By Father John Rayls
Minor Case Straight Rye Whiskey is named after the owners’ grandfather. Steve and Paul Beam opened Limestone Branch Distillery in 2011 in Lebanon, Kentucky, near where their grandfather, Minor Case Beam, had operated his distillery prior to Prohibition. He died shortly after Prohibition was repealed. The distillery claims this rye is a warm, 90 proof, 2 year old, spicey rye with complimentary fruit notes and is a tribute to the distilling legacy of Minor Case Beam. It’s listed as a straight rye whiskey which tells us a great deal. The word “Kentucky” is missing from the straight rye label. It is bottled in Kentucky, but distilled and aged in Indiana. As a result, it’s a sourced whiskey and not distilled by Limestone Branch. If you guess MGP, you’re probably not far off. This doesn’t make it a bad whiskey. It just means it has a much more “commoner” beginning than what we often expect from a craft whiskey. But as High West has demonstrated, a lot can be done with somewhat generic whiskey stock in a very creative manner. Minor Case Rye has been finished in sherry casks and the flavor profile greatly reflects this exposure. The brothers have also returned the Super Premium Bourbon, Yellowstone, to the family after Minor sold off the producing distillery in the early 1900’s. They now produce numerous whiskeys including bourbons, a rye, as well as Moon Pie Moonshine (it’s a southern thing…if you have to ask, you probably won’t understand!) and a corn/sugar cane distilled offering.
The bottle and label are both real works of art. The bottle has been embossed significantly and is somewhat shaped like a flask. A letter pressed bottle label with subtle but attractive colors is attached with a very attractive neck label as well. The bottle comes with the same family crest that Minor Case Beam used in his heyday. The color is not as dark as might be expected after sherry cask aging. It’s a light coppery color and the legs are fantastic. They appear rapidly and hold their form for a lengthy period of time. The nose is subtle and must be pursued vigorously to detect its components. It’s a little sweet and fruity, but some spice on top of light oak is present. There is a very light alcohol burn when inhaled deeply.
As mentioned earlier, the sherry cask influence is readily apparent. This rye is very smooth and filled with a sweet fruit flavor up front. It’s not what is typically
expected from a rye whiskey. To be completely honest, it’s not what I would seek out in a whiskey. It’s smooth. It’s sweet. It’s soft with a creamy mouthfeel. However, the finish makes up for any perceived shortcomings in the tasting experience. It’s a long finish filled with impressive spiciness. The sherry influence can only hold back the spice for so long. On the palate, the taste is all on the mid-tongue area while the finish hits the entire back of the mouth both upper and lower. It’s much more cinnamon than pepper; although, it does eventually transition into the latter. (By the way, if you have any dark chocolate available…wow!)
This is a very interesting rye and is worth a drive to your local outlet. It is brand new and has just been released this month at a suggested sub $50.00 price level. Of course, any whiskey associated with the name Beam deserves a fair and honest look. It’s simply a part of the American whiskey historic experience.