Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Bender's Rye: A New Canadian Rye
Bender's Rye Whiskey is a seven year old Canadian rye bottled on San Francisco's Treasure Island. When I received this bottle from the company, my initial thought was, do we really need another Canadian rye? The US has been inundated with Canadian ryes lately, but it turns out, this one is a bit different. Unlike the 100% rye mashbill of Jefferson's, Masterson's, Whistlepig and others, this one is 85% rye and 15% corn.
The website states that it was "sourced from an independently owned distillery just south of Calgary." That eliminates Alberta Distillers, the probable source of all of those other ryes, which is in Calgary and not independently owned (it's part of the Beam Suntory empire).
I could have done the hard work of figuring out the sourcing myself, but why reinvent the wheel when I can just call Davin de Kergommeaux, blogger of CanadianWhisky.org, author of Canadian Whisky, the Portable Expert or, as I sometimes call him, that guy who cares about Canadian Whisky. Usually, when I write about Canadian Whisky, I get a long email from Davin listing the many things I got wrong, so I figured maybe I could head that off by calling him before writing anything.
Davin helpfully informed me that Highwood Distillers, makers of White Owl and Centennial Rye, is located just south of Calgary. Given that Bender's lists the Highwood River as one of its water sources, that sounds like a direct hit. Thanks Davin!
I tasted the first batch of Bender's which combines a seven year old rye with an eight year old corn whiskey. The second batch, which is on its way, will combine a nine year old rye and a thirteen year old corn whiskey and will have a higher percentage of rye, around 92%. (In Canada, unlike the US, whiskey made from different grains is usually distilled and aged separately and then combined as opposed to the US method of distilling from a mash combining different grains).
Bender's Rye, 7 yo, Batch 1, 48% abv ($45)
The nose is light with nice rye notes and vanilla. The palate has bold rye spice, juniper, then some sweetness. It's strong for the abv. The finish turns a bit bitter with gin notes and some cotton candy sweetness in the background; the bitterness lingers, almost like an amaro. I'm generally sensitive to bitterness, but this one didn't bother me as it played well with the bold rye notes.
This is decent stuff and a welcome addition to the Canadian ryes that are available in the US as it has a very different profile from those other Canadian ryes. The spicy/bitter contrast would probably make it work well in cocktails as well.
Right now, Bender's is only available in California and Oregon, but it is sold by a number of on-line retailers, including BevMo and K&L.