Kentucky Artisan Distillery sent some samples of rye whiskeys to me that they have distilled for a customer who is releasing them under the Coalition brand name. There are four samples – the first is a barrel proof rye with the other three samples finished in different wine barrels. Recently, Matt and I sat down and tasted them. Here are our tasting notes:
Coalition Rye Barrel Proof
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Rye grass, vanilla and marshmallows, dried apricots, white pepper and oak.
- Matt: Rye, vanilla, marshmallows, rhubarb and white pepper.
- Mike: Rye grass, vanilla, orange zest, oak and cardamom spice. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the citrus comes forward. Tasted with a pecan and the whiskey becomes very peppery and dry.
- Matt: Rye, vanilla, orange cream and cinnamon. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the orange cream becomes stronger with lots of vanilla. Tasted with a pecan and the whiskey gets very spicy with black pepper, cinnamon and oak.
- Mike: Long and slightly dry with oak and spice. The dried cranberry made it even more peppery. The pecan made the finish very long with lots of oak and black pepper.
- Matt: Long with oak and cinnamon. The dried cranberry made the finish very peppery. The pecan brought out notes of leather and black pepper in the finish.
Coalition Sauternes Barriques
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Rye grass, toasted marshmallows, raspberries, nutmeg and oak.
- Matt: Rye, toasted marshmallows, raspberries and nutmeg.
- Mike: Very brandy-like. Lots of fruit – raspberries and raisins, vanilla verging on cotton candy with a hint of oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the rye grassiness comes forward and some citrus notes come out. Tasted with a pecan and lots of rye grass and oak come forward with a little sweet pipe tobacco.
- Matt: Raspberry, orange, cotton candy and marshmallow. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the citrus becomes mango. Tasted with a pecan and notes of leather, rye and oak dominate the flavor.
- Mike: Short. Sweet with notes of toasted marshmallow and oak. The dried cranberry brought out more oak and made the finish longer. The pecan made the finish very oaky with some notes of pipe tobacco.
- Matt: Short with oak and black pepper. The cranberry made it longer. The pecan brought out notes of fine leather.
Coalition Pauillac Barriques
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Brandy-like. Very fruity with red wine grapes and just a hint of rye grassiness, oak and vanilla.
- Matt: Fruity – grapes and a hint of strawberries, a little rye and vanilla.
- Mike: Rye grass, grapes and raisin fruit. White pepper and sweet oak wood. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the vanilla becomes stronger and some tart blackberry fruit comes out. Tasted with a pecan and the taste is rye grass and white pepper with just a hint of fruit and vanilla.
- Matt: Rye, grapes and white pepper. Tasted with the dried cranberry and red wine grapes, oak and white pepper dominate the flavor. Tasted with a pecan and the vanilla becomes caramel and there is a toasted hazelnut flavor coming forward.
- Mike: Oak and white pepper spice – moderately long. The cranberry adds a fruity note to the finish. The pecan enhanced the rye grassiness and pepper while reducing the oak.
- Matt: Long with oak and white pepper. The dried cranberry enhanced the pepper. The pecan brought out a toasted oak barrel finish.
Coalition Margaux Barriques
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Rye grass, raisins, baking spice and oak.
- Matt: Rye, raisins, baking spices and oak.
- Mike: Rye grass, very fruity with raisins and berries, vanilla and allspice. Surprisingly very little, if any oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the vanilla becomes more pronounced. Tasted with a pecan and the spice becomes a citrusy cardamom spice and allspice.
- Matt: Rye, raisins, vanilla and allspice. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the vanilla is stronger. Tasted with a pecan and the flavor is more earthy with sweet oak.
- Mike: Not overly long with sweet oak wood and baking spices. The dried cranberry brought out more spice and the rye grassiness with only a hint of oak. The pecan made the finish a bit more tannic oak and spice.
- Matt: Sweet oak and baking spice. The dried cranberry made the finish spicier with allspice and nutmeg with only a hint of oak. The pecan made the finish very long with lots of oak and a hint of baking spice.
I would pair these whiskeys with a Nat Sherman Schrader MMXIII cigar. This cigar was designed to pair with wines and should complement the fruity nature of these whiskeys. At the end of the day, Matt and I liked all of the expressions, but agreed that the unfinished, barrel proof rye was our favorite.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller
February 17, 2021 at 10:47 am
What impresses me most is the transparency shown by all parties. Are we finally entering an age where a company made up of skilled distillers who love making whiskey can proudly, and openly, be the source of the base ingredient in a product marketed by a company of bottlers equally proud of the end product they are offering to customers?
Of course this is nothing new in the whiskey world, but great pains have been taken to keep that (embarrassing?) fact so hidden from the consumer that the mere mention of the word “sourced” or “vendor” is often used as a term of condemnation.
One of many striking differences I found when I began exploring the world of fine NC cigars is the pride with which a cigar maker, such as Davidoff, associates itself with the source(s) of its tobacco(s), and even cigar-rolling factories, such as Henke Kelner’s Tabadom in the Dominican Republic, and the different tobaccos grown at the different farms he buys from.
It’s good to see such a change beginning in the world of craft distilling and innovative products. Congratulations to the folks at Kentucky Artisan and Coalition, and to you for highlighting it. I hope lots of readers (and whiskey writers) follow your example.
February 19, 2021 at 4:58 pm
Kentucky Artisan Distillery is very open as to who they make whiskey for and as far as I know, they have not made any buyer sign a non-disclosure agreement.
February 19, 2021 at 5:18 pm
That’s exactly what I said, and it applies to Coalition as well. I’m sure there are others. This is a good thing to see developing. It’s also about time.
March 7, 2021 at 10:31 am
Not a brand I know a lot about, but these sound like interesting whiskeys. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Cheers from London, Ed