Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Taos Lightning: 17 year old MGP Rye

Today I try two 17 year old MGP rye whiskeys bottled by KGB spirits in New Mexico under the Taos Lightning label for K&L.  After being purchased by KGB, the whiskey aged for six years in Santa Fe.  The 6,000 foot altitude and dry atmosphere of Santa Fe is quite a contrast to Indiana, so it will be interesting to see what they are like. Both bottles were distilled in July 1997 and bottled on October 25, 2014.  They are cask strength at 45% abv.

Taos Lightning Rye Cask 15, 17 yo 45% abv ($110)

The nose immediately gives this away as MGP.  Huge rye with some pickle juice. On the palate it's got strong rye with some brown sugar notes to balance it out; it even has a touch of the sandalwood notes you get in prohibition era ryes.  It tastes strong for the proof.  The finish is very nice burnt sugar with rye.  

This is really nice stuff, certainly identifiable as MGP but more complex and balanced than younger MGPs.  I would definitely say this is one of the stronger ryes on the market right now. 

Taos Lightning Rye Cask 16, 17 yo, 45% abv ($110)

The nose on this one is lighter than the 15 and has some added fruit notes.  I get pineapple.  The palate is also lighter than the 15 and much fruitier.  It has plenty of rye notes but it has banana liqueur, black tea and trails off with medicinal notes.  Where 15 is strong for its abv, this one tastes weak. The finish is slightly medicinal with rye notes.  This is decent but nowhere near as interesting and bold as the 15. It's a much lighter, fruitier profile.

It's always interesting to taste similarly situated barrels like these and see what kind of differences there are.  These were quite different.  Cask 15 was a very good, traditional MGP rye, bold and flavorful.  Cask 16 had a very different, much lighter profile.  For me, Cask 15 is a clear winner here; unfortunately, it appears to be sold out.  I guess I have to try to get to these reviews faster.


Anonymous said...

For years, I too have picked up pickle juice with some rye's but never saw anyone write about it, until now. It's not a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Surprising that these only managed to be at 45%abv after 17 years. Were these re-used casks?

sku said...

Anon 1, I often get pickle juice on rye whiskeys, especially the high rye whiskeys from MGP and Alberta Springs.

Anon 2, You can't age rye whiskey in used casks; only new, charred oak. My guess is the six year aging in dry, high altitude Santa Fe increased the angels' share significantly.

tanstaafl2 said...

I managed to purchase one of each before they sold out and based on your review I look forward to trying them in a blind tasting. Will have to think of a wildcard to throw into the tasting as a third option. I will keep your notes hidden from my fellow tasters to see if they find a similar difference between barrels!

sku said...

tanstaafl2, I did the a similar tasting with a group of friends and threw in a dusty rye. It might be fun to throw in a more common MGP like Bulleit and see if the aging (and expense) of these are worth it to your blind tasters.

Whatever you do, report back. I'll be interested to know how it goes.

Alex said...

Anon 1, search pickle juice and you'll see many people mentioning it about MGP rye, especially Bulleit Rye.

Josh said...

I've been really curious about these. Thanks for the review Sku!

tanstaafl2 said...

Finally had a chance to review the two Taos Lightning barrels in a blind side by side with a JE Pepper 15yo, a Redemption Batch 3 6yo barrel proof and a store pick Old Scout 8yo barrel proof, both of which were cut to about 100 proof. We also had a standard Bulleit rye but decided 6 was at least one too many.

The Cask 15 was the consensus pick of the group of 5 participants but the cask 16 was at the bottom.

Cask 15 for me had a lovely nose although I didn't get any pickle juice. Instead it was almost a touch of red fruit for me. Sweet fruit on the tip of the tongue which gave way to an interesting earthy herbaceous/dill note (one person said it was basil). After discussing this review with the group a couple also agreed with the sandalwood note. The finish was long with a nice balance of light sweetness and little or no heat to be seen. The 16 was a bit tired tasting in contrast with a hint of the same herbal note but only faintly and a shorter and mildly herbal finish. I didn't get much in the way of medicinal tones and I tried hard but could find no pineapple!

Interestingly to me, a CEHT rye which was tried afterwards against the Cask 15 was felt to be at least as enjoyable if not better.