Legal requirements deem that there’s only one way to age an American rye, and that’s in new charred oak casks. But Broken Barrel seems to have found another way.
The company, which distills its whiskeys at Kentucky’s Owensburg Distilling Co., breaks the mold by aging its ryes and bourbons traditionally before adding their namesake addition—broken barrel staves.
In the case of their Heresy straight rye whiskey, which counts itself among the label’s core portfolio, a straight rye whiskey composed of 95% rye and 5% malt that has already spent two years in oak is added to a large tank. There it’s joined by broken staves pulled from a mix of ex-bourbon, new French oak, and sherry casks for further aging and flavoring before being bottled at a heady 105 proof.
On the nose it proves earthy, dusty, even a little musty—as if you’re getting right to the guts of the barrel (or the barrel staves). This might out me as a bibliophile, but it also recalled the particular scent of cracking open the stiff binding of a dusty book pulled from a library shelf.
Broken Barrel Heresy is hot on the palate with a sticky, robust, and dark note of figs followed by brown sugar. It gets hotter and woodier as we march on, hitting leather and cigar box at the center accented by sweet cherries, putting one in the mind of cherry-flavored pipe tobacco.
The back of the palate is hot and aggressive, pushing oak while doubling-down on the tobacco notes. The conclusion is a long, drawn-out hit of spice, cardamom, and pepper with a distant touch of plum.
Broken Barrel Heresy may be a fitting moniker, because this rye is aggressive and unapologetic about it. That’s a great thing if you like your whiskey on the lively side, and Heresy delivers a high-octane performance that’s dark and figgy up front with a double-barrel blast of oak at the end.