catoctin creek roundstone rye maple cask rye whiskey bottle
Image: Hilary Highland

Twice a year, Virginia’s Catoctin Creek Distilling releases a cask-strength version of their flagship Roundstone Rye. In October of 2020, that cask-strength release—bottled around 59% ABV—happened to be finished in maple syrup barrels from D.C.-based Langdon Wood Maple Syrup. 

The first thing I have to address is the color. Maple Cask Finish is one of the most beautiful whiskeys I’ve ever seen: It has a dark, ruddy color that almost veers to burgundy, and had me thinking of well-worn cordovan leather. On the olfactory side, it’s no less enticing; the whiskey has a big, oaky nose with plenty of wood spice girded by a sweet and round maple undercurrent. There are also detectable traces of leather and brown sugar. 

It has a thick, velvety texture on the palate and begins hot and heavy with a blast of oak spice. But that hot, dry wood meets round, sweet maple at the middle, where it also intermingles with caramel and brown sugar until I felt like I was chewing on a piece of leaf-shaped maple candy at a Vermont gift shop. But for all the candied notes, its hot, woody side takes back control at the end, where the oak presence increases while sneaking in some dark, fruity notes including cherry. Once the cherry burns off, we’re left with dry cinnamon and an incredibly long, oaky finish that wraps up with sweet caramels just when you think you’ve stopped paying attention. 

Catoctin Creek Maple Cask Finished Rye is an extraordinary whiskey. Maple can sometimes feel like a gimmick in the whiskey world, but that is not the case here. The sweet, round flavors of maple syrup seem to twist around every inch of this woody, spicy, and delightfully aggressive whiskey, resulting in a dram that’s at once incredibly dry and oaky yet round and sweet. And while it’s an absolute delight neat, I found that it makes a stellar Old-Fashioned as well, where the dilution softens its cask-strength character while retaining its velvety texture and even enhancing the maple sweetness. 

★★★★

Stats:
— 58.9% ABV (varies slightly by bottle)
— $89


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