Last week, we reviewed a straight bourbon whiskey from Copper Still. It had some good levels of rye spice (apple, black pepper, etc) and made for a fine cocktail spirit. But they also produce a 95% rye whiskey, and anyone who reads our reviews regularly knows I love a rye. Naturally, I needed to check out this Copper Still offering, which begs the question: is there such a thing as too much rye?
Copper Still is a sub-brand created by the Copper Mountain Beverage Company of Indianapolis, Indiana. Founded in 2004 by a team of people who had experience selling products in the alcoholic beverage industry, Copper Mountain specializes in wholesale distribution and private labeling of spirits for third parties. Copper Mountain does not appear to own any distillation facilities but instead sources their spirits for their brands.
As a sourced whiskey, we know that this probably came from a larger distillation facility and was sold to Copper Still as an already finished product. Since this is coming from Indiana, I’d say there’s a very good chance that this was sourced from MGP, one of the biggest in the business and a typically reliable source for good whiskey — and which is also located in Indiana. Unfortunately, that means we don’t have many of the details, but we can make some educated guesses based on the bottle.
Because this is labeled as a straight rye whiskey, we know this whiskey needs to have started out as a mixture of grains in which at least 51% of which was rye. In this case, a full 95% of those grains are rye, with the remainder being made up from corn. Those grains are milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid that is then distilled to create the newly made whiskey.
As with all straight whiskeys, that newly made spirit is then placed into charred new oak barrels for a period of at least two years. According to the label, this spirit actually sits in that barrel for no less than three years before being packaged for sale. And as a “single barrel” expression, the expectation is that 100% of the whiskey in this bottle came from a single distillation run and was matured in the same barrel.
This is, quite possibly, the least attractive bottle I’ve ever seen.
Let’s start with the actual bottle itself. The shape is a standard liquor bottle setup: cylindrical body, rounded shoulder, medium length neck with a bulge, etc. We’ve seen this pattern time and again with distilleries, especially newer ones, and usually those facilities try to make the best of the situation with the branding and labeling. But in this case, those aren’t very good either.
Starting from the top, I have a structural complaint with the labeling: it literally gets in the way of your drinking.
The upper foil wrap surrounding and keeping the cork in place seems designed to be torn away right through the middle of the stopper, but doing so leaves an awkward lip of plastic around the mouth of the bottle. Every time you pour the spirit, it’ll pass directly over this bit of plastic, tarnishing the flavor and potentially getting whiskey everywhere. Really bad design on the label here — I would have much preferred a design where that entire piece of plastic is torn away.
Moving to the label, this looks like a Rorschach test. There’s a massive blob of black ink in the center that I think is supposed to be a copper pot still, but it is so jumbled and abstract in design that I can’t tell for sure. It makes the label feel cluttered and disorganized, despite the otherwise clean presentation — which makes me even more annoyed, as the label takes up the entire front of the whiskey bottle. If that were for a good purpose, like some good artwork, I might forgive it. But this is just a complete waste.
I like that each of the spirits in their product line has a different colored label (in this case, green), but I really don’t like the label itself.
At first whiff, this aroma is the textbook definition of a rye whiskey. There’s the rye bread aroma, the crisp apples, and the black pepper spice all rolled together with a hint of brown sugar sweetness. It’s a very good start.
That delightful aroma flows pleasantly into the actual flavor, giving me an experience that I wish I’d had with their bourbon. In this case, the black pepper spice is present from start to finish, but this time without any of the bitterness or unpleasant characteristics we saw before. It’s joined by some crisp apple, caramel, brown sugar, vanilla, and cherry components that all mix and flow nicely before finishing with a kick that’ll keep your lips tingling long after the spirit is gone.
The expectation when you add some ice is that the flavors will take a bit of a nosedive and become too watery to enjoy. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here and the result keeps the party going.
We’ve still got a rich, deep, and flavorful spirit — but the mixture has been tweaked just a bit. There’s more of the black pepper spice up front, which almost leads to a hint of bitterness but there’s some quick support from the apple and caramel flavors to round things out before it gets too bitter. It isn’t quite as well balanced as before and not something I’d drink on the rocks alone, but it does offer some interesting possibilities for cocktails.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Broadly speaking, a good rye will consistently make a good Old Fashioned. There’s something to the depth and the richness in the spirit that lends itself well to making something that you want to sink into like an old overstuffed leather chair.
As you might expect, this works fairly well as a cocktail in this case… but it lacks some of the complexity that you see with something like a WhistlePig rye. There’s the black pepper spice, the crisp apple, and the caramel all contributing to the flavor profile, but beyond that there isn’t much to write home about.
It works, but only well enough to be “good” and not “great”.
Most versions of a Kentucky Mule tend to be a little light on the flavors — something that has the brightness and bitterness of the ginger beer on full display, but without much of the depth and richness from the whiskey needed to properly balance it out. I’m happy to see that in this version there’s enough of that richness to make a difference, and there might even be enough complexity finally showing through to make it something I’d want to revisit.
In this preparation, not only am I getting the caramel, crisp apple, and cherry flavors peeking through from the whiskey, but there’s also enough black pepper spice to make it interesting and unique. All of this combines to make a spicy and delicious cocktail that is far from one-note and boring, and instead has some twists and turns as it unfolds in front of you. There are enough flavors here not only for the intended cocktail, but plenty leftover to allow for some experimentation and customization. Maybe a bit of jalapeno pepper? Some orange slices? Plenty to explore.
I’m honestly surprised — this is a legitimately good rye whiskey. The 95% rye mix can sometimes be too unbalanced, but this bottle nails it. I suspect it’s because this is a re-bottled rye from another successful distillery, one where they got the recipe right and are now selling to other facilities. (You know… somewhere like MGP in Indiana. Ahem.)
I don’t think I’d recommend this over any other rye whiskies, but I wouldn’t hesitate to grab it off the shelf if no better offerings were available. Especially if the plan was to spend the night perfecting a ginger beer based mule.
|Copper Still Single Barrel Indiana Straight Rye Whiskey
Produced By: Copper StillProduction Location: Indiana, United States
Classification: Straight Rye Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $26.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
Spicy and tasty rye whiskey that is darn good in a Kentucky Mule.