Ezra Brooks 99 Proof Straight Rye Whiskey Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Ezra Brooks 99 Proof Straight Rye Whiskey Review

As I observed a few months ago when tasting Lux Row’s Rebel 100 Rye Whiskey, finding objectively good value on the rye whiskey shelf is always something to celebrate. Rye whiskey is typically sold at something of a premium compared with bourbon in the American whiskey market, at least when we’re talking about MSRPs, with lower age statements and proof points typically commanding a somewhat higher price. Over time, this has resulted in fewer and fewer genuine “value” bottles of rye outside of some of the old, dependable brands from major distilleries, but at just $20, the 50% ABV (100 proof) new formulation of Rebel 100 Rye certainly qualifies. Now joining it from the same company, we have what is more or less a sister product in the form of the new Ezra Brooks 99 Proof Straight Rye Whiskey.

The big question here is what exactly separates this Lux Row Distillers rye from the aforementioned Rebel 100 Straight Rye. Like the Rebel, the Ezra Brooks 99 has an elevated price point but tiny age statement, with the back label confirming this is merely a two year sourced rye, presumably from MGP of Indiana. Like the Rebel, it’s made from a Kentucky-style rye mashbill of only 51% rye, rather than the famous 95/5 MGP recipe. Notably, the company says this one undergoes a Tennessee-style charcoal filtration, which might set it apart from the Rebel. It has a similarly affordable age statement at $25, though that is notably slightly higher than the Rebel. Suffice to say, we don’t know the full factors that sets these two bottles apart, but it’s safe to say they have more than a little in common, both being value ryes with elevated proof points, likely intended for cocktail bars in particular.

So, given that this is a straight-to-the-point rye, let’s get right to tasting it.

On the nose, Ezra Brooks 99 Rye first presents as green, resinous and somewhat floral. There’s plenty of pepper, a twist of mint and hints of cocoa, suggesting mint chip. It certainly feels like young and spicy, herbal-forward rye to me.

On the palate, there’s honeyed sweetness up front, along with sawdust/lumber notes of oak, and tons of peppery rye spice. This is very pepper forward, although it also segues somewhat into a sweeter spiciness evocative of cola spice. The oak then drives it in the direction of dryness, drying out the palate a little bit, while the ethanol shows its backbone with substantial heat–probably not surprising with the two year age statement. The overall profile is a bit wild and boisterous, and it strikes me as more dry overall than the Rebel 100 was.

Take note, then: As a cocktail rye, this should be favored by someone looking for a brash and spicy rye whiskey that is on the drier side. It has some rough edges, but it’s hard to penalize it much for that given the age statement and price point. All in all, it’s another capable offering on the rye whiskey bottom shelf, with more than enough potency.

Distillery: Lux Row Distillers (Luxco)
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Straight rye whiskey
ABV: 49.5% (99 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $25 MSRP

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

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