The other day, Rosemary and I visited the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience where they were introducing the new Square 6 “High Rye” Rye Whiskey. They are calling it “High Rye” because they are using more rye grain in the mash bill than they use for their other rye whiskeys such as Pikesville or Rittenhouse rye whiskeys. What is refreshing is the fact that they are defining their concept of “high rye” whiskey.

The event took place in the speakeasy bar in the basement of the distillery visitor center. Heaven Hill had both Jodie Filiatreau, Artisan Distiller for Evan Williams Distillery and Charlie Downs, Artisan Distiller Emeritus, leading the event. The whiskey is five years and eight months old, so Charlie Downs and Jodie Filiatreau both have worked on producing this whiskey. The whiskey is made from 63% rye, 24% corn and 13 % malted barley. Their normal mash bill is only 51% rye, 35% corn, 14% malted barley, thus they consider this a “high rye” mash bill. Fair enough. There is no definition of what “high rye” is in a mash bill. To Heaven Hill’s credit, they are open to what their mash bill is and how they are defining the term “high rye”. There are rye whiskeys in the market with more rye in the mash bill, but Charlie and Jodie recognize the fact that corn as a flavoring grain makes a very good rye whiskey. It adds a sweetness that balances the herbal notes of rye.

They next discussed the distillation process. It is double distilled in their pot still at the Evan Williams Experience. They also distilled it at a lower proof than normal, leaving more of the grain flavors in the sprit than they would have gotten if they made it on the column still at their Bernheim Distillery. This really comes through when you taste the whiskey. It has a very nice mouth-feel and you can taste the sweetness of the corn. 

They had a barrel entry proof of 125. They aged the whiskey in Bardstown on the fifth floor of the warehouse J. This meant the proof changed very little in the aging process. They preferred the slower maturation of the middle floors because they still had some nice wood flavors without the bitter tannins that come through with the heat of the upper floors. 

They provided tasting notes for the whiskey on the sheet set before us at the tasting. I have to say, I found them accurate. They say the aroma is black tea, sweet honey, fig, molasses and maple syrup. The taste is allspice, pepper, vanilla and cardamom. The finish is pepper, mint and caramel. Matt and I will sit down and taste the whiskey in the near future and we will give our tasting notes soon.

We also tasted the Square 6 Bourbon at the event. I like the Square 6 Bourbon, but I think I prefer the complexity of this rye whiskey. The comparison of the whiskeys was interesting. They both had a nice mouth-feel from the pot still. The mash bill of the Bourbon is 52% corn, 35% rye and 13% malted barley. They both use the same yeast strain and that comes through with many similar flavor notes such as figs and cardamom. It was an interesting comparison.

They spent a large amount of time discussing the difference between the pot and column stills in making this whiskey. I suggested afterwards that they should hold an event where they taste Square 6 rye against one of their normal rye whiskeys such as Rittenhouse. Then they could make direct comparisons such as mouth-feel between the whiskeys. Jodie liked the idea and hopefully they will do such an event in the future. If they do, I want to be there.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller