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James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

Last November, when I was in Kentucky, I was looking for something I couldn’t get at home. I stood in the whiskey aisle of Liquor Barn trying to find something that was both normally unavailable to me and affordable. I looked for a while. A long while. My wife was in a hurry to get to the hotel. I wasn’t making her happy with my dawdling.

It didn’t take too much longer for me to finally grab something that I’d heard of, but hadn't had. That something was James E. Pepper 1776 Rye. I’d remembered that I’d heard something about it. Problem was, that I didn’t remember what I’d heard. I thought I remembered something positive. At the very least, I seemed to remember that I hadn’t heard anything bad. 

It turns out I had heard the good things about the 15 year version of the James E. Pepper line. And this was not that. In fact, after I got home, I realized that it claimed to have 95% Rye. So…MGPi. But I tend to like that flavor profile. And it was 100 proof and under $30 so I wasn’t too upset with the pickup.

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey

Purchase info: ~$28, Liquor Barn, Louisville, KY

Nose: Pine forest and mint. Hints of cherry fruitiness, citrus and tobacco.

Mouth: Thick and oily. Mint. Soap. More cherry hints. Lots of pine and pickle juice.

Finish: More pickle. Warmth that lasts. Mint that lasts even longer.

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Thoughts: I thought the nose was the most interesting part of this one. It’s very nice. I Iiked the whiskey neat, my wife didn’t. Though I will admit, it is a bit one-note. But it made a good Sazerac (which is my go to rye cocktail). In the end, this is basically a higher proof version of Bulleit Rye. It’s a bit sweeter. The flavors are a little bit muddier. If you like that flavor profile and this is sold near you, pick it up (if you don’t like that flavor profile, I’d advise you to skip it). It's a pleasant enough whiskey, but what I really like about it is that the bottler isn’t charging an arm and a leg for something they didn’t produce. MGPi juice gets a poor reputation, not because it is bad, but because people keep trying to pass it off as their own “craft” and charging small producer prices for it. In this case, it’s about the same price as the most widely distributed MGPi (Bulleit) and it’s a higher proof. So that’s a win.