Home Distilleries Review: Rare Character Exceptional Series Malt Whiskey 14 Year

Review: Rare Character Exceptional Series Malt Whiskey 14 Year

by Chris Perugini

This is my first official review of a Rare Character whiskey and it certainly won’t be my last. I’m quite impressed with what the Rare Character team has managed to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Founded in 2021 by spirits industry veterans Peter Nevenglosky and Pablo Moix, the company has stormed into the American whiskey market with single barrel selections from a variety of sources and with a wide array of finishing casks (you may have heard about their highly-acclaimed Ambruana finished whiskies).

The Exceptional Series is Rare Character’s premium line and is reserved for older whiskies that the team feels are (as the name obviously suggests) exceptional in some way. These bottlings are mostly 8-14 year old Kentucky straight whiskies and while they have bottled some single barrel bourbons, Rare Character’s Kentucky straight malt whiskies are creating a serious buzz in the whiskey world.

As a quick reminder, one of the requirements to be classified as a “straight malt” whiskey is a mashbill containing at least 51% malted barley. So far, all Rare Character Exceptional Series straight malts have had a mashbill of 65% malt and 35% corn. There is only one reference to this particular mashbill from a famous Bardstown distillery that rhymes with “seven thrill”. One could safely assume that this is the source of these bottlings.

I’ve gone on record in the past stating that straight malt whiskies are a really tough sell to American whiskey drinkers. I predict that Rare Character’s straight malts are going to change that perception very quickly.

Rare Character Exceptional Series Malt Whiskey Barrel 54 was selected by Liquor Junction and the Mass Bourbon Alliance. It was distilled in 2008 and bottled in December of 2022 at 134.88 proof.

Rare Character Exceptional Series Malt Whiskey, Barrel E-M14-54 - 67.44% ABV
Category Notes
Appearance Amber
Nose Black cherry, clove, mulling spice, hint of menthol, orange blossom, chocolate fudge, root beer, raspberries, vanilla, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, walnut, hints of varnish, hint of apple. Water and time bring out red licorice, Nutella, dried cranberries, a hint of potpourri, nutmeg, and more chocolate.
Taste A quick, sharp arrival. Dry oak, cherry cola, buttercream frosting, key lime, dried fig, waffle cone, burnt sugar, peanut brittle, ripe apricot, leather, hints of maple syrup, smarties candy. A bit of maltiness finally comes out with water along with red hots, honey, an oddly “deep” lemon peel note, and a more in-your-face version of that dry oak.
Finish Dried herbs, lots of baking chocolate, dates, candied ginger, earthy, more cola, mixed berry jam, rock sugar, black pepper. With water, toasted almond, fresh mint, orange peel, and dried berries.
Overall Thoughts Well, this is not at all what I was expecting. Trying a whiskey with 65% malt content in its mashbill and then experiencing a very bourbon-centric set of tastings notes was a big surprise for me. This is a bold and extremely flavorful whiskey that checks a lot of boxes for me (dark chocolate, citrus, nuttiness, earthiness, and candied sweetness). The nose and palate were superb and extremely inviting, even at 130+ proof. I found the finish to be a bit less dynamic and that’s the main area where this lost points. Some have described these 14 year old malt barrels as "Staggy" in profile and while I don't think this barrel is quite on that level, straight malt whiskey has certainly proven its case in spades. I greatly look forward to trying more of these releases in the future.
Total Score 90/100

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