Wild Buck Rye (Small Batch, 100% Rye)
100 Proof – NJoy Spirits
All along the Bourbon Trail, tour guides at Kentucky’s best-known distilleries tout the state’s limestone filtered water, the combination of its hot summers and cold winters, and its ancient ricks as the perfect environment for producing the highest quality whiskey in the United States. But far from the stomping grounds of Beams and Pogues and Van Winkles, something is lurking in the cypress stands of Weeki Wachi, Florida. On an 80 acre farm and distillery, Kevin and Natalie Goff are making Wild Buck Rye. And they’re doing it the right way, often by hand. If you’re not a Floridian, odds are you haven’t encountered this small batch, 100% rye whiskey yet. (It’s available at ABC Liquor Stores throughout the state.) But once you taste it, I can promise you one thing: you’ll wish you’d found it sooner. Much sooner.
Kevin and Natalie grow some of their own rye and are happy to disclose that what they can’t produce themselves is locally sourced from a grower about 20 minutes down the road. The operation is about as ecologically friendly as it gets: they grind their own grains daily, utilize collected rainwater in the mash cooking process, and use the spent grain to feed their livestock. Wild Buck Rye is twice distilled and bottled at 100 proof after aging for a minimum of ten months and maximum of seventeen months. (The blend balances out to about a year.) Unlike larger scale distilling operations, which work with standard-sized barrels, Wild Buck is blended from different sized barrels (ranging from 5 to 25 gallons) after they’ve been intentionally exposed to the Florida sun and even frequently rotated to “enhance” the aging process. The constant heat creates a relatively larger loss to evaporation (also known as the “Angel’s Share”) but also works some genuine, Deep South magic on the whiskey that does survive.
The nose on Wild Buck is a mix of caramel, sweet grain, dark chocolate, and wood; not much vanilla and just a hint of rye spice. Despite its scent profile, Wild Buck is not overly sweet. Be ready for an immediate, pleasant heat on the tongue that will give way to a spicy mix of wood and chocolatey-leather. The finish is relatively short for a spirit bottled at 100 proof, but it’s by no means harsh or bitter for such a young whiskey and it comes in two phases: the dissipating heat trail you expect, followed by the quick and unexpected resurgence of spice and wood on the back of the tongue, which more than makes up for the aforementioned dissipation.
Full disclosure: Wild Buck Rye is probably not for newcomers to whiskey, especially if said newcomer has been introduced to the genre on a diet of wheated products or 80 proofs. This isn’t a muted or sweet spirit, and I mean that as a true compliment. This is the kind of whiskey that should come out for company when the folks who won’t know the difference—or who don’t care about the difference—have gone home. It’s hearty and earthy and rye drinkers will love it neat or on the rocks with a single cube. All of this in mind, perhaps the best news I can deliver is that Kevin and Natalie are in the process of upgrading to a significantly larger mash tub, which should increase their production capabilities dramatically.
Value: Med-High—In the $50 to $55 range, this certainly isn’t on the cheap end of the rye spectrum, but it’s appropriately priced. Check here for a full range of shopping options.
Drinkability: Medium—As I said before, this probably shouldn’t be the first sip of whiskey someone ever takes, but it should definitely be in the mix once they know enough to appreciate it.
Overall Rating: 8.3
* Special thanks to Natalie and Kevin Goff for graciously providing a review sample.