Indian Creek – Staley Rye Whisky Distilled From Rye Mash (40%)

Elias Staley Rye

Exactly how they arrived.

As illustrated by these two samples they sent me, Indian Creek’s Missy and Joe Duer are very new to whisky. They sent these two nearly-empty water bottles along with two perfectly-good, empty glass bottles so I could see the labels they would come in. To be fair, I’m probably one of the first bloggers they ever sent samples to, and I did have a good laugh wondering why they didn’t just put the whisky in the glass bottles before shipping them.

At first glance, there’s a lot of neat looking information out there about these folks. I had lots of questions for them, but the website they deferred my questions to is very short on useful stats. Instead, they use the page to dub themselves mavericks, point out how their last name has a phonetic similarity with the word doer, and name-drop two distillers in an attempt to lend some credibility to their self-proclaimed 200 years of distilling the American Spirit.” Though from what I can glean, for the last 90 of those 200 years, their stills were silent; there are at least two generations of Missy’s family between her and anyone who actually walked the floor of an active distillery; and it sounds vaguely like Joe, unrelated to Missy’s distillery kin, is the one running things, especially when the webpage claims the creed “…one man, one vision, one family farm…”

But I didn’t want to write about this. I wanted to write about hickory and hops. They wanted to talk about how Missy’s great-great-great-grandfather, Elias, was a distiller, and how her husband Joe thinks “distilling just ain’t that difficult”. To me, coveting her ancestor’s accomplishments to boost the appeal of their own whisky is a bizarre departure from the website’s theme of self-sufficiency and pioneer values. I found the dismissal of whisky’s difficulty a bit short-sighted, too. Making whisky is, after all, very easy… making good whisky, however, is another story and I’m not sure it’s one the Duers have heard yet.

Inexplicable Empties

Inexplicable Empties.

I hate relying on unconfirmed info aggregated from other interviews, but judging by the content of the interviews I did find, I can’t help but wonder why none of the things they told people made it to their distillery’s webpage. Were they deceiving interviewers and leaving blank spaces on their own publications for plausible deniability? Are they just being short-sighted and forgetting how to leverage their online presence? Maybe they just think people from New England are annoying and didn’t want to answer my questions? I mean, we are kind of annoying…

According to one interview, their ancestor’s recipe used hickory casks, which sounds awesome. Unfortunately, here hickory casks have become hickory inserts to shortcut true maturation. I’m all for historical recreation, but is this really it? Inserts, much like small barrels, will never make a whisky as delicious as a full-sized cask. Greed and industry drive the small cask market, not awesome results, and Missy did manage to tolerate me enough to confirm via email that the casks they use are 15 gallons, roughly a quarter of the size of the industry standard, and that the moment’s aged whisky is only about 12 weeks old.

Another unusual reagent mentioned in other interviews is the addition of hops to the mash bill. Every other bottle of hopped whisky I’ve seen has been forced by the TTB to add the words hop flavored to the label. Charbay, Corsair and Sons of Liberty all released hop flavored whiskies before Indian Creek, but all clearly declare the addition of identity-forbidden, non-grain ingredients in the mash with that phrase, a phrase mysteriously absent on Indian Creek’s stuff. Equally curious, unlike all the other hop flavored whisky I’ve tried, this one isn’t hoppy at all. When asked about the hops and labeling issues, they replied with a written toast to Elias and zero confirmation. Was it the TTB that had the wool pulled over their eyes? Or is there some strange distinction I’m not aware of which they managed to slide under, a distinction that the TTB had not yet made when they broke ground for Charbay and created the category in 1999? To Elias and six generations of vague assertions: cheers!

Hop Flavored Whisky

One last thing I’d like to talk about here, before divulging my notes, is the spirit’s classification as a whisky distilled from rye mash. According to the federal code, Bourbon and any other American whisky that declares a grain in the title, like rye whisky, must be made from 51% of that grain (corn in the case of Bourbon), distilled to under 80% abv, laid to cask at no more than 62.5%, matured in virgin charred oak, and bottled at no lower than 40%. If you choose to lay your stock down in a cask that does not meet those requirements, then your spirit must go by the title whisky distilled from –whichever- mash or have the phrase distilled from -whichever- mash somewhere on the label. So not only is this three months young, but it’s aged in used casks. Worse, deception rears its ugly head on the label where they cleverly use Staley Rye Whiskey as the brand name and not the description, leaving the distilled from rye mash declaration in tiny letters beneath. This isn’t rye whiskey. I’m a little surprised the TTB let that one slip… wait, no I’m not.

 

Elias Staley Whisky Distilled from Rye Mash

Nose: Like fresh cut berber and carpet glue. Burlap sack. Beer and sopressatta bloom. VERY feinty. It actually feels like it’s carpeting the inside of my nose. Complete train wreck.

Palate: It’s like a mouthful of industrial dust and fermenting salad greens. Peppery with a lot of that yummy carpet glue.

UnrateableI can’t see giving this a rating. I mean, based on how terrible I think it is, I could easily tell you to Drink At Your Own Risk, but I’m not sure it would be useful or fair to start rating what is essentially new make, no matter how poisonous it may smell. New make is great for didactic purposes, and I’m glad that distilleries bottle it for the market to try… but unless you like drinking carpet glue, this is probably one of the worst I’ve ever tasted.

 

Staley Rye Whisky Distilled From Rye Mash – “aged”

Nose: Apple juice, ketchup and champagne. Super mild and very youthful. Wood chips for the smoker. The rotting vegetal smell from the new make is substantially muted and there is barely any detectable rye spice.

Palate: Watery, spiked with whole grain crackers. Coffee in the finish. It’s still a tiny bit vegetal but not nearly as offensive.

Rating: RiskyThere are lots of rye whiskies out there that offer more flavor, taste amazing, and cost much less money; Indian Creeks whiskies are $50 and $65 each. Unexplained inconsistencies and marketing deception make me uncomfortable, as well. It’s one thing to be vague about what’s going into your bottle, and another to rely on confusing marketing tactics, say things publicly and then backtrack to ignoring that you said them in the first place, all while slapping on a premium price tag with none of the requisite experience to back it up. While I can’t say for sure if they’re deceiving you about the hops, they seemed tentative about being explicitly clear about their pride and joy, the whisky, which is terrible… juuust terrible.

Thank you to Missy Duer at Indian Creek Distillery for the samples.

EDIT 10/30/2013: It seems like the debate about hops in whisky is more complicated than I initially realized. It took me a long time to get to the bottom of it. Not a lot of bloggers or industry people had the answers, but I spoke with a dozen distillers, TTB agents, historians and brand ambassadors and then found a lot of really cool information about the subject. If you’d like to read about it, I’ve delved a little further into the issue here.

2 thoughts on “Indian Creek – Staley Rye Whisky Distilled From Rye Mash (40%)

  1. Adam J. Frantz

    I think Elias Staley rye whiskey is great. It’s the definition of different. Off the beaten path. Missy and Joe are doing something totally unique in today’s ultra consolidated market. The same big businesses are producing most of the brands on the market. In reality, they have no peers in this business. That to me is refreshing.

    Your review mentioned greeness several times while describing the whiskey, what would you expect for a 12 week barrel age? They sell out every barrel, and at times you can’t even buy the aged products, that’s what I call a booming business.

    You described Missy and Joe as green distillers. What would you expect from folks that dove into this business late in their personal careers and have been actively operating as distillers for less than a decade?

    With all due respect sir, how exactly do you know what carpet glue tastes like?

    I’m quite sure, you may have missed the bus to school on the day that the word character was described, because you totally missed it on this one. Actually it’s pretty clear based on this review, you don’t understand that Indian Creek has something that money can’t buy. It’s truly a step back in time. A time when people had the courage to step forward and create their own existence. A time when hard work, personal conviction and a drive to succeed, made settling this country possible. And the only thing that soothed the pains of that life was local brews and spirits.

    I think you missed it and it’s shameful to dismiss this distillery and their stills, some of the oldest professionally working stills in America.

    Pretty easy to do in your New England “I’m rude just to be rude” style. You might have your big money and a “self proclaimed” fine tongue for tasting whiskey”, but if you can’t recognize the true grit, Americana and historic importance of these flavors, in my opinion you ain’t got nothing at all.

    Reply
    1. Shane Post author

      Well howdy, Adam! You clearly have some skin in the game or I suspect you wouldn’t have bothered coming all the way over here to post an etire blog about why you think I’m wrong on my lowly little website. But since you did bother to come all the way over here to add to my site’s content, I figured I owed you the respect of replying.

      “They sell out every barrel, and at times you can’t even buy the aged products”

      Easy to do when you only make a few. I sell socks I knitted with my cat’s hair (She’s a New England stray, so you know she comes from money.) The thing is, I haven’t made a full set yet. You can’t even buy them! They are literally SOLD OUT. I am amazing at socks. Goddamn amazing.

      “What would you expect from folks that dove into this business late in their personal careers and have been actively operating as distillers for less than a decade?”

      I think it’s pretty clear that I would expect a product one would expect from someone who seems like they don’t drink whisky and probably got into it for the wrong reasons.

      “With all due respect sir, how exactly do you know what carpet glue tastes like?”

      How do you think? I drink it. It’s a great palate cleanser. Or maybe I used to do carpet installs for work. You decide!

      “Indian Creek has something that money can’t buy. It’s truly a step back in time.”

      Ah, the good ole days! When you could adulterate your whisky with sulfuric acid, pitch, shoe polish, sheep piss, opium… whatever you like, really! Yes!!! I yearn for a return to those days, too, but unlike yourself, probably not because I want to own another human being to do all my work for me. I think you need to do some reading before lecturing people about history. I like my doctors to have been trained in this century, too!

      “A time when hard work, personal conviction and a drive to succeed, made settling this country possible. And the only thing that soothed the pains of that life was local brews and spirits.”

      Yes! Alcohol was the only thing my great grandfather lived for and in no way was that problematic. Honestly, back then Jim Beam was more authentic than what the Staley brand was pushing, and I say back then because if they were smart they’d let this post die instead of reawakening it with fresh content. They would engage other bloggers with better product, or learn new things, do literally anything other than what you’re doing right here. But I don’t suspect you’re a thoughtful man, which leads me to…

      “Pretty easy to do in your New England “I’m rude just to be rude” style. You might have your big money…”

      You’ve clearly never been to New England but if you had and you brought that noise along with you, well it’s obvious to me that they already told you where you could shove it and you’re probably still butthurt about the whole thing, so I won’t keep kicking you while you’re down. If I had big money, though, I wouldn’t be peddling shitty whisky to uninformed nitwits who probably never traveled outside their extra-white township. I like to think I’m smarter than that and wouldn’t jump into an overcrowded scene I didn’t know anything about with a life-breaking investment and impossibly high barrier of entry, but like you said, I’m not some brain dead jingoistic fuck so I ain’t got nothing at all. Cheers, thanks for reading, and stay tuned!!!

      Reply

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