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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Restoration Rye Single Barrel Fall 2021

The story of this rye whiskey could read like a noir detective novel … it was a cold and stormy night … In this case, it was truly a cold and stormy November day when we happened into the Castle & Key Distillery, located in Frankfort, Kentucky, to snag a bottle of their highly regarded artisanal gin as a present for our daughter. As we walked in and grabbed the seasonal gin, we noted that they had just introduced their Fall release of Restoration Rye Single Barrel. Luck was in our favor as I parted ways with half-a-Benjamin for a chance bottle from this historic distillery.

A Historic Past

Castle and Key is a distillery we’ve visited on several occasions - including not long after they opened to the public in 2018 and again in early 2022. The current distillery occupies much of the former Old Taylor Distillery, built by Colonel E.H. Taylor in the mid 1880s along Glenn’s Creek and a stone’s throw away from the former Old Crow Distillery (now home in part to Glenn’s Creek Distilling).

When initially re-opened, following a massive renovation by Will Arvin and Wes Murry, gins and vodka were the spirits of the moment as ryes and bourbons waited to mature. Restoration Rye was one of the first whiskies available as well as several younger bourbons contract-produced and aged on site for the Pinhook series. Castle & Key’s first small batch bourbon was released in the Spring of 2022. While former Master Distiller Marianne Barnes left in mid-2019, the current team of tasters, along with Arvin and Murry, carefully track a number of pods or groupings of barrels across the footprint of the facility to create specific and unique sensory profiles.

The Tasting

This rye whiskey is made with 63% rye, 17% yellow corn, and 20% malted barley. The finished product is displayed in a beautiful, heavy bottle with a dark gray vintage label displaying hands artfully producing the finished product. Castle & Key has one of the most, undeniably, attractive bottles on the market today, and would certainly be a great addition to any home bar display.

This single barrel product was released in the Fall of 2021. The label shares that this single barrel rye whiskey was bottle number 115 from barrel number 259 and has been aged for 4 years. The product was aged in a Speyside barrel (from the UK) and was bottled at a hefty 117.1 proof.

Color: Golden wheat with spidery, oily legs displayed in the glass.

Nose: Stewed, cooked fruits, plum and raisin, along with vanilla and some herbal notes.

Palate: Brown sugar spice, followed by raisin and dried fruits. A couple drops of water turns down the spice, allowing more sweet browned-butter and sugar to be prominent and spearmint to rise to the surface.

Finish: Medium-long in length with Christmas spices, oak, and spearmint arriving late.

Overall: Bourbon is easy selection for a relaxed pour, but I enjoy a fine rye whiskey, as well. While I don’t always align with some of the more traditional 100% rye whiskies, I do enjoy the more layered, savory-sweet profiles of the more modern rye whiskies, such as Woodford Reserve Rye, Old Forester Rye, and those of Castle & Key that contain a blend of grains.

This rye whiskey definitely had a good deal of complexity going on, as well as being smooth and well-balanced. To my knowledge, Castle & Key has one of the more unique mash bills for their rye whiskey with their high allocation to malted barley, as opposed to to using corn as the secondary grain. We’ll continue to keep our eyes on their line-up as the distillery evolves and spirits mature.

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