Pikesville 6-year-old 110 proof straight rye (55% ABV)
Star rating: 5/5
Master of Malt (£71.95)
The success of Maryland Rye is rooted in the American Civil War. During the conflict, thousands of people found themselves in Maryland, only to drift away again after 1865, leaving with an appetite for the state’s whiskey.
With the railways being built at a rapid pace, savvy local entrepreneurs left Maryland to flog their homeland’s rye whiskey to a desperate public.
Pikesville Rye was first distilled in 1895 in Scott’s Level by L. Winand & Brothers. To this day, some historians assert that the decision to name the whiskey after the nearby town of Pikesville was due to concerns that ‘Scott’s Level’ too closely resembled Scotch.
Thereafter the brand lived many lives. Prohibition forced a closure before being reopened under new management following the repeal, an industrial accident in 1946 led to another change of ownership before the distillery ceased production in 1972 due to failing sales.
Remaining stocks kept the brand going until 1982 when it was sold to Heaven Hill. Pikesville is now made in Kentucky.
There are worse hands to be in than Heaven Hill’s. The company is America’s largest independent, family owned and operated spirits producer, with the second generation of the Shapira family at the helm and the third generation primed to take over when the time comes.
Further to the mom-and-pop nature of the distillery, Heaven Hill was founded by Jim Beam’s cousin, Joe. To this day Joe’s descendants have retained the Master Distiller position, with Craig Beam the current charge.
2016 was a wonderful year for this bottle. Jim Murray gave it his ‘liquid gold’ award and it took home the world’s best rye whisky title at the World Whiskies Awards. Thankfully, this burnt brown pour more than lives up to its illustrious reputation.
Pikesville 6-year-old 110 proof rye’s nose is at once alluring and soothing, confusing you with contrasting notes of double cream and pepper, vanilla and liquorice, caramel and allspice.
The palate carries the liquorice through but beats it down with charred oak, white pepper and cinnamon before picking it back up with a whisper of banana and coconut. The finish is light and fruity, bringing in custard, butter and sprinkles of cinnamon.
The perfect pour
Add a drop of water if you want to open up some of the more complex layers of this one but make sure you sip it straight first, this is a tipple that deserves to be appreciated in all its glory.
Master of Malt (£71.95)
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This review was last updated in June 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.