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Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof

Average score from 17 reviews and 53 ratings 87

Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof

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@OdysseusUnbound
Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof

Rittenhouse is a polarizing American rye here on the interweb machine. Search Reddit and you'll find opinions varying from "the best bang for your buck in all of rye-dom" to "this is pure trash". What's a guy to do? Why taste it for himself of course. I've got a bit of a rocky, storied relationship with Heaven Hill products. I was very disappointed when they dropped the 12 year age statement from the standard Elijah Craig bourbon as that was one of my go-to bottles. The first bottle of Elijah Craig Small Batch (NAS) I owned was awful. Or maybe it was too different from the old 12 Year version. Or maybe it was my subconscious playing tricks on me. Either way, I've owned a few bottles of the Elijah Craig Small Batch since then and it's still pretty darned good now that my anger has subsided. Let's see what Rittenhouse has going on:

  • Nose (undiluted): the first thing that hits me is Cherry Coke, syrupy sweet caramel corn, then some typical rye spices (cloves, cardamom, a little bit of allspice), with time there's a bit of leather coming through as well
  • Palate: rich, oak-forward, heavy on the rye spices (cloves and cardamom), some paprika, a bit of corn sweetness, some vanilla and caramel too.
  • Finish: long, slightly tannic (but not too tannic), with plenty of tobacco and cherries, with oak and vanilla lingering. Yummy.
  • With water: Ok I didn't add water to it, but I have had this rye in a lot of different cocktails and it works beautifully. It's especially good in a Vieux Carré.
  • Thoughts: This is good. This is very good. No really, I can see myself always having this rye on hand, kind of like Wild Turkey 101 is my house bourbon.

@OdysseusUnbound thank you for your review. I think you described Rittenhouse BIB very similarly to my own experience of it. Those who don't like it? Rittenhouse BIB Rye can be a little rough around the edges as a sipper sometimes. It may be somewhat mood dependent. If you are in the mood for a lot of refinement in your sipper, this is for many people not the place to go. Don't forget too that this is a big production mass release product from one of the four mega-capacity US distilleries, so batches will have significant differences.

You are far from alone in liking Rittenhouse Rye, though, no matter how vociferous some of the naysayers may be. It was specifically Rittenhouse BIB Rye (yes, there used to be a 40% version of Rittenhouse Rye too) and Wild Turkey 101 Rye which led US bartenders to almost "singlehandedly" bring US rye back as an entire category. The US bartenders fell in love with these two standard ryes. Then Wild Turkey debauched 101 rye by putting out an 81 proof version in about 2012 because it could not keep rye production up to demand. The explosion of 100-101 proof straight rye cocktails from the US bartending profession then won over the US public to enjoying rye whiskey.

The rarest standard issue whiski I own is a bottle of Rittenhouse 21 year old Rye. I've tasted about 5 of the old Rittenhouse 21-23-25 yo ryes and they are in their own category of interesting, and delicious. They have a kind of deep dark fruitiness which exists in no other style of whiski, and which exists in balance to an enourmous amount of oak influence. I have been eager for years to get a taste from my bottle, but have been reluctant to so far because I may not affordably be able to replace this bottle anytime soon. I paid about $ 130 for it in 2011. That seemed to me to be a huge extravagant risky whim at the time, which I questioned immediately, and for several years to come. Current wine-searcher.com world secondary market average asking price for Rittenhouse 21 yo Rye is $ 3,405. In perfect hindsight, my biggest single whiski regret is passing up the opportunity to buy 3 bottles of Rittenhouse 21 and 2 bottles of Rittenhouse 25 Rye for under $ 200 each in January of 2013. I never saw them offered for sale in a liquor store again.

@Victor The road not taken….

@Frost

Before I opened this, I was already impressed by the high ABV and reported high rye content. Apparently, this expression is a marriage of barrels that are 4-6 years old. Onto the tasting:

Nose: Pecans, maple, unsalted nuts, ash, sandalwood, rye, vanilla

Taste: Mint, oak, nutty, black peppercorns, white pepper, seeded red chillies

Finish: Builds to the finale of more maple, oak.

Dry on the delivery and a wave of complex flavours on the finale. This is fantastic, a new addition to my core bar stocks.

Good to see you drinking rye, @Frost!

@Victor I thank you for raising my rye awareness with your insightful posts. I'm very interested in rye these days.

@Fiberfar

This is my second rye whisky, the first one being the Bulleit 95 Rye, which I really enjoyed. With the limited availability around these parts, Rittenhouse Straight Rye seemed like a natural step forward.

I opened the bottle early in the summer, and I've been enjoying it on both warm and cold summer days. A bit of air did it good, but Rittenhouse didn't need nearly as much as the Bulleit.

Nose: Loads of aroma, but none of them overpowering. This seems very balanced straight out of the bottle. A mellow sweetness,, followed by notes of vanilla, tropical fruits, spices and rye. It is fruity, but perfumed in any way. A hint of caramel and some oak.

Palate: Intense rye flavour, spices and vanilla. The flavour is delicious and sweet, immediately making me want to have another sip. Warm, sweet pepper and mild chili, along with caramel, oak and a trace of liquorice.

Finish: Some oak, at times somewhat bitter. Spices, notably cloves, rye and maple syrup. The spice and the alcohol warmth makes me think of hot chocolate with chili. I'm also thinking the bitter sensation might be peppermint?

The biggest difference with a spoon of water was the chocolate/cocoa notes on the palate, as well as reducing the bitterness of the finish.

Comment: So far, this is my favourite rye whisky. I'm looking forward to explore this branch of the whisky tree further.

@Pierre_W

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey is produced by Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., a family-owned company headquartered in Bardstown, Kentucky. The distillery itself, called the Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery, is located in Louisville, Kentucky.

The nose starts with intense flavours of vanilla and, to a lesser degree, caramel. Once you get past these notes there are tobacco and leather, followed by cherries and a touch of mint. Soft wood spice hovers in the background.

The palate is big, bold and buttery, and brings back the vanilla and caramel flavours, this time followed by ginger and cinnamon. Later on there are notes of coffee and raisins, followed by a good amount of spiciness, all in perfect balance.

The finish is long, warming, and spicy. Liquorice and coffee notes linger until the very end.

This is an excellent rye whiskey, with a mighty palate and great balance. I am not (yet) familiar with the 40% ABV expression but dare say that the 100 proof do this whiskey a lot of good in giving it the body it needs. The mint on the nose was somewhat disturbing at the beginning however I got to appreciate it over time. As yet I have not tried too many rye whiskies but this one currently is my favourite expression.

I really wonder whether Heaven Hill is currently aging any rye for the very long term...whether whiskey aficionados will have any additional opportunity to purchase those astounding 21, 23, and 25 yo Rittenhouse Ryes. Yes, there are a few bottles of those old ryes still floating around, but it takes a king's ransom to buy them now. Maybe the recent amping up of rye whiskey production allows for aging some rye for much older special projects.

Thanks for your review, @Pierre_W. It is good to see that you are having some enjoyable experiences with Rye Whisk(e)y.

Thanks, @Victor. Given that this was excellent, I do wonder what the 21/23/25yo versions might be like. Great stuff from Heaven Hill, truly!

@Rantavahti

Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof, Bottled in Bond, it said in the bottle. And "How sweet it is to be loved by you", it almost made me sing.

Rittenhouse 100 Proof BIB is like the 1968 movie How Sweet It Its! Produced with tradition. And sweet it is in every way. I noticed, that only little bit of water addition is enough, even though this has 50% ABV level.

Nose: Sweet maple syrup right at the start. Sweetness continues with caramel and tropical fruit notes and with some sweet rye.

Taste: Dark and sugared rye make you want the taste last forever. Smooth and sweet, a bit crispy with mint. Notes of caramel and oak.

Finish: Nice length but a bit light with oak and spices and bitter notes.

Balance: Great rye whisky, without the light finish probably a 90 point dram for me.

@Rantavahti, as you say, rye grain is big in Finland. With any luck you'll have a few more Finnish rye whisky distilleries within the next several years. I have very much enjoyed the rye whisky which @maltster gave me from Austria. There is lots of good European rye out there, and hopefully a lot more to come.

The Monongahela is a river in Southwestern Pennsylvania and north-central West Virginia. Before US Prohibition (1920-1933) almost all of the US rye whiskey was made in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The area on the Monongahela was the site of many of those distilleries. By the end of Prohibition most of the rye distilleries had been financially wiped out. Most of the major brands were bought out by Jim Beam (e.g. Old Overholt) and Heaven Hill (e.g. Rittenhouse and Pikesville--a Baltimore, Maryland rye), and subsequently produced in Kentucky. Gibson's was a Western Pennsylvania rye distiller which fled to Canada to avoid Prohibition. Their 18 yo is currently one of the best Canadian whiskies. Rye whiskey production is only recently coming back to this region in the form of microdistilleries. Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, Virginia, maybe 60 km from where we live, is literally a "mom and pop" distillery which has been making 100% rye whiskey for a few years now. They are growing and thriving financially with a "think global, drink local" motto, and a very hands on, personal touch. I think that Catoctin Creek is a model for the financially successful contemporary US microdistillery-- they are all about community involvement. They successfully invite their community to see them as the best of neighbors, whom others will want to support.

@Rantavahti, thanks for a nice review. It's been years since I've had a sip of Rittenhouse BIB, though I did recently finally finish off my one bottle of Rittenhouse 40% rye. I've been sitting on an unopened bottle of the BIB for about 4 years now, having consumed one or two bottles of it prior to that.

Rittenhouse BIB is a go to choice among US bartenders. Ten years ago Rittenhouse was one of only about half a dozen US ryes which were ever present, usually one or two at a time, at US liquor stores. Nowadays there are probably 20 or 30 new rye distilleries opening in the USA every 6 to 12 months. There's going to be rye whiskey made 10 clicks away from my house in Montgomery County, Maryland, soon. I hope we get to keep half of these new producers through the next economic "contraction".

@MaltActivist

This is Part 4/5 of a recent Heaven Hill tasting I attended where I tried five bourbons. I also had the chance to meet their international representative Mr. Henry Joe.


I've always had a hard time telling one bourbon apart from another. I mean they are essentially the same flavor profiles so it can be a bit tough. But this Rittenhouse Rye is possibly one of the strangest and most unique.

I just don't know why.

Nose: Unusually fragrant with a pulpy tropical fruit quality. Over ripe jack fruit and soft dates. All on a bed of underlying molasses. Very strange. Not sure if I like it.

Palate: The strangeness continues. Burnt sugar on pudding layered with spicy banana slices. There is that over ripe jack fruit again but this time with a touch of aniseed. Not sure if a bourbon should be tasting like this. I'm still a little confused.

Finish: Oaky dry with a date and rice pudding mix.

Now this is not terrible but it certainly does take you by surprise. Do I want my bourbons tasting like this? I don't know. I really don't.

@tjb

This is a straight Rye Whiskey which means the mash bill must contain at least 51% rye. Bottled in bond at 100proof / 50% ABV.

The colour is golden caramel and it has good legs and a nice oily sheen.

The nose is punchy with cherries, aniseed, vanilla, citrus and a floral hint. Adding a tiny drop of water brings sticky dates and develops the aniseed slightly.

Lovely on the palate. Spicy, vanilla, dark chocolate, rye, dark fruits. It's sweet, quite rich and full bodied.

The finish tingles the gums and tongue with sweet yet peppery aniseed that is slightly drying at first before then making me salivate quite a lot. Long and lingering and extremely pleasant.

This bottle had been open for 1 month and in my opinion is all the better for it. The slight oxidation has bumped it up several points. When I opened this it seemed more closed off, bitter and locked down. Now it's bigger, spicier, fresher and more full bodied.

This is a really nice Whiskey. I know opinion is subjective and I might score it differently tomorrow but I have waited before writing this review and I'm glad I did.

@PMessinger
@GotOak91

I basically forgot this review. Anyways lets dive in eh? Color: Dark Amber

Nose: Sweet with candied fruits (cherries), sprigs of sweet mint, notes of fall baking spices (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg). Reminiscent of a high proof Christmas cake. Spicy/sweet cherries and cola notes too.

Body: Medium weight, and a little tongue tingling.

Taste: Assertive spicy front, a formidable blitzkrieg on the tongue. Spicy nutmeg and black pepper. A little bit of caramel and toffee. Drying notes from the rye, slight bitter oak and mint notes exist also.

Finish: Short yet potent with oak, black pepper and red chilies.

Overall: Quite the spicy drop. But I enjoy bold flavors. This whiskey could very well hold its own in an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan. Wonderful value by the way at $25.

R

While Rittenhouse may put a smile on your face, it's not because it tastes funny. This rye whisky is quite good.

Here are my notes:

Nose: Maple candy, marble rye bread, caramel, vanilla bean, oak.

Taste: Caramel, dark chocolate, rye, cherry stones, oak.

Finish: Mexican hot chocolate, licorice, oak, cloves from the Spice Islands.

Let this whisky "break in" after opening. It needs a few days. While it can taste a little bitter when the bottle is first opened, this soon passes and yields to some remarkable complexity, depth, and deliciously sweet flavors that are never sickly sweet like some bourbons. A one trick pony this is not.

@jfpilon

As its name implies, this whisky is madeof at least 51% rye and has spent at least two years in charred new oak barrels. It is bottled at 50%.

The nose is a bit closed and initially offers top soil and oil of cloves.

The palate is first a spicy vinegar then becomes spicy. Clove and cinnamon dominates. The result is sweet and medicinal. It reminds me of the little sweet cinnamon-shaped goldfish you can get from the candy store. The wood and earth comes to the finish, but always sweet. Like barley sugar.

By adding water, I perceive aromas of cedar and ginger. Also notes of furniture polish. On the palate, molasses comes to the front with cinnamon and a little butter and pepper. A lot better. The final finally becomes wooded.

Less complex than the Wiser's Small Batch, my goto rye, but well done.

@galg

Nose: Big rye (ok, we were expecting this, right?) . Lots if maple, sour wood, nuts , balsamic vinegar . A few notes of Crème de Menthe with touches of Vanilla, quite a bit of Wet oak and sun dried bananas… (Thank you for pointing this out, Steffen) What a great nose.

Palate: Rich, bitter sweet with burnt sugar,creamy coconut milk,apple and vinegar.Continues with Demerara sugar spices, cinnamon galore and some cloves.

Finish : Long, spice and sugary butter.

@Megawatt

Rittenhouse is only the second American straight rye I've had, and to tell the truth I doubt I could tell it apart from a bourbon. Maybe my nose for American whiskey just isn't that developed. Anyway, here are my thoughts on this fine whiskey.

Nose: full and sweet, with cigar box, baking sweets, glazed pecan. Basically, your usual bourbon notes, but with a nice, soft roundness to it. Beautiful wood sugar, and hints of maraschino cherry. Mind you, I already added water; otherwise, this would be a pretty hot affair.

Taste: follows through as expected; no surprises here. The oak is well-behaved and allows the whisky to express itself. This just might be the right age for it. More spice is brought out that what the nose suggested. Still, a dead ringer for a bourbon in my book.

Finish: very nicely done. Fades on a lingering oaky sweetness and leaves a pleasant wood smoke essence. Also a touch of tart cherry flavour.

Balance: I was not expecting this to score quite so high, but it pushes all the right buttons: it's strong, inexpensive, unpretentious, and delivers an above-average sipping experience from beginning to end.

@Megawatt, well, to my palate it is pretty easy to taste the difference between a 10-15% rye mashbill bourbon, like Eagle Rare, a high rye, 25-30% rye, mashbill bourbon like Bulleit, Old Grand-Dad,or Fighting Cock,and a straight rye whiskey. I would be very interested in your experinces after you have tried a few more products. I absolutely agree with you, though, that a high rye mashbill bourbon, like those mentioned above and a few others, do give a taste which is very heavy on the rye. The lower rye mashbill bourbons allow the wood to come through as a proportionally stronger component of the overall flavour profile.

@Megawatt, Rittenhouse also has a 40% ABV Rye, which is not as widely distributed, and has the bottle label pictured for this review, rather than the black label used for the BIB 100 proof (50% ABV) version which you reviewed. When you said that you added water in the review, I smiled and immediately said to myself "Oh, so you had the 80 proof Rittenhouse Rye!" Add a little water to the BIB and that's exactly what you get.

@dbk

The following review is something of an exercise in contrasts. I have tasted Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky Bottled in Bond (bearing a black label, unlike the one pictured here) independently on numerous occasions, and report my tasting notes below. I have, however, also tasted it against a new, rather interesting rye: WhistlePig 10 year-old Straight Rye Whiskey, which I review simultaneously. (Amusingly, Rittenhouse is American-made, yet the prototypically Canadian spelling of “whisky” appears on the label, whereas WhistlePig uses the converse spelling.) Below is the result of my Rittenhouse “study.”

As the name implies, Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky Bottled in Bond is a rye whiskey that is the product of a single season and has been aged for at least four years in government rickhouses. Ostensibly a Pennsylvania-style rye, it is owned by the Heaven Hill distillery but the current expression was made by Brown-Forman (the makers of Jack Daniels), until such time as Heaven Hill’s stocks made at their Bernheim distillery are mature.

The nose is sweet—think demerrara sugar and buckwheat honey. There are consistent notes of rum, pancakes, bananas, and oatmeal. More passingly, it is biscuity, a bit floral and a bit bready, with baking spices, peppermint, vanilla, and shredded coconut.

The palate is initially dry and slightly bitter, but as the sweetness comes through, spices mount and hints of banana appear. It is at times oaky, with hints of menthol. The finish is somewhat prickly and medicinal.

Though it is likely younger, Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky Bottled in Bond seems a touch “darker” on the nose than WhistlePig 10 year-old Straight Rye Whiskey. This could be due to different maturation conditions, as the Rittenhouse was likely aged in warmer climes than the WhistlePig. Moreover, the Rittenhouse is so corn-heavy that it seems as much a high-rye bourbon as it does a rye whiskey—less dry and classically “rye” flavored than the WhistlePig. In any case, it is a very good whiskey, and is an exceptionally good value.

Excellent review this has been on my radar for some time

Give it a go and tell us what you think, @LeFrog!

@JeffC

Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 proof is described as a Pennsylvania style rye whisky. My bottle is also tagged with the designation "Bottled in Bond" which means the production of the whisky underwent certain supervision by the U.S. Federal government.

My understanding is that this whisky is difficult to locate on the West Coast of the United States and availability on the East Coast is also spotty. I am not sure if it is widely available elsewhere. Given that I live in Virginia which is only one state away from the main production center of U.S. whisky (Kentucky) I would expect availability to be better in Virginia but in the state run liquor stores this product is not sold. It is widely available in Maryland and Washington, D.C. though, fortunately just a few miles away from my home in Virginia.

I have tried several ryes a few times and currently also have bottles of two other reasonably priced (around $US 20) ryes: Sazerac 6 year old and Pikesville. The Rittenhouse is by far and away my favorite. Jim Murray ranks this very highly as well.

I am sometimes over eager to try something after pouring. This whisky definitely benefits from sitting in the glass for a few minutes although I did not find that it benefits from water. The taste and nose literally evolve over 10 minutes or so. After sitting for a few minutes the nose has light nutty (pistachio) nougat, chocolate, and light fruit aromas. At times I also detected a meaty smell but I think this may be that I have eaten so many rye sandwiches that I instinctively associate rye smell with lunch meat.

Taste wise there is also a slight nutty taste, a definite pepper kick together with some chocolate and oaky notes. The finish is medium.

This big rye warms you from the inside out and I highly recommend it. Even though there are lots more ryes I also want to try, I think this will always have a spot in my cabinet.

@AboutChoice...this one is now in Ontario at the LCBO for CAN$35 if you're still looking for it. A quick check of the (sometimes inaccurate) daily LCBO inventory however, shows that the closest store for you would be in Kitchener (about 2 1/2 hours east along the 402/401 from the Port Huron/Sarnia crossing, depending on what your definition of the 'flow of traffic' is). I'm keeping an eye out for it in London (only an hour or so from the same border crossing) and will let you know if I find it. Otherwise, a trip west to the Chicago area will find you paying $20 at Binny's.

Prior to Prohibition, Rittenhouse was originally a Pennsylvania rye whiskey, the branding rights for which were bought by Heaven Hill and its distillation thereafter moved to Kentucky and resumed. Similarly Pikesville was originally a Maryland rye which after Prohibition also became a Heaven Hill product. The 80 proof version of the Rittenhouse Rye has the off white/light yellow label pictured. The 100 proof Bottled in Bond version reviewed has a black label. JeffC, I appreciate your comments about letting the Rittenhouse BIB breathe for 10 minutes before tasting. I don't usually tend to be that patient. I look forward to giving it a try.

@peatsmoker

My favorite Rye!

This whiskey has it all. A luxurious rye for around Twenty Dollars. I save this one for the last dram (it can still be a dram!) of the night. By the time I've had a few sips, I feel that there's nowhere else I'd like to be. It envelops me in a warm soporific blanket and tucks me in with a tender kiss on the cheek.

Even though it's 50% it only needs the smallest drop of water to open it up. This review is based on tasting with just a drop of water where it's full potential can be realized.

If you are looking for a rye to mix drinks with, stay away! This is a rare treat in this world of overpriced tat and it should be cherished and treated with the respect it deserves!

A classic!

Boy! Sipping this right now. Agreed that a teeny-tiny droplet of water doth open it up. I found the nose a bit closed before so doing. [ . . . ]

Nah (second glass), changed my mind: no water necessary. Great big kick: long finish, really lingering in a positive way. Straight American rye whisky gone straight to my head--just where I like it. (Forgive me: I'm new to American straight rye). Whew-eee! To be continued.

I commented on another review of Rittenhouse 100 proof that there is also an 80 proof version, the tan bottle pictured in the Connosr Rittenhouse page, rather than the black bottle which you have. Add a little water to the BIB version and presto! you have the 80 proof version neat.

@OJK

Nose, Taste, Finish and Balance are graded out of 2.5 each:

Nose: There's an immediate waft of pistachio ice cream, followed by marshmellow melted on top of a smokey oak wood fire. About as american a nose as it gets. And a beautiful bourbon one at that. 2.0

Taste: Having been won over by the sweetness on the nose, one is ambushed by a flood of spice. Somewhere within the all engulfing spice, there is some swooning raspberry yearning to be heard. An entirely visceral experience. 1.5

Finish: The tongue continues to tingle as jalapeno peppers take the opportunity to dance all over it. As dancing partners, the peppers have both dark chocolate and raspberry, with the dark chocolate probably having the suaver moves. No matter what, the jalapenos are definitely leading. And whatever it is that they're dancing to, the music doesn't seem to stop. 2.0

Balance: For me, I don't overly enjoy being misled. Even if it results in quite a pleasant surprise. That said, if the surprise is entertaining enough, one can forget the disgruntlement at having been misled. Never have I experience such diametrically opposed taste sensations from the nose to the tongue, and if anything the whisky should be applauded if only for that. I haven't tasted enough ryes to tell you whether it's is a particular characteristic specific to this grain, however it is a fascinating experience nonetheless. A whiskey that's anything but boring. 2.0

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