Lock, Stock and Barrel Rye 101.3 proof, 750 ml, ~$120
Apropos of yesterday’s post on Canadian rye … a Canadian rye. Well, sort of. The stuff inside is 100 percent rye from Alberta Distillers, aged for 13 years. The bottling itself is done in the States.
Here is what I like about L.S.B. First, these guys don’t pretend to be what they are not. The label clearly identifies the company behind it, Cooper Spirits, as a “curator” — not a “distiller,” or “producer” — of “fine spirits.” In interviews and promotional material Cooper Spirits has been up front about the source of its whiskey: “Several years ago, we did acquire a healthy stock of straight rye whiskies from multiple sources. Included in this acquisition was an amazing discovery of aged, perfectly matured straight rye.” I do not know any other sourced-whiskey company that so clearly identifies its middle-man role, instead of trying to convince consumers that it actually made the stuff inside the bottle. (Lloyd Christmas at Bourbontruth is not going to like this post. But we are buddies, right?) Maybe I am setting a low bar here, but I find their angle refreshing.
Second, and much more importantly, I like the stuff inside. This is a wonderful rye. The nose is redolent of honey, caramel, some vague tropical fruit, a faint whiff of campfire smoke and a dash of white pepper. It has a moderately chewy mouthfeel. The palate is spicy, powerfully so but not overwhelming — think of a moderately hot Thai dish. Yes, the pop is arresting. But not so much that it masks the other flavors — lots of caramel, lychee, vanilla, a touch of smoke, spearmint. The finish has lingering mint notes, and is fairly dry and quick. And it is ice smooth — this is a 101-proof rye that I am drinking neat as an accountant’s ledger, and enjoying every sip.
Third, I like what this says about Canadian rye. As I said yesterday, Canadian distillers have long maintained that their pure-rye expressions are too powerful to be consumed without being cut with neutral spirits. Not to knock some of the finer blended Canadians, but if this is what the pure stuff tastes like, bring on the pure stuff.
The one thing I do not like is the price. Is it worth $120? Inasmuch as it is a 13-year-old rye imported from Canada, probably so. But put it a different way: is it better than other, much cheaper ryes? Is it better than, say, Sazerac six-years-old? Or even Whistle Pig, which is basically a sibling whiskey, having been sourced from the same Canadian distillery, but costs about $40 less? Maybe, but if so not by much. And from a quick glance at other reviews and comments on L.S.B., it seems most people agree. Cooper Spirits has a good thing here, and I hope they have a line on more well-aged rye. Because for now, I do not think most consumers are willing to pay three-figures for a rye, no matter the age or provenance. With demand for rye rising much faster than supply, that will change — and unfortunately for us, but fortunately for folks like Cooper Spirits, that change will come fairly soon.