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Style Check: Jaywalk’s New Rye Is One of many Finest Grain-to-Glass Whiskeys Round

Style Check: Jaywalk’s New Rye Is One of many Finest Grain-to-Glass Whiskeys Round

In the craft spirits world, the term “grain to bottle” gets used a lot (perhaps too much). This phrase can mean different things to different distilleries, but generally speaking it refers to a spirit that has been overseen from the field to the bottling line by the people who are actually making it. The new Jaywalk Rye from Brooklyn’s New York Distilling Company seems to meet this qualification, and it happens to be the best whiskey I’ve tasted to date from this craft distillery.

Allen Katz and Tom Potter founded New York Distilling Company in 2011, and have released a range of gins and rye whiskeys over the past 13 years. The brown spirits are anchored by the distillery’s Ragtime Rye expression, a whiskey made from a mashbill of New York State-grown grain that is decent but reads a bit immature on the palate with just about three years spent maturing in barrels. The new Jaywalk Rye, however, is a strong contender for the best grain-to-glass whiskey in recent years, and it has an interesting backstory that is worth digging into.

The mashbill for Jaywalk consists of 75 percent rye, which includes Field Race rye used for Ragtime Rye and Horton rye, an heirloom varietal that dates back to 17th century New York. The NY Distilling team worked with Cornell University’s College of Agriculture to find this particular varietal, and ultimately partnered with Pedersen Family Farm in Seneca Falls, NY, to organically grow the grain. Over five years, the rye moved from ceramic pots to greenhouses to fields, until finally there was enough to distill. According to Katz, Horton rye brings flavors beyond the “generic spice” of most rye whiskeys, infusing it with tropical fruit and dark caramelized sugar notes—and after tasting this whiskey, that seems like an accurate description.

Jaywalk Straight Rye is a blend of whiskey aged from six to eight years in 53-gallon new charred oak barrels and bottled at 92 proof. The mashbill is 75 percent rye, 13 percent corn, and 12 percent malted barley—all grown in New York State, which puts it into the unofficial (for the time being) Empire Rye category. This is a superb whiskey that surpasses other expressions from rye-focused craft distillers in terms of quality and taste, and acts as a good alternative to your typical 95/5 rye from MGP or a Kentucky-style with just over 51 percent rye grain. There is a welcome balance of flavor on the palate—the spice is indeed present but takes a supporting role, leaving the spotlight to shine on deep notes of caramel, espresso, vanilla, custard, burnt orange, black pepper, and a touch of grape soda. This is a great sipper, but also works very well in a cocktail like a Manhattan (something that Katz says he purposely designed it to do).

There are two other Jaywalk expressions available as well—a seven-year-old bonded version bottled at 100 proof; and the seven-year-old, single-barrel, cask-strength Jaywalk Heirloom Rye. I haven’t tried these whiskeys yet, but the core Jaywalk Rye expression is proof that “grain to glass” isn’t just a marketing term for New York Distilling Company. It’s a concept the team there takes seriously, and the years that went into making this new whiskey have paid off.

Score: 95

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

Source: Robb Report

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