Is a good river what’s been missing from American whiskey? That’s the question posited by the O.H. Ingram River Aged Series, which kicked off in October 2020 with the release of O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Whiskey. In an attempt to replicate the effects that a long, slow journey down the Mississippi to New Orleans would have had on old-time whiskeys, O.H. Ingram aged their juice on a floating rick house situated on a river bank in Ballard County, Kentucky.
This unorthodox set-up exposes the whiskey to the influence of the Mississippi River, and more importantly, its rise and fall. All that bobbing leads to more interaction between the wood and the liquid, and the brand claims that this pulls greater dividends from a shorter maturation time.
That first experiment must have been a success, because in December O.H. Ingram released its next river-aged statement, a straight rye whiskey. It has a rich, woody nose top-loaded with oak spice, leather, and tobacco leaf. True to expectations, it’s hot on the palate with a medium body and a thick, viscous texture that lazily drapes itself over the tongue and settles right in.
Flavor-wise, from the start we’re hit with vanilla, caramelized-to-burnt sugar and peanut brittle. It heats up considerably at the center, with notes of leather, tobacco, and ash presenting alongside a wall of oak spice. The back grows rounder and sweeter, with flavors turning to vanilla custard, toffee, and caramel beside spiced notes of ginger, cinnamon, apple pie filling, and crust. At the finish, those apple pie flavors are hit by another big lick of oak spice, taking us to a meaty, taking-its-time finish with lingering spice aplenty.
Sure, O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Rye Whiskey brings the spice, but many of its qualities may have you thinking of bourbon, particularly the round vanilla, candied nuts, and big toffee note. But it’s all undergirded by a wonderful spiciness that shifts from the likes of tobacco and leather at the middle to sweet-but-spiced measures of ginger, cinnamon, and other pie-baking delights at the back. Judging from these results, I think it’s safe to say that the Mississippi makes a mean rye whiskey.
— 44.5% ABV