Catoctin Creek Distiller’s Edition Rye Review

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Situated in Purcellville, Virginia, the Catoctin Creek Distillery opened its doors in 2009 under husband and wife team Becky and Scott Harris. The name “Catoctin” is a regional name (pronounced Ka-TOCK-tin) and derives from the Indian tribal name “Kittocton” which, legend has it, meant “place of many deer.” Famous for their award winning rye whisky, Catoctin’s Chief Distiller Becky Harris uses a mashbill consisting of 100% locally-sourced and organic Virginian rye to produce what Catoctin call ‘The Virginia Rye Whisky’. Their whisky is fermented and distilled ‘on the grain’ through their 400L copper pot still ‘Barney’. Distillation is slow and takes place over 9 hours which Catoctin claim extracts the maximum flavour from the rye grain. After distillation the un-aged spirit is aged in a mix of 30 gallon Minnesota White Oak and Virginia White Oak barrels for approximately 3 years or until it has reached the desired level of maturity.

Initially focusing their attentions exclusively on making rye whisky, Catoctin’s core Roundstone Rye range consists of their flagship pre-Prohibition style 80 proof Roundstone Rye, their 92 proof ‘Distiller’s Edition’, and their cask-strength release. All their whiskies are non-chill filtered to maintain their rye character and bottled as single barrel releases. As well as their Roundstone range, Catoctin also produce Rouble Rouser Bottled-in-Bond Rye, Watershed Gin, Braddock Oak single barrel and red wine cask-finished rye whiskies, 1757 Virginia Brandy, and 1757 Virginia Brandy XO Bottled-in-Bond, as well as a number of fruit brandies, and limited release experimental whiskies and spirits.

Part of Catoctin Creek’s core Roundstone Rye range, Distiller’s Edition rye is the next step up from their Flagship 80 proof Roundstone Rye. Bottled at 92 proof and following Catoctin’s signature formula of: 100% rye whiskey bottled as a single barrel product without chill filtration, what separates the 80 proof release from the Distiller’s Edition is that only 1 in every 10 barrels makes the cut when Catoctin’s Master Distiller is selecting barrels for this expression. Describing the whiskey, Chief Distiller Becky Harris is quoted as “For a few years now, we’ve been putting whisky away for storage, we pulled some of the more interesting barrels from the back of the barn and decided to release these at a higher proof:  a whisky specially curated for flavor, while still being remarkably smooth, as is our existing 80 proof Roundstone.”

Vital Stats:

Name: Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Whisky Single Barrel Distiller’s Edition Rye
Age: NAS (approx. 3 years old)
Proof: 92 Proof (46% ABV)
Type: Organic Rye Whisky
Mashbill: 100% rye
Producer: Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, VA
Website: https://catoctincreekdistilling.com/
Glassware: Glencairn 

Review

Nose: The nose opens with thick rye cereal notes alongside dried citrus peel, honey, and soft red fruit notes transitioning to earthy baking and barrel spices, and dark chocolate with white pepper as you nose deeper.

Palate: The palate opens with honey, more rye cereal notes, soft red fruit, subtle chocolate notes, peppery spice, a touch of floral sweetness, and candied orange peel. The longer you chew the more chocolatey it gets with barrel spices and faint stem ginger also emerging.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering grain notes, rye heat, and a flash of herbaceous green oak and stem ginger, before fading into a toasted oak and rye grain aftertaste.

Overall

This is another enjoyable whiskey from Catoctin Creek. This time around we get a much more complex whiskey where the interplay between the grain, added proof, and the influence of the barrel blend together to give a flavourful sipping experience that packs just the right amount of heat. Unlike the 80-proof release, the dry rye spice in this whiskey takes a back seat as we’re given the opportunity to appreciate this interplay – albeit with an undercurrent of heat to keep us from forgetting that it’s fundamentally a 100% rye whiskey. At times as I was sipping this it was easy to forget that this whiskey is only around 2 or 3 years old, which is a further testament to the quality of the distillate and the palates of those picking these interesting casks. Although it does taste like a young craft whiskey at heart with grain shining through brightly, there are none of the unpleasant or dominating notes you would traditionally associate with young craft whiskies aged in small barrels. Instead, it’s a more delicate balancing act with just enough of each flavour component to keep your palate stimulated and looking for more- I found myself rolling it around my palate for upwards of 5 minutes at times as the profile continued to evolve. As with all Catoctin releases, this is a single barrel whiskey and when I drank this side by side with what little I have left of my previous bottle of Distiller’s Edition I noticed that, although still on profile, this release was noticeably different with some lovely dark chocolate and stem ginger notes adding further depth to the spice notes on the palate.

As a craft distiller, Catoctin seem to be doing what a lot of passionate craft distilleries are doing, and then some. In the span of almost 10 years, they’ve bottled their own whisky under multiple expressions (including a bottled in bond expression) and shown their willingness to explore interesting experiments by way of their multiple once-off collaborative releases where unique barrels of rye were finished in all manner of interesting barrels. They have also gone as far as having their whiskies certified as organic, vegan, kosher, and gluten free – which is a first for me and no doubt opens their products to a much wider target audience.

From everything I’ve read Catoctin seem really passionate about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, which was evident in their whisky even before I had taken the time to read up about them. UK Rye fans can also check out Catoctin’s dedicated UK page to do a virtual tasting with Co-founder Scott Harris, a tour of the distillery, and learn everything there is to know about the Roundstone range and the processes behind it.

Try or Buy

With a SRP of £55/ $52.79 this release has entered into a very competitive space. I think it does well at this price all things considered and is well worth a try, however, if you are unsure you can now try before you buy via whiskey sites that sell samples.

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