Kings County Empire Rye
Rye — New York, USA
Reviewed April 10, 2021 (edited June 21, 2021)
Rating: 16/23 N: Sort of a sour, lightly spicy green wood with sawdust. Probably some dill in here. It's a fairly full nose. P: This is quite a rich rye. There's licorice with some big bold dill. I've never tried an old MGP (well, anything that was expressly just or mostly an old MGP), but this big bold dill flavor is exactly what I would expect from one. There's a lot of herbal stuff going on here. The bottle doesn't say how much rye is in this, but I have to imagine that it's a lot. This is a pretty dry rye and that's probably a good thing. There are some vanilla and floral characteristics that work well, but could be problematic if this were sweeter. Maybe there's the faintest hint of chocolate. This compares favorably with Jim Beam Pre Prohibition Rye, though after trying that, the dill here tastes less old. This still tastes like a fairly mature rye though. It's not as sweet as Russell's Reserve 6 Rye and the flavors are more distinct. With that, it's already passed a pretty high bar. Now, between this and Whistlepig Piggyback, I'd probably take the Whistlepig. I prefer the Piggyback's herbal complexity with more layers and finer balance. This has more barrel on its side, but also working against it because I can't get past the impression that this is dry and over-oaked rather than old. Surprisingly, this is sweeter than the Piggyback though and there is some impressive maturity here. They could be on the same level and this would probably be a better mixer (if one were looking to drop that kind of money on a cocktail). This also compares favorably with Pikesville (which is definitely sweeter): I can't tell which of the two I prefer. Tasting this, I do start to understand the appeal of Knob Creek's bland rye a bit more so I'll need to try both side by side on a fresh palate. F: Tart, dill, floral, herbal, vanilla, a bit of green wood, maybe some clove. It's a very nice rye finish. - Conclusion - This seems to me to be the stand-out among the Kings Country offerings. I wish my order for their peated bourbon hadn't gotten mixed up with their peated single malt, but I suspect that I was not about to be blown away by that either. The rye flavor in this is just quite nice. It's a simple rye with Kings County influence, but its flavors aren't muddled, overly sweet, or otherwise cloying or jarring. Considering that, it's easy to enjoy. When it comes to scoring, I find that Russell's Reserve 6 Rye is sweeter and richer, arguably with more balance, but its overall profile is more muddled, whereas this is crisp. I'd say that the two are in the same ballpark, but this is a bit better. Moving on to Whistlepig PiggyBack, the Whistlepig tastes somewhat more mature with a refined mustiness, a bit more complex, and also more balanced. This nails those few loud flavors and bolder MGP dill, but the Whistlepig is the better whiskey. Still, this is surprisingly close. Pikesville is another great rye that this competes pretty well with. I think I'd give the win to the Pikesville for its richness and complexity, though obviously this is the more pure rye experience. Of this grouping of very good ryes, I find that the Kings County ranks above the Russell's, but below the Whistlepig and Pikesville. I think I underrated the latter 2 previously and they really might deserve 17s. Seeing as I gave Russell's Reserve 6 Rye a 16, this is either a 16 or a 17. I might have overrated the Russell's though. If it's really a 15, then this is definitely a 16. I think I'm going with a 16 right now.
104.0 USD per Bottle