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.