Blue Run Emerald Rye Single Barrel Whiskey Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Blue Run Emerald Rye Single Barrel Whiskey Review

It was only a few months ago that Kentucky’s Blue Run Spirits was making headlines with the announcement that it was constructing its own, $50 million distillery facility in Georgetown, KY, joining the list of non-distiller producers who are moving into full-on production. In the interim, though, the new releases must continue to flow–including the brand’s first ever single barrel rye whiskey, which released in May. We’re a bit behind on this one, but that won’t stop us from tasting the single barrel version of Blue Run Emerald Rye Whiskey.

The original Emerald Rye was released in Nov. 2022, and was distilled at Castle & Key Distillery in Frankfort by Blue Run “Liquid Advisor” and former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge. This single barrel release is drawn from the same distillate, being a collection of 10 outstanding barrels chosen by Shaylyn Gammon, Blue Run’s Whiskey Director, “selected to echo the rich, complex flavors from Emerald Rye Whiskey, but with each featuring its own personality found only in a single barrel release.” All are bottled at cask strength, with no water added.

Here though, we run into the elephant in the room, as we so often now do on limited edition American whiskey releases–price vs. perceived value. This single barrel version of Blue Run Emerald Rye is a non-age-stated, albeit cask strength release distilled at Castle & Key, carrying an MSRP of $200. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a lot of whiskey fans will no doubt balk outright at that kind of price point–$200 for a non-age-stated rye from a relatively young distillery is just a big, big ask. It’s the kind of price point that would have seemed totally unthinkable just a few years ago, but it’s increasingly where we are today, particularly when it comes to non-distiller producers. One wonders how many of these types of releases, in this type of price range, the market can really support before there simply aren’t enough willing consumers to buy them all.

But with that said, I’m still curious to see how this cask-strength rye distillate from Castle & Key–distilled to Blue Run’s specifications on mash bill and method, etc.–holds up. So let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, this version of Blue Run Emerald Rye is redolent in rye spice and spicebox elements–tons of spicy rye grain, licorice and chai-like warming spices, ribboned with light caramel and some fruit suggestive of red apple and apricot jam. It’s certainly not shy on the rye, and feels more like a modern high-rye style rye whiskey than the old-school, 51% Kentucky rye.

On the palate, this is mildly sweet and again very spicy, with big, aggressive rye spice and tons of pepper, softened by sweet cinnamon and allspice. There’s again some modest caramel, along with vanilla bean, peach crisp and a more dry form of spicy oak. That woodiness lingers on the tongue with gentle traces of tannin, progressing back into toasted spices. Ethanol is pretty modest for the proof point, and the overall balance leans a bit more in the direction of dryness rather than sweetness.

All in all, a pretty nice profile they’ve cultivated here, managing to be spicy and woody without being overwhelming or unbalanced, and favoring more of an elegant approach rather than desserty sweetness. With that said, it’s hard to say whether this really does enough to stand out in a way that most consumers would probably demand from a $200 bottle of rye whiskey. Which of course begs the question: What should a $200 bottle of rye even look like in the first place? How often is the average consumer willing to buy one, and what baselines does it need to meet? Ultimately, the viability of a brand like this should give us some sense of the answers to those questions.

Distillery: Blue Run Spirits
City: Georgetown, KY
Style: Straight rye whiskey
ABV: 58.15% (116.3 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $200 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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