On a Facebook group I belong to, I saw a post about this rye whiskey that was receiving some good reviews, with nobody really saying anything too negative about it. My interest was definitely peaked, but I didn't go out of my way to find it. While at a store a couple of weeks ago, I came across it, for a discounted price of $43 compared to the normal $50-55 range I've seen it sell for. I decided, let's do it.
That whiskey was Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey.
In 2015, Pikesville won a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, which has over 2,200 total spirits yearly. A double gold rating means that all of the panelists rated the bourbon a gold medal. This leads the bourbon to be in consideration for winning the best in category and/or best in show. So if you find a bourbon that won 'gold', don't let the marketing completely fool you - it's gold, but double gold is what you're looking for.
In order for something to be considered a "Straight Rye Whiskey" it must have at least 51% of it's mashbill be rye. So Pikesville is at the borderline of not even being a rye, making this, depending on the outcome, a good transition drink into the world of ryes.
Mix that knowledge with Pikesville being a Heaven Hill creation, it's really just the big brother to Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-In-Bond, which I've already reviewed. The differences are the extra two years of aging, warehouse location, and 10 extra proof.
Age: 6 years
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery
Mashbill: 37% Corn, 51% Rye, 12% Barley Malt.
Being the big brother of Rittenhouse, I was expecting very similar profile, especially since the mash is the same. Luckily, the lack of complexity that is present in the Rittenhouse doesn't rear it's head with Pikesville.
Pikesville's extra two years of aging makes a huge difference in the complexity department. The typical rye spice is present immediately with only a minimal hint of alcohol on the nose, which is impressive with a rye boosting 110 proof. After the spice, there are plenty of sweet-like smells - syrup, cherry, and warm cinnamon. With a little more time to let it open up, about 5 minutes, clove and mint begin to enter your nostrils. All of the smells blend very nicely to form a lovely experience for your nose. If this is an indicator of things to come, this will be a great rye.
As soon as it hits the tongue, I'm immediately hit with huge bursts of rye spice, but that quickly fades and big bursts of honey and cherry take over. The spice isn't overpowering off the bat, just expected. The cherry and honey duo is a very pleasant and enjoyable experience. From there, notes of oak become apparent near the end of the palate. A huge draw on the nose was the complexity, but sadly that isn't as noticeable. Due to the sweeter aspects of this rye, it saves the taste and allows this be a daily sipper with very little thought. I'd imagine if aged for another 2 years, the lack of complexity on the palate would be cleared up and we'd have the best of both worlds.
While many ryes and bourbons continue to develop and change upon the finish as it hits the back of your throat, it's not really present here. That's not a bad thing in the least, I enjoy the taste, a lot. The lack of complexity on the palate doesn't become as big of an issue with the finish, since as it begins to go down the throat, a bit of heat from the 110 proof begins to take form, which hid itself until this point. The heat gives it a feel of extra complexity. The cherry and honey taste stays with you for quite a while, almost coating your throat all the way down. This rye has a nice medium finish. Slight hints of oak peak through, but I'd really enjoy a bit more to help give more complexity.
This is a tasty rye. A lot of sweet notes with a good combination of spice and heat. It sips like an 80-90 proof rye, but has the fortitude of a 110 proof. It's definitely a rye that you should try, but with the ability to purchase 2 Rittenhouse for the price of 1 Pikesville, is it worth the price? Honestly, I'm in a position where I can choose pretty freely, so with that, I'd rather go with Pikesville. If you are on a budget, I feel Rittenhouse would be a better bet for you. It's definitely worth a try, so if you can get ahold of it, do so.
FINAL SCORE: 91/100