29 Jan 2013
I enjoyed Hooker’s House Bourbon—bottled by Prohibition Spirits—when I tried it last summer. Enough so that when I saw they were adding a rye, I felt it was well worth a try.
I’ve become skeptical of bourbon (or rye) bottled by companies that don’t distill their own whiskey, many of which just seem to slap their label on spirit they had no role in making. Hooker’s House, on the other hand, doesn’t hide the fact that they didn’t make the whiskey, but they do finish it in wine barrels that create a distinct spirit.
Plus, I have a strong suspicion that I know who makes the rye that Prohibition Spirits finishes in used California Zinfandel barrels. The number of places that make rye is limited, and the places that sell aged stock is even smaller. Between the lack of Kentucky in the marketing material and the extremely high rye content of 95%, it all points to the Indiana-based Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), the former Seagrams distillery that provides 95% rye for Bulleit, George Dickel, Templeton, High West, and others.
Each of those ryes is its own twist on LDI’s recipe (againg, barrels, filtration, etc…) and Hooker’s House is a “Sonoma-style American rye” because it places the rye in used Sonoma Zinfandel barrels. They don’t give a specific age statement for this 94-proof spirit, but the fact that it is described as “straight rye whiskey” means all the rye has at least 4 years of time in new charred oak barrels.
The result is a rye with a deep copper color and a spicy, woody nose with citrus and cassis. The taste has lots of rye spice—wood and pepper—plenty of heat, and hints of cherry, mint, and vanilla. The finish is long and hot, with more oak and mint.
While the Hooker’s House rye is pleasant enough, it has a rough and unbalanced edge, especially compared to their bourbon. It does, however, make a great Manhattan.
photo credit: Stogie Guys