We just reviewed the straight bourbon whiskey from Lockwood Distilling Co, and found it was a pretty good offering from a brand new distillery. But why stop there? They also a straight rye whiskey on tap, which might just answer the question: what happens when you turn a bourbon on its head?
The Batt family is no stranger to the spirits world. Evan Batt started out as a sales representative for a distributor and worked his way up the chain, eventually co-founding Western Son Vodka and then signing on as the sales director for Desert Door Sotol.
Seeing the market opportunity for something in their local area, Evan and his wife, Sally Batt, decided to open the Lockwood Distilling Company in October of 2019 in Richardson, Texas. The couple had a vision of opening a local craft distillery and eatery that could be a hangout for the local community and bring people together.
However, just a few months after opening their doors, the pandemic hit and forced them to rethink their plan. The distillery switched from producing alcoholic spirits to hand sanitizer for the community and was able to weather the 2020 lockdowns without needing to lay off any employees.
As the restrictions eased, the distillery came back to life with outdoor dining and live music. They became so popular locally that the distillery has expanded to a second location on Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth — and, fun fact: the name “Lockwood” combined with the fact that the new location used to be a locksmith apparently attracted so many people looking to get keys duplicated that they actually purchased a key making machine for the bar.
The distillery also produces a line of spirits under the brand name Barrel and Banter.
Where Lockwood went heavy on the corn in their straight bourbon whiskey, this straight rye whiskey starts with the exact inverse proportion of grains: 75% Oklahoma grown rye and 25% Texas grown corn. These grains are milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic mixture.
Lockwood Distilling Co. has an array of stills including a column still and a pot still, but the lack of specificity here makes me think that this was likely distilled in their column still (if they had used the pot still, they’d presumably highlight that in their marketing materials). The newly made whiskey is then placed into new charred oak barrels where it sits in the volatile Texas weather for a minimum of two years prior to bottling.
The bottle design here has some glimmers of excellence, but ultimately falls a little flat in my opinion.
When it comes to the glass bottle itself, the design is very standard and typical for a small craft distillery: a round, cylindrical body that curves at the shoulder to a medium length neck, topped off with a wood and synthetic stopper. It isn’t the most imaginative shape in the world — but then again, I’m not going to knock a small distillery for focusing on the contents instead of the container with their investment.
I feel like this label is a bit unnecessarily large for the bottle, though. The white lettering on a black background is clean, bold, and easy to read… but the spirit in the bottle should be the star of the show. With a label this large, it’s tougher to get a sense of the true color of the spirit. If the label was innovative or unique (I’m thinking about the artist-focused labels from Still Austin, for example), I could be inclined to forgive it. But a minimalist black background in lieu of spirit transparency doesn’t feel like a worthwhile trade off.
That said, they’re doing one thing right with their packaging: the different types of whiskey in their line each have another small rectangular label at the bottom with a different color for each, which helps visually distinguish them on the shelf.
Raw grain seems to be a common attribute in the aroma of both the previously-reviewed bourbon and this rye. In the bourbon, the smell of raw corn was predominant; here, the raw rye is front and center. It’s like a more intense version of rye bread, and there’s also the brown sugar and vanilla from the barrel aging process making an appearance and mixing to create a slightly confusing aroma. The combination almost makes it smell skunky.
As soon as you take a sip, there’s an unmistakable flavor of delicious baked apple, which is the hallmark of a good rye whiskey. That is followed pretty quickly by some baking spices, brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla. Combined, these give an impression of a candied apple. As the flavor develops, some of the black pepper spice sneaks in and adds some character to the profile, but baked apple and brown sugar are really what leaves a lasting impression through the finish.
In this case, I feel like the addition of the ice brings the flavor of the whiskey closer in line to the aroma… and that might not be a great thing.
What I’m getting in the aroma is more of the raw rye grain, which gives it almost this musty, earthy aroma that honestly reminds me of the back of an old closet. The baked apple flavors were amazing when taken neat, but here it seems like they have practically disappeared. What’s left in the glass is the flavor of that raw rye grain, a bit of brown sugar, some caramel, and that’s about it. Not the greatest flavor combination if I’m being honest.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
This is legitimately interesting, but not at all what I expected.
That musty flavor from the raw rye grain is still there, but with the added angostura bitters it surprisingly works really well in the cocktail. The bitters add an herbal and elevated component to the flavors, while the raw rye grain gives it this earthy grounding that balances out into a deeper and richer than average old fashioned.
I feel like this is an interesting base, although not necessarily an interesting completed cocktail. There are a lot of ways that you could take this by adding some extra mixers or components, all getting the benefit of that well saturated base flavor. Completely as-is on its own, this is a touch bland… but that isn’t a mortal sin.
I feel like this is really where the spirit starts to hit its stride.
A Kentucky mule is, by nature, a very bright and cheerful cocktail as a result of the lime juice and the ginger beer. So the combination of these with an earthy, funky, almost mushroom-like spirit results in a delicious balance. This cocktail has a savory umami character that I’ve never seen before, and it works very well in my opinion.
That said, I do think that there’s an unfortunate lack of that black pepper spice that we usually see from a high rye content spirit, which usually adds some texture to the finish. It doesn’t make an appearance here and leaves a smoother, flatter finish behind instead.
To say that this is a unique flavor profile might be an understatement. There is a solid punch of baked apple flavor when taken neat, which is absolutely a traditional rye whiskey note…. but it quickly disappears at the first hint of ice and never comes back. In its place we find this earthy mushroom-like flavor that persists instead, and, while it works really well in some circumstances, it certainly needs a bit of work for most cocktails.
I like new, interesting, and different — and this hits all of those categories. If I was rating this purely on whether it met the requirements of being a “traditional” rye whiskey, this would probably be a total flop, but I enjoyed and appreciate the uniqueness that the distillery was trying to impart here. It might not be a universally appealing spirit, but it is certainly worth trying at least once.
|Lockwood Distilling Co Straight Rye Whiskey|
Produced By: Lockwood Distilling CoProduction Location: Texas, United States
Classification: Straight Rye Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $32.49 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A savory umami flavor is the hallmark of this straight rye whiskey, which is something that I have never said before in my life. Interesting and different.