Masterson's Straight Rye Whisky is one of treats I reach for on rare occasion. It's not the most expensive bottle of whisky in my cabinet--far from it--but this premium line of rye whisky that's not always easy to get.
The story of this Canadian rye crosses the boarder into the United States. A Californian company with a century of wine making decided to delve into high-quality spirits so that it could be sold along with their wine. 35 Maple Street is the spirit division of The Other Guys, which is related to the Sebastiani family in California. Master's Rye is 100% rye made at the Alberta Distillery in Calgary, bottled in California and sold through-out North America. It's considered an artisanal whisky; aged 10 years in new white-oak casks, and distilled in a pot still for plenty of flavour.
The whisky is named after the American William "Bat" Masterson that is described on the bottle as a gambler, buffalo hunter, army scout, gunfighter, and newspaperman. The name has no relationship to the whisky, but the old photo of William Masterson (along with his story) on the curved attention-grabbing bottle is a nice stroke of branding. I'm not against clever branding to get people to buy the whisky as long as the product itself is of high quality. And it is.
Most whisky is column distilled whisky blended with pot still whisky. Column distillation is incredibly efficient, but it also cuts out much of the flavour from the grain. For a mild-flavoured smoother whisky, column distillation is excellent, but I'm biased toward whiskies with more personality. Pot stills are less efficient at distillation, allowing for larger molecules (some of which that provide flavour) to evaporate up the still and condense along with the alcohol. Pot still whisky is more expensive to make compared to column still whisky. Masterson's is 100% rye and pot still whisky, and that's represented in the price.
The attention grabbing nose is sharp with fresh citrus, barnyard dust, and floral notes reminding me of perfume. An unripe banana might similarly perk up your senses, though this is slightly heavier with sweetness. The first sip needs to be gentle to truly appreciate this drink. It starts out as a complex tune that settles through your mouth. Vanilla flavours from the wood are so very light, certainly considering this is a 10 year old new oak aged rye. Instead, rye-based peppery spice really takes hold of your tastebuds after a few short moments. Notes of liquorice turn beneath the spice. The complexity of this drink is wonderful, and takes you through natural earthy flavours leading into a long dry finish. You'll taste plenty of peppery-spice on the end, enough to tickle the top of your throat, and as the rye sugars settle on your tongue along with an pleasant oils. You'll be left with a rewarding warmth.
Some find 100% rye whisky too harsh on the palate, but Masterson's style is far more delicate by comparison to cheaper ryes. With so few bottles left here in Ontario, I can only hope that Masterson's will return. By the time you read this, I've likely already purchased another bottle (Or two).