spicy, fruity, and floral elements, though I do enjoy them too.

I think that more than anything else you like lighter flavours in your whisky than I do, likely because you are so used to drinking Canadian whisky. Sounds like you like your rye light and delicate. That can work and be quite beautiful. I like that kind of whisky too, but I prefer powerful flavours. And rye grain has to be deliberately toned down to be low in flavour. High proof distillation and low abv bottling are the primary means to accomplish that.

Related to this I also think that your taste in wood is much different than is mine. I think from all that I have read from you that you really don't like the flavours of new wood. I most certainly do.

The problems with using used wood for aging rye are to me two-fold. First, the quality of the wood often ruins the whisky, particularly with long-aged used wood aging. It doesn't have to happen that way, but it often does. There are many Canadian, Scottish, and Irish whiskies I consider to be ruined by lousy old oak. Tastes will differ, and no one likes bad wood influence, but for me used-wood over-oaked whisky tastes much worse than new-oak over-oaked whisky. Why? Because the best-tasting elements of the oak are largely depleted after the first use of the barrel.

Secondly, and more importantly, if you actually allow your rye flavours to be strong, then you need a strong balance for them. New oak has strong enough flavours to balance strong rye flavours well, whereas used wood often gives relatively little contrast to the rye.

@victor - sometimes I like my rye delicate - interesting observation. I really like rye both ways - big and bold rye is one of my absolute favorites (though I have less access to that here in Canada than you would, I imagine)- but I do appreciate how delicate and light rye can be, and work well. So it's not so much that I like it better - I just think heavy charred oak is better for rye isn't necessarily true.

In general, there are fewer ryes which I would highly regard which are lighter and delicate - most of the best I've had haven't been so. There just aren't that many that are done that well, but some - like Forty Creek Heart of Gold, or Stalk & Barrel Rye - are quite nice. Part of the reason, I agree, is because of the often poor quality of wood. Have you had any ryes which have too much rye flavour and not enough wood? I don't come across them often.

Wood, I find, often balances out the spice really nicely but you lose some of the complex grassiness and floral nature (sometimes this comes out, though) you can get. Used wood, of course, means you're focusing a bit less on the wood as being as primary in the structure of the whisky - it's definitely a different approach.


Masterson's Straight Rye Whiskey, 10 years old, is distilled at Alberta Distillers, Ltd, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It is bottled in the US as US Straight Rye Whiskey. Thanks to @paddockjudge for the reviewed sample, which is from Batch # 3, bottle # 16532. The reviewed bottle was first opened November 30, 2012. I do not have information on the mashbill, ie the grain percentages recipe, for this particular whiskey. US Straight Ryes are by US law from 51% minimum rye mash, and are aged exclusively in charred new oak barrels, unlike Canadian whiskies, which are typically aged in re-used barrels. Alberta Distilling Limited whiskies are generally from 100% rye mash. Jim Murray in his 2013 Whisky Bible says that he believes that Masterson's is composed of unmalted rye, in the style of almost all other US Straight Ryes

Nose: from a brandy snifter, moderate intensity of dark fruits of black cherries and plums, with some grapes too, even thought there is no wine in this one. Noticeable spice from rye, also. This reminds me of a Cognac nose in its pointedness and focus. The wood flavours remain mostly in the background. This is the most well-defined nose I've encountered from an Alberta Distillers whisky. Excellent balance of sweet and dry

Taste: immediate bright sparkling entry, like being splashed with water in a swimming pool, in a pleasant way. This starts dry, then becomes sweet as the delivery progresses. Very rye grain fruity, but also very rye grain spicy. As in the nose, the wood flavours are integrated, but more in the background

Finish: this just gets sweeter, fruitier, and spicier into the long finish

Balance: Jim Murray declared Masterson's to be in his top 6 whiskies worldwide for his 2013 Whisky Bible. It is easy to see why he likes it. Masterson's is well-balanced and elegant-a first-rate rye whiskey.

On the subject of this excellent Canadian-produced rye whisky being bottled in the style of a US Straight Rye Whiskey rather than a Canadian Rye/Canadian Blended Whisky, all I can say is that I agree with Jim Murray in his 2013 Whisky Bible, "Masterson's 10 yo Canadian Rye reminded us all of just what masterful whisky is made at Alberta, and how it shines WHEN THINGS AREN'T ADDED TO IT." (emphasis mine)

Keep it coming, Canada,...just leave out the wine, the caramel, and the other additives, please

Move over Legacy, there's a new sheriff in town, Masterson. The pot still at Alberta Distillers Ltd has produced yet another world-class whisky. I await the day that ADL bottles its own version of this incredible rye whisky. @victor - job well done, as usual.

Great review, @victor - I love this whisky - too bad it is so expensive here though (over $100 for a 10-year-old rye? Yeesh!)

I'll be doing my own review of this soon - though it will likely sound a lot like yours!

ps. this site's new review layout is so wonky. Why is there a picture of JW Gold??


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