Two Ryes and a Bourbon 

Sampling some spicy spirits


To celebrate the series finale of Mad Men on May 17, we tested three rye whiskeys, the spicy booze traditionally used to make Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. As we started to sample, we realized there had been a mix-up: We'd been given two ryes and one bourbon to review. Channeling Don Draper's spirit, we went ahead drank what was in front of us.

High West Rendezvous Rye, $51.95

Whereas bourbon has to be made from 51 percent corn, rye whiskey has to be crafted from at least 51 percent rye. High West's Rendezvous Rye blends a 16-year-old rye with an 80 percent mash bill (or grain recipe) and a six-year-old rye with a 95 percent mash bill. The nose has hints of cedar, caramel, York peppermint patty and grilled oranges; the palate is hot with a lingering cinnamon spice on the finish. One taster noted, "I was expecting this sexy, pleasant thing, but it's this beast."

Bulleit Bourbon, $25.95

Though Bulleit does make a rye whiskey, we had Bulleit's bourbon, which is made from 68 percent corn, 28 percent rye and 4 percent malted barley. Much darker in the glass than the other two whiskies, Bulleit has subtle notes of lavender, sweet vanilla and caramel on the nose. More caramel came through on the palate, which one taster compared to a "whiskey donut," but the finish is surprisingly bitter.

James Oliver Rye, $25.95

This 100-proof rye whiskey is made from 100 percent rye and aged at least four years in heavily charred oak barrels. This was the most pleasant on the nose, with hints of soft peach and vanilla with an underlying botanical essence. Fruity and understandably hot on the palate, this rye has almost no mid-palate and an unpleasant burnt celery finish.

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