England

Oxford Rye Whisky Batch 5 Red Red Rye

Oxford Red Red Rye 2017 Harvest #005

1. What they say

This latest offering from the distillery, is a triple-matured rye whisky with a rich, wine influence. The reddest of ryes, it is the result of a love affair between heritage grains, virgin American oak casks, and three legendary sweet wine casks; a Pedro Ximenez butt and two Vintage Port barriques. A celebration of grains and grapes, this bottling is an exploration of the Oxford Rye Whisky’s house character, with a decadent fortified wine profile, perfect for the time of year.

As with all the products they produce, responsible farming is the first stage in the distillery’s whisky making process; taking time, regenerating the land and supporting biodiversity with every bottle. The grain used for this batch was made up of multiple ancient heritage rye strains, wheat strains and even a few oats and a few thistles grown together in healthy, diverse fields.

Working with Head of Grain & Sustainable Development, John Letts, all of the grains are grown regeneratively and sustainably, using absolutely no pesticides or chemical fertilisers – contributing to an abundance of wildflowers, insects and birds across the distillery’s farms.

Red Red Rye’s initial maturation was for one year in casks #12 and #13, both virgin American oak which gave the new make its classic house profile. For the second maturation, both casks were blended into cask #72, a Pedro Ximenez butt, for two years to give it the depth of aged sweet wine. For the final maturation cask #72 was split into two Vintage Port barriques, casks #268 & #269, for a year to brighten the liquid. The result is a highly luxurious whisky, full of the deep raisin character of sweet oxidised wine with tannic fruitiness, sweetness and body.

Master Distiller Francisco Rosa comments: “Some may say a Pedro Ximenez cask followed by a second maturation in Vintage Port is extravagant, or perhaps even excessive, but we argue it’s the perfect level of festive indulgence.”

Adding: “Using extremely good quality old wine and new wine casks we have preserved the balance and structure between our house character and the wine influence. It’s a rye whisky with a viticultural personality; think violets and berry jam alongside toffee apples in a pine forest. I’d recommend sipping it by the fire, or after dinner paired with cheese – it also makes an excellent Manhattan.”

Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #5, 46.4% ABV, consists of only 610 bottles, priced at £150 and is available to purchase from 25th November directly from the distillery’s website or from specialist retailers including: Master of Malt, Hedonism, The Whisky Exchange and The Whisky Shop.

2. Official tasting notes

It’s a rye whisky with a viticultural personality; think violets and berry jam alongside toffee apples in a pine forest.

3. Details

  • ABV 46.4%
  • Age NAS
  • Bottler OB
  • Bottling Red Red Rye
  • Cask PX & Port casks
  • Category English Rye whisky
  • Cost £150
  • Origin The Oxford Artisan Distillery
  • Outturn 610 bottles
  • Region England
  • Released 2021
  • Vintage 2017

4. What I say

Batch 5 of the Oxford Artisan Distillery 2017 Harvest Rye whisky features a maturation in both PX sherry and Port casks inducing a deep ruby colour to the eponymous Red Red Rye. Perhaps we are approaching market saturation already with new distilleries and their quirky young releases. This one launched to a modicum of grumbling and outright disdain at the pricing on social media discussions. On the face of it £150 does seem quite steep for a 4 year old whisky, regardless of the quality of distillate or cask used, there is still a lot of good bottles on the shelf that you could buy 2 of at that price. Released in November 2021 this is still available from the Distillery shop online as of nearly April 2022 despite an outturn of just over 600 bottles.

This review was sponsored by The Oxford Artisan Distillery via provision of a sample of this product.

5. The Whiskyphiles tasting notes

  • Colour Dark ruby bronze (16/20), medium tears and legs.
  • Nose ‘Dry’ and tannic, dusty, ginger beer, Irn Bru, cereal rich, wholewheat & rye-bread, marmite, malt extract, balanced against forest fruits and bramble jams.
  • Taste Medium-full bodied, chewy cereal bas with raisins and chocolate chips, oaty, later gingerbread and ryebread, robust tannic chewy oak, remarkably not too spicy, apples and blackcurrant.
  • Finish Long, powdered baking spices, ginger root and black fruit sweetness.

6. Overall

Another rich and cereal led expression as I’ve come to expect from TOAD’s Rye expressions. This is up there with the best of them (possibly Batch 1). The cask combination delivers ginger beer and jammy black fruits and of course that superb colour. I’m still not convinced about the pricing of this expression though there are certainly no complaints about what is inside the bottle.

7. Score 85/100

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