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.