I have to say, this is one of the least attractive bottles I’ve ever seen. Don’t judge a book by its cover…. they say, and because I’ve never tried anything from Widow Jane, let us just hope that the worst part is the visual. The liquid in the bottle is super hazy, with weird clouds of nebulous clumps floating around, in addition to a touch of charcoal dust at the bottom–I really do like the dust. There is a sticker they attached to the top of the bottle that says: “new technique, blah blah blah.” Here is where I have a problem. This sticker, is a bold faced lie. They claim they have a new technique of non-chill filtering that causes this issue? No. This is a very old issue that every distillery encounters. Distillers that choose to proof their whiskey down well below 100 proof (this one is 91), are faced with cloudiness in their bourbon due to the way water interacts with the liquid. So if a distillery wants to non-chill filter (which I’m so glad so many do!) they usually sell it at a cask strength, or at least a bottled-in-bond style. At this proof, the liquid is clear and beautiful. Once you get to 91, it clouds up so you would have to chill filter to remove those elements to make it look attractive. So again, saying that it is a new technique, is just a bold faced lie. The question is whether or not, even with the weird asthetic choice, proofing down a non-chill filtered young rye whiskey to 91 proof is the right decision from a taste perspective. I’m willing to forgive the ugliness of the rye if the taste makes up for it.
Spoiler Alert… it didn’t. The nose is moderately hot, medicinal, soapy, full of cough syrup, menthol, with hints of rock candy, eucaliptis and mint. Not particularly inviting at all.
The taste echoes the nose with heat first and foremost, with unexciting flavors that go into a short finish dominated by more heat. The mouthfeel is the other redeeming aspect of this rye which is due to the non-chill filtered, as you get some nice grippy tannins. Unfortunately this doesn’t salvage the dram.
I did a little research online and here is what I think happened… No where on this bottle does it mention where this whiskey was distilled (is that still legal in this day and age?), and I heard they source it from somewhere in Kentucky. My bet is that this is barely two years old from the new Willett rye production. They ship it up to Brooklyn, and no, not everything is cooler and better in Brooklyn. They probably move it into different barrels they had in the distillery so they can say they finished it in New York. Then they bring a few barrels of water from their eponymous source upstate, and use it to proof down. They probably wanted to bottle this at 100 or higher proof, but the heat is so bad, and they didn’t feel like waiting for the rye to mellow, that they felt they had to release it at the lower proof. Putting a sticker at the top of a label in certain states is legal, not requiring TTB approval, so they stuck it on after the fact once they realized that it wasn’t selling because of the cloudiness. These are all educated guesses, but I’m willing to bet that they are pretty close to the truth. Ultimately, Widow Jane should be embarrassed to put this product out with a label that is a lie, and with a product that isn’t very good. I’m relieved to say that I didn’t buy this bottle, instead my wife received it as a work gift from one of the law firms that her firm works with. I guess they don’t care too much about her business, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent such a shit gift. I can’t believe anyone would pay anything for this awful “craft” whiskey, let alone the $50 MSRP. 73/100