PROOF: 100


PRICE: $20-25


Blended and Bottled in Brown County, Indiana

PROOF: 100


PRICE: $30-45


PROOF: 103


PRICE: $60-70

I love doing blind tastings. I typically use three different whiskeys of varying price ranges and see if they are worth their respective price tags. With Rye whiskey, my favorite low-budget choice will always be Old Forester Rye. It’s a very good, consistent bottle that, like it’s bourbon brethren, is a steal at the price. I believe I’ve only tried the Hard Truth Indiana Rye Whiskey once before with Mike Veach and have never had the Luca Mariano. I always like to have a buddy on these days, so for this tasting I asked my brother-in-law and fellow whiskey connoisseur Pete Reinert. I put on one of my favorite bands to drink whiskey to, The Clancy Brothers on my spotify, and tucked into these fine Ryes.

We both went through several changes in both guessing which Rye was which, and which Rye was the best. With Pete, his initial favorite in order was Luca, Old Forester, then Hard Truth. Mine was the same: Luca, Ole’ Fo’, then Hard Truth. However, my belief is that you don’t know the whiskey until it’s been sitting in the glass for at least fifteen minutes. By the end of the glasses, I decided my favorite was still the Luca but the Hard Truth edged out the Ole’ Fo’ marginally. The Luca’s flavor profile was slightly more complex with a vanilla, grassy, apple butter taste and a spicy black pepper, nutmeg and oak finish. It’s reminiscent of the aroma of using applewood to smoke ribs/pork butt. Pete went Hard Truth, Luca, then Ole’ Fo’. His notes on the Hard Truth were the blend of vanilla and high rye were exceptionally good and finishing with a very spicy, peppery finish.

The verdict: These are all very good Ryes. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised that the Luca came out on top for me. Francesco Mariano, owner and recipe creator, started out distilling whiskey in his garage. Follow the link above to read more about him. I love these sorts of stories. Is it worth the almost $65 I paid for this bottle? (Which is a very cool looking bottle I must say.) Well, I absolutely agree with something Mike Veach has said many times: These small craft distillers need to upcharge to keep their dream alive. So yes, I think the Luca and Hard Truth are both worth their price tag. (Follow the link for Hard Truth to read about their origin story as well.) They’re doing things right and creating fine ryes. Cheers to both. Enjoy!

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Kohorst