Whiskey Name: Leopold Bros Maryland Style Rye
Distillery: Leopold Bros
Whiskey Type: Rye
Release Date: General release. First came out in 2011
Price: $45. (I can’t find it in the UK)
Mashbill: (Roughly) 65% rye, 15% corn, 20% malted barley
Introduction/Background: Another craft rye; this time from Denver in Colorado. The spiel on the website talks about the two types of “pre-prohibition rye” – Pennsylvania and Maryland. The former was “generally dry, spicy, and heavily oaked”, whilst Maryland style was “fruity, floral, and less aggressive”.
To recreate these flavours, Leopold Bros have played around considerably with yeast strains and “secondary bacterial fermentation”. Golly, fungus and bacteria. When you think about it, we whisk(e)y nerds get excited about some awfully odd things.
Anyhow, it was a fellow whisk(e)y nerd who brought this fungal, bacterial pour to my attention. Jordan, who has scribbled for the website, read about them in Thad Vogler’s By the Smoke and the Smell (which I still need to read) and went hunting on one of his endless US work trips. (I’m not jealous...)
Rightly thinking that some acetic acid bacteria action would be just what I’d like to try, he kindly furnished me with a sample. Which brings us here.
Appearance: Pale copper
Nose: That is a funk. A BIG funk. A fruity, farmyardy, yeasty, grainy funk. With a dab of honey – almost as an afterthought. Over-ripe apples and straw that animals have slept in. A bit of wild strawberry and lavender too. Primal stuff. Puts you outdoors.
Mouth: The funk is reined back a bit here. A bit. Tastes ‘cleaner’, and more typical of modern rye. (Albeit less woody). More polished and oak-influenced than the nose, although the dominant notes are still rye grain and earthiness. I’m put in mind of a young Masterson’s 10 ever so slightly – albeit the mashbills are, of course, very different. A little chocolate, aniseed and yeast.
Finish: A return to the savoury grain and funky, meat. The yeast characteristic lingers.
Value for Money: Worth $45 if you like this sort of thing.
Summary: Bracing, visceral stuff – and a wild ride. Everything about this whiskey seemed to put me outdoors; not so much a pour for late evening in an armchair as something to charge a flask with before a day’s autumn walk across hills and farm-studded woodland.
Run-of-the-mill it ain’t. This is proper whiskey nerd whiskey; no crowd-pleasing here. Given the fairly modest proof, there’s an awful lot of funky flavour (and particularly aroma) to take in. After a cask strength version you’d probably need a lie down.
It’s never going to sit in a “best ever” category. It’s far too weird. Being critical, it’s also rather overtly youthful, and the joyful madness of the aroma stampede doesn’t quite cover up a bit of disjointedness when it comes to harmony. In any case, “best” isn’t really the point. It’s shooting for uniqueness and character, and both of those briefs have been nailed.
By no means for everyone then. But as a bottle to open when you’ve some fellow whiskey nuts round; something to really geek out with a bit, it’s a hit in my book. Though I’d probably stick to just a glass or two. I lack the requisite funkiness.
Overall Verdict: Tread carefully ... but do try it if you find it.
Cheers to Jordan for the sample!
Words by WhiskyPilgrim