Whiskey Review: Tahwahkaro Texas Rye Malt Whiskey

One of my top (personal) whiskey recommendations for friends and family is Tahwahkaro’s Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey. It’s been four years since I had my first drop, and it always turns out to be a crowd pleaser. And recently Tahwahkaro has started producing a Rye Malt Whiskey — so naturally, my expectations were a bit high when I brought this bottle home to review.



Tahwahkaro Distilling Co was founded in 2016 by a group of individuals in Grapevine, Texas.

The distillery chose the name as a way to tie themselves into the history of the Dallas area, as Tahwahkaro was the original Native American name for the area of Grapevine Creek that runs just east of the modern-day airport. It was the location in 1843 where Sam Houston and the Republic of Texas signed a peace treaty with the native tribes ending a chapter of the Texas – Indian Wars.

The phrase translates into English as “bend in the river” and appealed to the founders as they were starting a new chapter in their respective lives and were excited to see what was coming “just around the bend” for them.


The folks at Tahwahkaro started with a bourbon, and more specifically a high rye content bourbon for their first release. They stated that they love a good high rye content whiskey, and their tastes seemed to align pretty well with my own. But that always begs the question: if a little rye is good, what about even more rye in the grain bill?

For this rye whiskey, they used the same type of rye that they had picked for their bourbon, which is malted prior to starting the whiskey making process (basically, they let the seed germinate, turning the starch naturally into sugar and releasing some natural enzymes). From there, they add locally sourced water and ferment the mash before distilling it into the refined white spirit.

Once distilled, the whiskey is aged in new production charred 30 gallon American oak barrels and allowed to mature. The trick here is that the Texas climate does a great job promoting the maturation of the spirit, with the large swings between hot and cold temperatures forcing the spirit into the wood and back out again. By using smaller barrels, they also promote that process thanks to an increased surface area per drop of whiskey.


I like the concept they have here with their bottle. It’s different from the norm — the body is almost like a slice of Buche de Noel; a slice of a cylinder sat on its edge. That gives us a lot of surface area to work with, and (in theory) should make for some great designs.

Unfortunately, that surface area isn’t really well used. The label is stylistically boring, without any really interesting illustrations or designs. It’s straight text on a metallic background, blocking most visibility of the liquid inside. And that’s one of my biggest pet peeves — poorly used real estate. Sadly, this bottle is a clear illustration of why that makes me a bit annoyed.

Sticking up from that rounded body is a short neck that is capped with a synthetic stopper encased in wax. It’s a design that we see from folks such as Maker’s Mark and Garrison Brothers, and I really do prefer it in general over the plastic seals. But it comes with its own risks.

For previous versions of this bottle, I’ve been able to open the wax seal and un-cork it without an issue, but in this case the cork actually detached from the wood topper and made it impossible to open the bottle without grabbing a Leatherman. Not ideal.

Beyond that minor manufacturing defect, this design is still trouble, as evidenced from the first time I tried to find a bottle of Tahwahkaro in the store. Shopping for their bourbon a few years ago, it took multiple trips to various stores before I realized the abnormal shape of this bottle had resulted in staff stocking the bottle sideways on the shelf.

There’s a lot of promise in this design. But I think the misused space on the label, the poor quality stopper, and the difficult-to-stock-shape could all use some improvement.



Take a warm, freshly baked loaf of rye bread. Slice it open, add a couple slices of fresh apple, and a drizzle on a sauce made from brown sugar and butter… and that’s exactly what this smells like. It smells mouth wateringly delicious, rich and creamy while still having a bit of crisp tartness for balance.

Sadly, though, not all of those components translate into the flavor. (Not in this neat preparation, at least.) There’s more dark, charred wood-esque notes in here that are probably covering up the lighter bits.

Up front, I’m getting that rye bread flavor, complete with the smooth bread-like components as well as the spicy rye mixing together well. Then a bit of the crisp apple appears together with some baking spices, nutmeg, and a touch of cinnamon. This is where the charred oak kicks into high gear, adding some dark chocolate and burnt brown sugar notes that give the flavor profile a significantly deeper tone. That dark chocolate combined with the rye bread flavor lingers on the finish, with some good black pepper spice tingling your tongue long after the liquid is gone and just a hint of charred oak lingering in the background.

On Ice

As you might expect, the addition of a bit of ice has toned down those darker components and allowed some of the other flavors to shine through. The crisp apple is much clearer now, and the buttery brown sugar goodness is showing through as well.

This reminds me very much of fresh apple cider in New York in the fall — but with a little bit of hot chocolate added.

Both neat or on ice, I feel like this is a forceful, absolute flavor bomb of a spirit. There’s so much going on here and it might actually be a little “much” to be taken on its own. It’s an experience, but not necessarily one for the weak of heart (or taste buds).

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

There are three things in my opinion that really make for a perfect old fashioned. Number one: a good high rye or rye based spirit (which we have here). In a high rye spirit, the black pepper texture combined with the apple flavor rarely goes astray. Second is a darker, richer flavor profile, which the dark chocolate and charred oak note in this spirit easily achieves. And third is something a little sweet and bright… which might be where this doesn’t quite reach perfection.

I’m getting the nice dark and rich base for the flavors, and the balance between the spirit and the herbaceous bitters is nice. But there’s nothing providing that sweetness and brightness that I’d like to see. It seems to be a little too dark, desperately in need of that brown sugar or vanilla sweetness.

Don’t get the impression that this is bad, though — this is still delicious. It just isn’t perfect as-is. Add a splash of simple syrup or a couple cubes of sugar to this cocktail and you’ll achieve perfection.

Fizz (Mule)

We don’t include a mule in our reviews because it’s easy — we include it because it is hard. Balancing all of the flavors in this bitter and sour cocktail is challenging, but this spirit pulls it off with flying colors.

Up front, the flavors in the cocktail are balanced beautifully. There’s plenty of that apple flavor from the whiskey shining through, and combined with the richer chocolate and rye bread aspects makes for a delicious flavor profile overall. The ginger and lime juice are blended perfectly together to create something refreshing and complex.

But the finish is the real party piece. That rye content is providing a ton of black pepper spice, and that spicy texture is the star of the show as the flavors mix and taper off. It’s something to keep your mouth interested and coming back for more.


Overall Rating

Tahwahkaro continues to impress me with their spirits. They are doing everything right, and their products reflect that care and attention to detail. In this case, I feel like they have all of the components right and just a little bit more time in a barrel (or maybe finishing in a slightly different cask) would be the cherry on top that brings this from a great spirit to a truly spectacular spirit.

I love the apple flavor that’s in here, and there’s some perfectly balanced cinnamon and baking spices that go with it to make me think of apple cider every time I take a sip. I just wish that there was a little bit more sweetness and vanilla in here to provide a little bit more balance.

Tahwahkaro Rye Malt Whiskey
Produced By: Tahwahkaro
Production Location: Texas, United States
Classification: Rye Whiskey
Special Type: Certified Texas Whiskey
Aging: 1 Year
Proof: 52.5% ABV
Price: $62.94 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 4/5
Like a deliciously rich and dark apple cider, complete with baking spices, and a touch of dark chocolate. It just lacks a bit of sweetness to be perfect.


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