James Oliver Rye Whiskey Review


James Oliver Rye Whiskey is a 100% rye whiskey bottled at 100 proof.  This “Bootlegger’s Special” is aged for four years in white American Oak barrels with a number 4 char ( also known as “Alligator Char” because of the way it causes the charred area to crack and resemble the skin of an alligator).  This helps impart both more smoke as well as oak to the whiskey which ages in these barrels.  It is a bold aging process for a bold whiskey.

James Oliver Rye is made by Indio Spirits out of Oregon, and it comes with an entertaining story.

“The story goes that at 14 years old, young James Oliver was hunting pheasant one fall day and happened upon a contraption in the middle of a large cornfield. Underneath a huge metal kettle, a fire was burning. He’d found a copper still steaming with a new batch of whiskey. Suddenly, two men came out of the cornfield with raised shotguns. Luckily for James, they recognized him and lowered their weapons. The two men would soon give him 5-gallon barrels of rye and a delivery schedule ranging from New Albany, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. Along the way, James Oliver learned the art of making whiskey. With the start of World War II, James gave up his moonshine venture and moved west to Oregon where he spent the last years of his life working the shipyards and fishing the waters of the great Northwest.”

You can find out more about James Oliver Rye Whiskey, and their other offerings at their website: indiospirits03.businesscatalyst.com.

dsc_3181-2ABV: 50%

AGE: 4 years

SERVED: Neat / Glencairn Glass

COLOR: Rich Amber with copper.

NOSE:  Sweet and a bit young grain, but not as much alcohol as I expected for a young and 100 proof whiskey.  Clove and tart oranges dominate, with some spice and white pepper joining in.  A touch of honey and some mild oak take a spin making it a very nice nosing experience.  As you let it sit (after tasting), honey begins to take a major role, but with a swirl of the glass the spice and peppers spring to life again.

PALATE: Very smooth and buttery, creamy even.  The arrival starts with mild sweetness, honey and maybe a touch of vanilla, then when it hits the mid tongue you get classic rye spices and pepper, and then followed by some light citrus and a touch of honey again, and pleasant oak.  I don’t find any alcohol burn in the mouth at all.

FINISH: This has a nice heat to it, but not overpowering.  The finish is medium to long, with citrus, honey, char, and oak.  It is almost an echo of the palate minus some notes, and fades away until the oak and a touch of char remain with a very light honey sweetness.

OVERVIEW: This Rye demonstrates the finer qualities of rye whiskey, but does not hit you over the head.  Some may think this is a good thing, others may disagree; but I truly enjoy this whiskey.  It gives me what I want in a rye and makes for a very easy pour for when you want something more than a casual sip, but don’t want to fight with it either.  For such a high rye content I was expecting a bit more spice, but don’t find its lack of punch in that aspect to be what I would call a “disappointment”.  And while its label and story may lead one to believe it is a rough and rowdy rye, I have to say it is quite civilized and what I would call a  “Gentleman’s Rye”.  Again, this is not a detractor for me though.  I truly enjoy this whiskey, and for its price it is a true winner in my opinion.

PRICE: $35

ADDED:  With oxidation the rye spices really start to shine.  It has become one of my favorite pours.  I really love this whiskey.


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