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Restoration Rye Spring 2021

Castle & Key Distillery, located in Frankfort, Kentucky, remains one of my favorite bourbon tours. The history present at the site - the former Old Taylor Distillery - is absolutely breathtaking. While we continue to wait patiently for their bourbon to release, artisinal gin and vodka spirits, along with rye whiskey continue to be available. Today, we're sampling the third release of their rye whiskey - the first of the 2021 releases.



Steeped in History


The site of Castle and Key can trace its roots to the Old Taylor Distillery, built by Colonel E.H. Taylor along Glenn's Creek, around the corner from the former Old Crow Distillery and a couple of miles from the home of Woodford Reserve. On the tour, you can view the ornate springhouse styled like a Roman bath, beautiful gardens, a mammoth rickhouse, and the limestone castle, home to distilling operations.


Since the departure of Master Distiller Marianne Barnes in the Spring of 2019, owners Will Arvin and Wes Murry have utilized a team of 12 tasters to sample and assist with what pods get batched and blended for the finished spirits. The whiskey is blended using a series of pods, which are groupings of barrels designed to create a specific sensory profile. According to Castle & Key, we can expect there to be variations in the flavor profiles and proofs of future releases, as they lean more on quality rather than a consistent flavor profile.


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 vintage label paying tribute to the restoration work undertaken at the historic facility site.


This is the third release from Castle & Key. 2020 contained a Spring and Fall release; the same goes for 2021. The label shares that this is Release 1 (Spring) for 2021 and was purchased for $38. This particular release was 80 hand-selected barrels. The label indicates this rye whiskey is bottle 1108, is 3.5 years old, and was bottled at 101 proof.


Color: Copper.


Nose: Botanicals and florals. Green tea. Spice is present, as well, followed by layers of malted grains, mint, and dark chocolate.


Palate: Tea. Dried fruits. Slight grassy notes - like an Irish whiskey. Some spearmint, oak, and spice at the end with a small amount of bitterness. A couple of drops of water brings the grain notes forward and tames some of the acidity.

Finish: Medium-long in length with ginger, dry oak, and pepper spice.


Overall: I appreciate the things that Castle & Key are doing and enjoyed their 2020 Release 1. Side by side, though, comparing the 2020 Release 1 and the 2021 Release 1 - I definitely enjoyed the 2020 Release 1 better.


The particular flavor profile is a unique one for a rye whiskey, and for me, it's not my favorite. With each release having different flavor profiles, it may be difficult to generate a consistent group of fans. In the meantime, there are other pods that are aging, and I'll be interested to see what comes of future releases.


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