Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Project continues its run with its first ever straight rye — a 14 year old bottling from Indiana that was aged in Kentucky and bottled in Tennessee. There’s no mashbill information provided, but based on my tasting, it’s safe to assume this is made from MGP’s 95% rye, 5% malted barley mash. At 14 years old, it’s one of the more venerable ryes you’ll find on the market — at least, while it lasts.
From my perspective, that’s not going to be long. This is a fantastic, balanced rye — one of the best I’ve encountered in a long while. While today’s rye whiskeys are increasingly youthful and brash, leaning heavily on grassy, green herb-driven qualities, Scarlet Shade — the name is inspired by tattoos, we’re told — is something very different and special.
The nose is immediately engaging, offering a classically spicy quality that is packed with nuance — caramel sauce, ample vanilla, and milk chocolate all tempering aromas of gingery Christmas spices, some toasty oak, and just a touch of austere leather. On the palate, the whiskey surprises right away with a burst of fruit — shockingly sweet — apples and pears, moving into a pastry quality with notes of pie crust and cinnamon, finishing on floral touches of eucalyptus and a slight punch of black pepper. Clean, inviting, and quite the ride from start to finish, I can’t think of a better prestige rye on the market at the moment.
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