I first met the people who revived this brand when Mint Julep Tours hired me to speak at a dinner at 610 Magnolia, the Edward Lee restaurant. The Old Elk Distillery investors were in attendance and ended up asking me to research the history of this old Lexington, Kentucky brand. It has an interesting history. The brand was created by Stoll, Vanatta & Co. in 1888. The warehouse for the old distillery still stands and is now used by a nursery selling garden supplies and plants. During Prohibition, W.L. Weller and Sons acquired the brand and sold it as medicinal spirits. Stitzel-Weller continued to bottle and sell the brand up until the early 1970s, when the brand was discontinued and the trademark lapsed. The new owners picked up the trademark and have been bottling the brand for several years now as a bourbon. I met the sales representative for the New Orleans region this past March at the New Orleans Bourbon Festival and was told that they now have rye whiskey. We liked the whiskey in New Orleans and I arranged for them to send me a sample for review and here are our notes.
Old Elk Rye Whiskey
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Rye grass, mint, vanilla, baking spices and oak wood.
- Matt: Rye grass, mint, cherry, lime and oak wood.
- Mike: Rye grass, berries, mint, vanilla, pepper and oak wood. Tasted with a dried cranberry and a lot of the flavor is overpowered by the cranberry, leaving a little vanilla, mint and pepper spice. Tasted with a pecan and the vanilla becomes a caramel and the oak wood and pepper spice becomes stronger.
- Matt: Rye grass, vanilla, citrus notes – lime zest, mint and oak wood. The dried cranberry overpowered the flavors other than mint and vanilla. The pecan gave it a taste of an Andes mint – chocolate and mint, with a little black pepper.
- Mike: Medium long with mint, oak wood and pepper spice. The dried cranberry made the finish short and sweet with a hint of oak and vanilla. The pecan made the finish long and dry with Oak tannins and black pepper.
- Matt: Lots of oak wood with some cayenne pepper spice and tobacco notes. The dried cranberry made the spice red pepper flakes. The pecan made the spice black pepper, and chili powder with a lot of oak.
I would pair this rye whiskey with a cigar that has some cedar spice and earthy tobacco notes in the smoke. I would reach for a Fuente Opus X cigar.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller