Over the long weekend I paid a visit over to Cooperstown, NY to see my girl and dig the town. I know what you’re thinking—and I don’t really blame you for it—baseball. Well in spite of my All-American appetite for liquor, I’m not much of a fan of America’s pastime I’ll play it, but that’s as far as my interest goes, so I avoided the museum and all that bat and ball capitalism and made my first stop a liquor store. Actually, two of them. It was 10 am and the girl was in a meeting, what’s a boy to do? Anyways, this is where I met the star of this show—James E. Pepper and his 100 proof and thoroughly patriotic 1776 Rye Whiskey. I may not like baseball much but damn do I love rye. I’ll admit this bottle reached out to the historian in me with its “aged” label and an evocation of the American Revolution I was only too willing to buy into in a town that once served as a camp for the Clinton-Sullivan Campaign during the war. So I dropped the hammer at around $27 bucks, and now I imagine you’re wondering—do I regret it?
No, of course not, because money may not always buy happiness but it can always buy tastiness, and friends, James E. Pepper is that. Apparently the Pepper family started making rye in 1776 and continued doing so until around prohibition, and supposedly this whiskey is the result of the extensive study of studies of the original Pepper Rye. The odds of me getting my hands on pre-prohibition Pepper are pretty low, so I can only tell you what I taste here. First off this whiskey is pretty hot, which is no surprise at 100 proof, and fortunately I find it’s that sweet spot of bold heat that doesn’t over-power the underlying flavors. This is particularly good because there are some great flavors in here. Of course there’s the obligatory rye spice and, dare I say, pepper—but there’s also some sweet honey that plays in both taste and consistency on my palate. There’s something else here, something I find a bit unusual…is that peppermint? Damn, another pepper pun: but there really is some soft and almost refreshing peppermint that lingers oh so sweetly near the end of a good quaff. This is quite pleasant, easy sippin’ rye, perfect for a crisp autumn day on Lake Otsego reading with a lovely lady at your side. So, while the history nerd in me may have bought this because of a likely exaggerated history based marketing scheme, the drinker in me has quite enjoyed this reigniting of the Pepper family brand and wishes them many more years of history making hooch.