James E. Pepper was a 19th century distiller that was a marketing pioneer. He used the slogan “Born with the Republic” and claimed that his grandfather Elijah Pepper started distilling in Versailles in 1776. The fact is his grandfather started distilling around 1812 so if the brand was “Born with the Republic” it was more likely the Republic of Mexico, not the United States. Still, it sold a lot of whiskey for Pepper. Actually more than he actually made and he was well known at the time for sourcing his whiskey from other distilleries. That makes this rye very true to the Pepper tradition. The fact that they are using the same slogans as Pepper is good thing in my opinion. Yes they are exaggerations, but that is the Pepper tradition and I like to see tradition kept alive.
The brand has been on the market for about a decade and the whiskey has been sourced from MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. It is a fine whiskey that I am sure would make James proud. The owners of the brand have recently purchased the site of the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky and have plans to bring the brand home. It will be several years before we see this product but I have hopes that they will do the brand justice.
James E. Pepper Rye
Age: At least two years old
Nose: Fruit and vanilla. The fruits are berries and apricots. There is a little rye grassy aromas and a hint of spice.
Taste: Rye grass, vanilla and berry fruit with a hint of baking spices – allspice and cloves. With a dried cranberry the fruit and vanilla come forward and the spice diminishes. With a pecan the rye grass and spices come forward and the fruit and vanilla diminishes.
Finish: Long. It starts fruity but gets spicy with those baking spices and a hint of oak. With a cranberry the finish becomes brandy like with sweet fruit and a hint of oak. With a pecan the finish becomes very peppery at the expense of all other flavors.
Notes: This is a very good rye whiskey. It proves that age is not everything. It is flavorful and goes very well with a cigar. Today I am having a My Father’s The Judge. The whiskey enhances the chocolate notes in the smoke and the smoke adds a little caramel to the whiskey. Great combination.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach