Yesterday Bob and I performed the 'daunting' and perilous task of performing a 6 Rye Shootout between Jim Beam Rye, Old Overholt, Wild Turkey Rye, Van Winkle Family Reserve 13yo Rye, Sazerac 18yo Rye (2003 Release) and The Classic Cask 21yo Rye bottled in 2003. Here's what we noted as we drank each cut and pasted from our MS Word tasting notes... Enjoy!
Beam Rye –No age statement and 80 proof. Light in color, a little harsh in the nose, very young tasting in that it doesn’t taste very well balanced or ‘mature’ in flavor. Still seems to have a bit of distillate smell in the nose.
Old Overholt – 4yo and 80 proof. A bit darker than the Beam rye and a bit more smoother. It seems to have more balance to it than the beam rye.
Wild Turkey Rye – No age but 101 proof. More flavor (spicy) and better balanced than the beam. Where the Old Overholt seemed one dimensional this one really shows more character.
Van Winkle fr rye 13yo – 95.6 proof 13yo though we heard thru the grapevine that it may be as old as 19 years. Bottle # D6028. Totally different nose than the previous 3. Very pleasant aroma of oak and the sweetness of warmed caramel. Unlike the others or most ryes, the spiciness is not as apparent. It is replaced with wonderful wood/oak flavors and a it o’ sweetness with a smooth finish.
Sazerac 18yo Rye 90 proof – lighter aroma than the van winkle. Bob got honey and citrus in the nose as do I with floral accents as well almost like walking thru a flower garden. Also in the taste we both get that very light citrus and floral taste with not a bit of burn and ultra ‘silky’smooth from start to finish.
Classic Cask 21yo(!) 90 proof – Buttery aroma with a very very pleasing taste of sweet and spicy blended most perfectly. This one really coats the mouth and tongue completely. It is very full bodied and surprisingly not overaged in either of our opinions. We both agree that the newer 22yo may even impart better characteristics and think that it could possibly stand being bottled up to 25yo! No burn at the end at all, just beautiful flavor!
In a summary, and we both agreed on this, here’s in order our favorites (from least to most): Beam Rye, Old Overholt, Turkey Rye, Van Winkle and a draw between the Sazerac and Classic Cask. Although Van Winkle is coming out in the middle it is a great rye. Also, for those on a budget, the Turkey is a wonderful alternative and deserves an honorable mention. Both of us personally would never really give the JB rye another go on a repeat purchase.