By Father John Rayls
This tasting experience was a pleasant surprise. Make no mistake, Diamond State Rye Whiskey is young…in fact, very young. I sampled batch/bottle 3-591 bottled on January 18, 2017 after 11 months in new oak casks. Diamond State was kind enough to send me this bottle for a write up with no expectations of an overly friendly review. Typically, age is a very good thing when applied to whiskey production. However, there are exceptions. I’ve had 23 year old whiskey that wasn’t as good as the 21 year old from the same distillery. In addition, I’ve experienced some young whiskeys (under 2 years) that have grabbed my attention and held my interest. This is one of the latter. Painted Stave Distilling is the first distillery in Delaware since Prohibition to distill and bottle their own stuff. It was the Levy and Gloskings distillery, in Dover, which was the last to close in the state due to the Federal Law which went into effect in 1920. Painted Stave has deliberately tried to make the connection between the two distilleries, at least historically if not completely in flavor profile. This rye is a double distilled whiskey from a mashbill approaching 70% rye, 25% corn and 5% malted barley and bottled at 92 proof. There is controversy surrounding the use of smaller barrels, but many new distilleries are opting in to gain color quickly and oak flavoring within a much shorter time period. The idea is that in a 10 gallon, charred oak barrel there is more oak exposure per volume, thus providing greater influence in less time. There are many different opinions as to whether this approach is effective.
Diamond State Rye Whiskey is very dark in the bottle. It appears dark brown with some dark copper highlights. In the glass, it’s medium brown with polished brass highlights. The legs are astounding. They are thick and long and persistent. The nose is noticeably young…filled with leather (new) and sweet corn all on top of new oak. There is a very slight alcohol burn when inhaling deeply. The nose is not aggressive, but easily detected.
The mouthfeel is creamy and luxurious. It’s so interesting, in fact, that you might be hesitant to swallow. The palate is light and filled with sweet creamed corn, caramel and light oak. However, the transition to finish happens very quickly and is filled with powerful spice. The spice begins with light, sweet cinnamon and allspice and refuses to quit. It changes about midway to a dominant pepper finish that is strong, relentless and very interesting. You might be tempted to see it as drinking hot, but it’s much more interesting and complex than simply a hot rye whiskey. The cinnamon never really leaves the finish, but does take a backseat to the pepper while continuing to make its presence known. If you love a high rye bourbon, you will love the constant play between the sweet and spicey in this rye.
Painted Stave Distillery is making quite a statement about their intentions to be a force “to be reckoned with” in terms of whiskey production. Although whiskey prices have been rising across the board due to demand, expect to pay around $40.00 per 750ml bottle. Take a walk on the wild side and try some young “aged” rye whiskey. Diamond State Rye Whiskey is interesting sipping it neat. It will be a very interesting mixer for cocktails. It’s economical and provides a finish you won’t soon forget.