My two go-to ryes are the 15-year old Taos Lightning, which comes in at about $80 a bottle, and George Dickel, for a quarter of that. Now the Taos Lightning is extremely good, as it had better be for that price, but I don’t get it too often because the Dickel is perfectly serviceable, especially in mixed drinks, and indeed is one of the better bargains in the liquor world, I think. But, I’m always willing to try something new. I’ve had Crater Lake’s gin in the past, and found it pretty enjoyable, although definitely on the heavy end of the juniper scale. One of the knowledgeable crew at Jubilation, which I’m lucky enough to count as my neighborhood booze depot, recommended the Crater Lake rye. (The distillery in both cases is actually the Bendistillery.) It’s unfiltered, which you can see if you hold it up to the light – there’s a slight opacity to the liquid. Supposedly this gives it a somewhat grassier, sweeter taste.
For consistency’s sake, I used this in my most reliable concoction, the Old-Fashioned. It does have a nice sweetness to it, especially on the nose, but also a heady punch of spice and pepper. There’s a bit of bitterness on the finish, and not much burn anywhere. While still not as good as the aged Taos Lightning, it’s just about on par with their younger offerings that run $10-20 more than this, which retails at around $30. All in all a very solid offering, and probably my new first choice in ryes apart from those rare occasions when I feel an $80 bottle of hooch is warranted.