About – “Blended from two distinct Straight Rye whiskeys aged in a series of first and second fill barrels in the warm winds of rural Fayette County, Texas. First, we age 95% Rye from MGP in Indiana for at least four years in select white oak casks, and 51% Rye from Tennessee for at least six years. We then blend the two in small batches and bottle it at a barrel proof of 116. A barrel strength Rye Whiskey made for the strong of heart and created for adventurous lovers of untamed flavor and a sophisticated taste experience.” Kooper Family describes themselves as a blending house, buying exceptional whiskies and aging them in the Texas heat. This Barrel Reserve Rye is bottled at 116 proof and retails for $60.
Nose – Bold and Sweet. Instead of coming through in subtle waves, everything here is cranked to 11 and hits you at once with a blast of caramel, vanilla, spearmint, and rye spice. It does mellow some as it opens with vanilla and spearmint becoming the predominant notes.
Palate – The first note is a soft velvety vanilla that coats the mouth before spearmint really becomes the star. This whiskey has a solid oak structure backing everything up. The rye spice comes in a lot slower than expected and doesn’t really hit until the back end. The medium/long finish starts with a spearminth burst as you swallow and quickly moves to rye spice that leaves the mouth tingling. As it fades out there is a bit of stone fruit and caramel to finish things off.
Score – B+
Verdict – This is one of those bottles that I just keep finding myself coming back to for another pour (as evidence by the nearly empty bottle in the photo above). This reaches far beyond the standard bottle of sourced MGP rye that sits on the shelf under numerous labels. The addition of the Tennessee rye and perhaps the Texas climate adds a backbone of caramel and oak that is much more bourbon like. Overall Kooper has done a great job of aging and blending here. This is a great bottle of rye!