Oh Taste & See: Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey is certainly having a moment right now with growing popularity among cocktail enthusiasts, and new brands hitting the market constantly. Today I'm tasting an old classic of the rye whiskey category that has been around, at least in name, for close to 200 years. Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey is a four year old, 80 proof, straight rye whiskey that, in my opinion, sets the standard for other rye whiskeys to shoot for. Originally produced in Pennsylvania, the Old Overholt brand is now made in Kentucky by Jim Beam, but is still happily distinct from the many other bourbons and ryes made alongside it.

At around $18 per bottle it's also a great bargain compared to many of the newer, over-hyped rye whiskeys on the market. In fact, I recently tasted Old Overholt back-to-back with Jim Beam's premium rye whiskey, (ri)1, which sells for $50 per bottle and I definitely preferred the more assertive bite and distinctive character of Old Overholt.

Color: Old Overholt has a rich, caramel-brown color that's darker than you expect from a four year old whiskey. Definitely doesn't look like a lightweight mixing whiskey.

Nose: At first the nose is surprisingly fresh and clean, without any one scent jumping out at you. Given a minute though it opens up to warm, spicy notes and a bit of orange and citrus. A bit like a citrus-scented cleaner, but not in a bad way.

Flavor: A simple, smooth rye whiskey that still manages to be interesting. The spiciness from the nose carries through with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. There are also some very light floral flavors and a hint of maple syrup sweetness. There's not too much oak taste, which along with the spice notes will prevent you from mistaking it for a bourbon.

Finish: The finish is quick and clean but leaves some lingering fruity tastes - ripe grapes and oranges.

Overall I would consider Old Overholt an excellent introduction to the rye whiskey category, an interesting history lesson since it's probably fairly close to the rye whiskeys that were popular before prohibition, and a great bargain as a go-to rye to keep on your shelf.


Anonymous said...

i have a bottle of Old Overholt Rye Whiskey in original box, from 1913 #3908, 114 proof, aged 6 years 1919.

What is the value?

Whiskey Jim said...

I'm not sure even going to guess what the value on that would be, but it sounds like it's in good condition and it's a pre-prohibition version of a brand that still exist which adds some intrigue for any collector. I would recommend contacting an auction house like Bonham's or Sotheby's if you want an accurate estimate of value. I can offer you a big congratulations on the will power that it must take to not pop it open for a sip, I think my curiosity would eventually get the best of me.