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Review: Masterson’s Rye Whiskey

Masterson’s Rye is one of the latest rye whiskeys sourced from Canada. It’s a 100% rye, which is tough as hell to distill. The distiller that makes this juice is said to be the same that produced Whistlepig and Jeffereson’s Rye. The family resemblance among them is very apparent, but each of these whiskeys differ in the flavor delivery department.

Masterson’s is sourced and then bottled by 35 Maple Street, a new spirits company based out of Sonoma, CA. The operation is a division of The Other Guys, a wine company with an ever growing portfolio of wine brands. Started by siblings, Mia and August Sebastiani (of the Sebastiani wine family), 35 Maple Street has plans to produce a gin, and have also put out a small batch bourbon recently (review coming soon).

Masterson’s was named after Bat Masterson, who was an old west lawman. August Sebastiani says he was fascinated by the Wild West and thought the name was fitting for their first whiskey. I suppose the name is meant to conjure up images of the frontier and gun slingers, but that’s all about the marketers. How does it taste?

Masterson’s Rye Whiskey, 45% abv (90 proof), $70

Color: Deep Golden

Nose: Bright and floral rye grain, juniper, crushed green herbs (cilantro, dill, and spearmint), a touch of menthol and then the woody spice notes from clove and nutmeg. A bit of sour apple fruitiness tries to break through late in the nose, but the spice and grain chokes it out. This is not a particularly sweet nose. It’s laden with crisp and clean spices.

Palate: Again – crisp and sharp as a razor blade. Brittle burned caramel provides restrained sweetness, quickly shattered by the onslaught of spices – mint, chili flake, vanilla, anise, and pine. The influence of the barrel adds dryness, accentuating the prickle and heat halfway through the sip. Spicy and beautiful stuff, but a shade one sided and requiring a bit more sweetness to balance things out.

Finish: Long waves of dry, spicy rye grain, some heat, and bitterness.

Overall: Masterson’s rye is an excellent rye whiskey busting with character. It’s bright and well spiced on the nose and palate. However, it falls short of its sibling, Whistlepig, which manages to bring similar layers of spice (albeit restrained slightly), but does so with more balance, sweetness, and depth of flavor. At virtually the same price, my pick would be Whistlepig, but Masterson’s may be more appropriate for you if you like your rye’s spicier, drier, and crisper.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.6 (Very Good/Excellent)

30 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Glad to see another good rye on the market. Sad to see another product priced at this price-point.

  2. Ford says:

    With Sonoma just up the road from me, I almost pulled the trigger on Masterson. But then High West Rendezvous was restocked and I grabbed a bottle to replace the one I had recently finished.

  3. Good call Ford. The Rendezvous is better than the Mastersons, imo.

  4. DBMaster says:

    I’ll echo Andrew. Jason, you’re whiskey budget is a good bit more generous than mine. And, here I thought I spent too much. For $70, it had better be a lot better than an 8.6.

  5. DBMaster says:

    Darn it! Sorry you guys. I meant “your,” not “you’re.” I know better, but this blog doesn’t allow me to edit my comments after the fact.

  6. DBMaster, fortunately I have good friends like Sku to supply me with a sample. Cheers!

  7. DBMaster says:

    Jason; this reminds me of a line from “Back to School.” “If you want to look thin, hang out with fat people.” It’s not 100% relevant, but I would say having the samples provided like that is awesome.

  8. Justin Victor says:

    Jason,

    As you point out that the Whistle Pig, Mastersons, and Jeffersons all come from the same distillery, my initial question some time back would have been “how different could they be?”. So I got the opportunity to sample Jeffersons and Mastersons side by side and “blind”. My friends tasting with me and I all decided that they were both fantastic ryes. But as far as choosing a favorite we were split. One chose Mastersons, one chose Jeffersons and one was undecided.

    So I move to price. In my neck of the woods Mastersons is $65 -$70. Jeffersons is $30 – $35. Jefferson’s thus becomes my hands down winner.

    Mastersons has a better back story, and much better packaging but those two items dont make it worth twice the price.

  9. iskch1 says:

    Jason,

    First time posting and you do have great reviews. I’m not an expert but learning step by step. I read your reviews and others like this one about Rye whiskeys. What entry level rye whiskey would you recommend? Something on the budget of $ 15.00 to $ 25.00. Thanks!

  10. Texas says:

    Gonna have to pass when I can get Bulleit Rye at $26 and Willet 110 proof rye at $36.

  11. Sal in GA says:

    I have to ask, since I am beginning to appreciate rye more and more. Do they use the sour mash method of distilling like some (all?) bourbons do?

    BTW I finally found a bottle of Rittenhouse in Duluth GA after searching for months. It’s extremely challenging, probably too much for my immature pallet, but your brilliant review is helping me learn what to look for.

    Can I talk you into reviewing a few more bottom tier bottlings? This $70 a bottle stuff is just teasing me unnecessarily. :)

  12. DBMaster says:

    Jason, why is rye whiskey so hard to distill? If it is made with 100% rye I am guessing that some, or all of it, would have to be germinated (malted) first. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have the enzymes to convert the starch to sugar. Are we sure it’s not like LDI’s 95% rye = 5% malted barley thrown in to provide the conversion reaction?

  13. sam k says:

    DBMaster, in situations like this, the enzymes are usually procured in liquid form and are added into the mash to promote fermentation.

    High West’s new OMG rye is an example where some of the rye has been malted in lieu of adding enzymes, but I think this is more the exception than the rule in a 100% rye mash.

  14. Thanks Sam – you covered it on the 100% ryes. MOST of the time enzymes are used to aid starch to sugar conversion. And also good point on OMG. As far as I know, one of the few, if not the only malted Rye. Pretty cool, and I can’t wait to taste it aged. My review is forthcoming on that one, but I remember the first I heard about it as WhiskyFest in Chicago. David Perkins had just left you after trying some good ole PA ryes!

    DBMaster, Rye is a tough one to mash properly. It has a high gluten content and it wants to gum up. I’m not distiller and don’t pretend to be, but I also believe you have to fuss with the temperature as well to get it right. Picture glue – that’s what your essentially deal with in cooking/mashing 100% rye. Barley malt adds little in the way of flavor in the percentages that are used mostly for Rye and Bourbon whiskey. It’s simply there to aid the starch conversion. So in the absence of barley malt – the enzymes are used. I hope that helps.

  15. Sal in GA – the Sour Mash process may very will still be an integral process for some, but I am not sure just how common it is for Rye production. THat’s a great question and one I’ll try to get an answer on.

    As for Bottom Tier reviews – absolutely. Working on that now. Stay tuned as I think you’ll see a number of more entry level and lower cost options coming soon. Thanks for the comment!

  16. Iskch1 – I would recommend Bulleit Rye at that price range. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

  17. Justin I can’t argue with that. I need a longer sit down with Jefferson’s but if it’s close with you- defaulting to price makes good sense.

  18. DBMaster says:

    Thanks, all. That does answer my questions about mashing with rye. I guess that means if I ever decide to become a moonshiner I’ll stick with fruit, sugar, and/or corn. LOL

  19. DBMaster says:

    Have any of you tried Alberta Premium? It’s currently in the Beam Global portfolio and it is 100% Canadian rye.

  20. Andrew says:

    Ralfy did a review on the Alberta Premium previous and thought it good giving it an 88/100 and gave it high praise at its price, though it was a young rye product. Unfortunately, I have not seen it here in the states and I am on constant patrol for new rye product. Not much reaching S FL, not even Rittenhouse.

  21. Andrew says:

    Alberta Springs rye whisky is another I have been looking for in my travels without success.

  22. Andrew keep looking for the Rittenhouse. They are starting to push more out there and you never know when you’ll come across it. Cheers!

    DBMaster – haven’t tried Alberta. I’ll look for it.

  23. JWC says:

    the masterson’s is significantly cheaper here in texas, probably because rye doesn’t sell well here. i’m with texas (the poster), the willett and jefferson’s are compelling purchases for less money. however, since i can’t buy whistlepig here in texas, i’ll probably get a bottle for comparison purposes.

    the rittenhouse rye is becoming increasingly difficult to find here in texas. the stores got a big shipment in about a month ago. isn’t the distillate changing soon? grab some bottles while you can fellas.

  24. Andrew says:

    Jason, previously I emailed Heaven Hill about the ability to obtain either Rittenhouse or Pikesville here in FL as it was not listed in the catalogs of any of those distributing within the state. Their response was that they do not provide those products for shipment to FL and do not foresee it any time in the near future. I guess limited production mean limited distribution. The result of which has helped limit the list of rye whiskies available in this part of FL. Have to go outside the state or online to see any real selection.

  25. Andrew that stinks that you aren’t able to get some of these great ryes. They are definitely worth looking for when you travel out of the state.

  26. Severin says:

    I thought Masterson’s was great though I probably won’t be buying at near $70. I definitely liked it better than Whistlepig which was too sweet for me.

  27. Nick says:

    The ironic thing about this whisky ( I’m a Canadian.) is that Bat Masterson was from Canada too.

  28. Randy Perrelet says:

    I am starting to think that any comparison between Whistle Pig and Masterson’s is comparing apples to oranges. There is a terrific article about the problems distilling 100% rye: http://www.canadianwhisky.org/news-views/whistlepig-10-year-old-straight-100-rye-whiskey.html
    Basically, there are two distillers in Canada who make 100% rye, but they use completely different methods. Having tasted both side by side, I suspect that Masterson’s is made from malted rye (Hiram Walker) and Whistle Pig is made from unmalted rye (Alberta Distillers).

  29. Randy Perrelet says:

    Oops! Sorry. Got it ass-backwards. Masterson’s is distilled at Alberta Distillers in Calgary.

  30. gn842 says:

    Bulleit is very nice sort of generally available high class whiskey. But Whistle Pig outshines it as far as light excelleth darkness. I had it several nights in a row while staying in San Francisco. I’m going to have to buy a bottle, but I must say, not being a big drinker, it takes me awhile to drink this one down. If it’s too pricey for run of the mill occasions it certainly is the kind of bottle that makes a good sipping present for Xmas or a birthday.

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] (a whisky made by wine-makers). Sour Mash Manifesto awarded Whistlepig a 9.4 while giving Masterson’s an 8.6, a remarkably lower score. And finally Whisky Advocate accorded Whistlepig an 89 and [...]

  2. [...] The whiskey is getting some nice reviews as well. The Whiskey Reviewer, Sour Mash Manifesto. [...]

  3. [...] The whiskey is getting some nice reviews as well. The Whiskey Reviewer, Sour Mash Manifesto. [...]