Rye Whisky Review: The Gospel v Archie Rose – keep calm, these whiskies will help

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On tasting: The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey, Archie Rose Sandigo Heritage Rye Whisky

 

I received a phone call from a senior whisky industry figure the other day. It was a worried, fearful phone call – feelings we’re all pretty familiar with right now. It was about Australian whisky, how some distilleries are struggling, how cash flow is a problem. Large debt’s a problem; it’s hard to sell whisky once the first few releases are out the door – that’s becoming a problem.

There’s too much overpriced whisky, there’s no scalability, the caller said. I rarely see Australian whisky in normal bars, he told me, or even getting poured in dedicated whisky bars.

Add the COVID-19 crisis, and this senior industry figure was wondering if a number of Australian whisky producers might go under.

I listened intently, told him I know these issues need to be worked out, and that there’s some seriously difficult times ahead, but that ultimately, I’m still incredibly positive about the future of the industry. And it’s whiskies like the two reviewed here that are driving that belief.

For quality, consistency, and perhaps most importantly, value for money, some of the Australian rye and mixed grain whiskies released in the last 12 months have blazed a new trail. And the philosophy and methodology behind their approach is not particularly complicated.

What The Gospel Distillers, Archie Rose, and many others, have done, is create affordable, approachable Australian whisky. It’s consistently available, displays distinct distillery character, has a sense of place, talks up the grains it’s made from, and achieves impeccable balance between spirit and oak. On top of that, it tastes bloody good, too.

It’s whisky you’re happy to pour freely for friends and family, have on hand as a regular go to, and heaven forbid, mix in cocktails!

It’s whisky that gets back to what whisky is about – sharing. And in our current climate, we could definitely use more of that. Less hoarding, less fear-mongering. More sharing, more understanding, more enjoyment. So let’s keep calm, support those in need, grab a local whisky or two, and let’s share it around (the whisky and the hope, I mean, not the virus).

  • The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey
    The Stats
    • ABV: 45%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Rye whisky
    • Production Story: Made from a mash of 100% rye sourced from a single farm in the Murray Mallee. First distillation in a self-built column still before a second distillation in a pot still. Matured for a minimum two years in new 200 litre American oak barrels.
    • Location: Melbourne, VIC
    • Score: 90
    Nose
    Dense rye upfront, properly cereal-forward. Wrigley's Big Red, then pine, cinnamon, marzipan, forest floor, caraway and mint. Basically, Russian Black Bread in liquid form (give that stuff a try if you haven't).
    Palate
    Big and spicy, with peppercorns, green apples, old books, Russian Caravan and lime ice cream (Splice Pine Lime!). A sweetness from the oak that turns into cherries, peaches and Dr Pepper.
    Finish
    Long, quite dry and earthy. Spicy with a bit of citrus.
    Comments
    For the price, probably one of the most impressive Australian whiskies to be released in recent years. It's a clinic in balance: the oak and the spirit dance around each other, never collide, and neither tries to dominate. And the rye spirit is, well, something else – totally unique. If you're not accustomed to rye and its bold flavours, this'll be confronting. But intelligent cask management has shaped this into something that's just a joy to drink. Fantastic for mixing, too – bring on the bouldevardiers!
  • Archie Rose Sandigo Heritage Rye Malt Whisky
    The Stats
    • ABV: 53%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Rye whisky
    • Production Story: Starts with a mash of pale malt and rye malt, with the rye sourced from farms near Sandigo, NSW. Double distilled in pots and then matured in new American oak for a minimum two years. As always, head to the Archie Rose website for the full spirit data and breakdown.
    • Location: Sydney, NSW
    • Score: 92
    Nose
    Straight up, vanilla and caramel, pleasant hint of varnish, cherry ripe and mocha, and then the savory kicks in – ginger snaps, figs, dusty oak, menthol and pepper. On the second pass, a dreamy floral note emerges – roses, orange oil, then strawberry fondue.
    Palate
    Really glides onto the palate. Soft upfront, then a rush of grip and tannin on the mid-palate. Great texture, thick and luscious, sort of buttery and malty, with choc banana, mint, lime and pears. The abv is spot on here – I'm not putting water anywhere near this.
    Finish
    Long, with a sweet cereal drive. Exceptional balance.
    Comments
    Delicious. This has a refinement to it, a harmony, that you don't often come across in this part of the world. The sweetness from the malt and the carefully selected new oak reminds more immediately of American rye whiskey, which is a great thing. But once the full spectrum of the Sandigo rye reveals itself, you're dealing with something utterly distinctive. Just yum.
Luke McCarthy
Luke McCarthy is the editor and publisher of Oz Whisky Review. A freelance writer and author, Luke's the chief judge of the Perth Royal Distilled Spirits Awards, a judge at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, and his book, The Australian Spirits Guide, the first to tackle the history and resurgence of the Australian spirits industry, was published in 2016 by Hardie Grant Books.