James E. Pepper distillery is located in Lexington, Kentucky. The brand was established in 1780, but after the Pepper family closed the distillery in the 1950s, Amir Peay resurrected the brand in 2008, in the original buildings. However they haven’t been distilling until late 2017 so this must be a white label product, probably distilled at the MGP distillery in Indiana and given an extra treatment by finishing it in Oloroso casks.
Rye and sherry – I was curious to find out how they get along.
James E. Pepper 3 yo – Oloroso Cask Finish (50%, That Boutique-y Whisky Co 2020, Batch #1, 1622 btl.)
Nose: there’s sherry alright (plums, caramel, clove and lots of walnuts) alongside some rye spice (pepper, aniseed), both fighting for attention. Also hints of chocolate , but there’s a sourness that gets the upper hand. Think pickled cucumbers mixed with moist tobacco leaves. Some earthy notes in the background. The sweet and sour theme is uncommon, but quite interesting.
Mouth: now the rye is taking the upper hand, showing lots of peppery notes, cloves, hints of coffee and burnt wholegrain toast. Cinnamon rolls and caramel drizzles. Some freshly sawn oak. Dark chocolate. Gingery notes and liquorice. Still a slightly pickled note. A dash of Christmas beer as well.
Finish: long, peppery and woody, with some lingering chocolate and more wood.
I’m not convinced rye whiskey and sherry casks are made for each other, but I like the experiment and it sure does lead to an interesting fight of flavour. Probably not for everyone, but if you’re in for something different without breaking the bank, give it a go. Available from Master of Malt.