Whisky Advocate

Review: Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey

August 5th, 2011

Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey, 10 year old, 47%, $40

A 100% straight rye from Canada. This is curiously similar to WhistlePig Rye, which is also a 100% Rye, 10 year old Canadian whisky, but at the slightly higher 50% ABV. (Neither whiskey identifies its origin.) It oozes spice (mint, cinnamon, hint of nutmeg) balanced by layers of sweetness (honeyed vanilla, caramel), with nutty toffee emerging on the finish. An affordable alternative to WhistlePig. — John Hansell

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85

23 Responses to “Review: Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey”

  1. Scott says:

    The name and bottle art really bothers me on this one. Why is it Jefferson’s? Why not MacDonald’s, or McKenzie King’s, or something? It’s not like Canada is lacking in famous dead people with catchy names and interesting profiles. Anything calling itself Jefferson’s should come from Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, states within the Louisiana Purchase, or certain parts of California and Oregon.

    • MrTH says:

      I was just thinking the same thing. I gather that Jefferson’s is an American company that usually bottles bourbon, and I guess I can understand that they wanted to release this under their usual label. But yes, it strikes me as weird. But most Americans won’t give it a second thought, or even a first; and 99% of them wouldn’t know who Macdonald or Mackenzie King are. Besides, John A was a raging alcoholic, and King a teetotal, so they probably aren’t the best choices, anyway….

      • Scott says:

        See, I think a whisky’s namesake being either a famous teetotaler or a notorious drunk would only increase the awesomeness and marketability! I mean, sure, Winston Churchill was one of history’s most hardcore drunks. That would only make an English whisky called “Churchill’s” even more attractive to me. Likewise, Abraham Lincoln is not know to have ever drunk a sip of liquor, and he was an active supporter of temperance, but put his name and face on a bottle of rye and I’ll be all over it.

        Maybe shorten it to just McKenzie’s. That way, Canadians would associate it with Alexander, and Americans, with Bob and Doug. Either way is a win, from a marketing perspective!

  2. Archaeology Carl says:

    Similar review as the WhistlePig Rye in terms of taste, but at a slightly lower rating. Why the lower score? Could it be the lower proof? Variability/quality of the selected barrels? Could the price be a reflection of the the quality? (I’m assuming the Canadian distillery would be asking for a higher price on higher quality barrels of rye). I’m also curious if you noted any differences, not just similarities, between the two. Regardless, I expect to pick up a few bottles in the next week or so.

    • John Hansell says:

      I think it is a combination of variables. I do think the whiskey expresses itself better at the higher proof. There does also seem to be some slight variability.

    • AaronWF says:

      Tasting this side by side with the Whistle Pig has actually inflated my already high opinion of WP. The Jefferson’s has more of a general, glazed sweetness, whereas Whistle Pig’s sweetness is more succinct; less gooey, more crystal. The Jefferson’s, though lower in proof, runs a bit hotter than the WP. The notes they share are just brighter with the WP.

      I think John’s line “An affordable alternative to Whistle Pig,” is very appropriate.

  3. Rick Duff says:

    !00% Rye.. any idea what % is malted rye vs unmalted rye?
    They use unmalted rye in Bourbon making, right?
    I remember Canadian Club saying they use malted rye though.
    Was hoping a Canadian expert could weigh in on practices of the unmalted vs malted rye.
    Thanks!

    Also.. is the guy that owns Whistle Pig the same guy that puts on the super luxury whisky show in Las Vegas that is like $600 to get in?

    • Lawrence says:

      Rick the Nth Whisky Show is Las Vegas is run by Mahesh Patel. Dave Pickerell is the man behind Whistle Pig.

      If I was to hazard a guess and I’m going to do so right now I’ll bet Jefferson’s is from Alberta Distillers in Calgary.

      However I’m just guessing.

      • Rick Duff says:

        Ah.. it’s Raj Bhakta Founder/CEO WhistlePig. My bad.. I know Dave is the expert behind Whistle Pig.. but apparently Raj is the money behind it.

  4. thomas mckenzie says:

    A Mckenzie that was a teetotal? Why he needs to be disowned. There is a good bit of difference in the taste of sprirt from malted and unmalted rye.

    • sam k says:

      I agree, Thomas, and I’m on the unmalted side of the fence. I’m not a fan of any all-malted rye whiskey I’ve ever tasted. Makes an immense difference.

      • thomas mckenzie says:

        I like the flavor of malted. In my opinion it tones down the spicy notes of rye. Makes a lot of difference on who malts the rye. You do not want it roasted. Just dried.

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Thomas, I’m unfamiliar with the distinction between the flavors produced by malting or not malting rye– How would you describe them. Any parallels to the consequences of malting or not malting barley?

          • thomas mckenzie says:

            I think it is just like the difference between malted and unmalted barley. To me, malting tones down the spiciness of the rye. And malted rye makes for a smoother lighter spirit.

          • sam k says:

            Red, I think malted rye imparts a distinct sharpness to the spirit that isn’t my cup of tea. I’ve found the same result on my palate with any whiskey that’s mostly malted grain, regardless of mashbill.

          • Josh West says:

            Hey Red, have you had Fritz Maytag’s Old Potrero Rye Whiskey (18th Century)? That whiskey has a distinct malted rye flavor if I’m not mistaken. Very herbal. When I was sipping the McKenzie I found similarities, which caused me to wonder about the malted or unmalted rye… and thus find this posting. Anyways, if you’re wondering about McKenzie Rye, it reminds me of Old Potrero but with a very rich sherry influence (cherries and raisins… mmm…).

  5. Gene Saunders says:

    I just tasted this a few minutes ago. I taste citrus here, clashing with the other flavours, which does not at all work for me. This is ok, but not great. This is a far cry in quality from Whistlepig.

    I agree that it is quite cheesey to import a Canadian whisky and then name it Jefferson’s. You have to examine the fine print on the small label on the side to notice that this is produced in Canada. This labeling really does appear to be designed to minimize the consumer’s ability to diciper this whisky’s national origin.

    As to malted vs unmalted rye flavors, to me it matters how it is done, and who is doing it. I like the stronger unmalted flavors in general, but 100% malted Old Potrero 18th Century tastes fantastic to me!

  6. George Jetson says:

    Anyone tried diluting their WP to 47% and do a h-t-h after it settles down? Maybe you can have the best of both worlds that way. WRT unmalted rye, the other huge difference is the type of enzymes or adjuncts added to extract and convert the starches from the grain. Alberta Springs has a proprietary process and hence is the only place I know of that produces a quality 100% unmalted rye whiskey. To whomever asked about the comparison to unmalted barley; to me there are parallels. The unmated barley in Irish gives a sort of brittle edge to me and I find the same sort of character in unmalted rye.

  7. Red_Arremer says:

    Just split a bottle of this with my girl and broke it open. We are enjoying it very much. She comments that she feels that it is “missing something.” I detect this as well– It gives the impression that a sweet penetrating clarity, which might have been, is absent… However I like it just the way it is– as a very dry, herbal whisky, with no flaws, roughness, or heat, and a great mouthfeel which is also eminently sippable. I would start someone on ryes with this and sip it any time myself.

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