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Tasting Notes – (ri)1 Rye Whiskey from Beam Global

Submitted by Tim Brice on June 16, 2011 – 11:54 pm2 Comments


 

I like to think I am able to guard myself from the more blatant attempts marketers have devised to separate me from my wallet. This requires vigilance along with eyes and ears trained for buzz words, catch phrases and silly gimmicks. For instance, I know when my beer is cold often by using my sense of touch and never by seeing if the can turns blue. To be fair, there are instances when substance lives up to style especially in the world of spirits. Much of the booze world arrives in clever carafes with attractive labels while still being of objective quality when imbibed. There are others, however, whose genesis seems to come from a board room and not the distillers muse, whose bottles look pretty on their paid for top shelf liquor store space but whose flavor is at best passable and never seem to live up to the premium fare required. Lamentably, this is the case for (ri)1 Rye Whiskey from Beam Global.

ri1 whiskey Tasting Notes   (ri)1 Rye Whiskey from Beam Global

(ri)1 Rye Whiskey


To be honest, I was compelled to review this offering because of its self description as an ultra premium rye whiskey. The words ultra premium have become one of Madison Avenue’s prententious way of inflating a products price while using fancy words to replace super awesome. Frankly, I do not know what ultra premium means. I decided to review this rye whiskey in part because I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse at what ultra premium may actually denote.

The bottle for (ri)1 (pronounced, I think, as Rye One) is attractive if not a tad modern industrial and not too dissimilar to a few other American whiskers on the market. I find the label quite interesting. It is large and, unlike most American spirits, is sparsely populated with the usual details of a booze label. The name (ri)1 is printed in an old fashioned serif typeface but is printed unusually large and with the clear purpose of shouting off the shelf. The use of the serif font appears to be a purposeful nod to rye whiskeys’ noble place in our cocktail history while the rest of the packaging design screams modern and minimalistic.

I have already spent more time on the bottle and the label here than I normally would. The approach is appropriate in this case. All aspects of packaging are considered by any distiller, of course, with the intent of casting an image or inciting an emotion. That said, everything about (ri)1 rye whiskey screams board room marketing contrived calculation. The design choices for (Ri)1 are carefully selected to appeal to a young, hip and modern booze consumer with considerable discretionary income. In that light, it seems reasonable that those choices be evaluated.

On the nose, (ri)1 offers bits of vanilla, cedar and Chinese five spice. It is interesting but not what I would expect from a rye whiskey. The vanilla nose is more evocative of bourbon, usually, than it is in rye.

In the dram, (ri)1 is confusing. There are hints of black pepper, cardamom, dried papaya and cinnamon. Those hints are minor, however, with the black pepper the most dominant. Continue tasting and the essence of rye can be detected but almost as a supportive flavor participant and not the dominant one I would expect from a real rye whiskey. The overall impression on the palate is thin with a medium vaporous bite. The mouthfeel simply does not have the presence I would expect to find in a very good rye let alone an ultra premium one.

Overall, (ri)1 lacks the wild untamable character that separates rye whiskey from other whiskeys. Rye whiskey is not generally supposed to be smooth. It is supposed to be the muscle at the bar, the one everyone is afraid of but all want to get to know and the one that makes whiskey cocktails decidedly more interesting. Judged as a rye whiskey against rye whiskey standards (ri)1 does not score well.

The (ri)1 did not perform well in the shaker. The lack of depth present expose it as a subordinate player even in cocktails where the rye should be the star. It is just not weighty and wild enough.

I had recently been playing around with Redemption High Rye Bourbon and thought the two might have something in common. The Redemption is a bourbon with only 62% corn (as opposed to the usual 80% allowed by law) that employs rye and barley as part of its seminal mash. It is clearly a bourbon but with enjoyable rye notes. It was an uneven comparison. The Redemption is big lush and wild while the (ri)1 is light and thin.

As I lined it up against various other whiskeys, it became clear that the most accurate comparison for (ri)1 is to mid level Canadian blended whiskys. It has the body, flavor and finish of Canadian blended whisky with the addition of that added slight pepperiness to it. As such, it could stand in for a Canadian whisky in a cocktail that called for one. However, I am afraid it stops there.

The bottom line here is in what marketers refer to as brand proposition. Put another way, what is this product, through its packaging and marketing, promising to be? In this case, (ri)1 Rye Whiskey is promising to be a very good rye whiskey. Unfortunately, it is neither rye whiskey (regardless of its composition) or very good. It does not demonstrate any of the characteristics or conventions of what rye whiskey purports to be. Beam Global has gone out of their way to position (ri)1 as something near the top of the rye whiskey class. The fact that it does not have hardly any of the general flavor or body characteristics of rye whiskey is a problem. Simply responding that (ri)1 is something new is inadequate. If that is the case, Beam should not offer it as an ultra premium rye whiskey. They would be more effective selling it as “a bold new creation, inspired by the best American whiskeys of the past, distilled for the modern connoisseur,” or something to that effect. The buzz then would be about the something new and not about the fact that (ri)1 is not what it purports to be.

And the name! (Deep breath) No name for anything should start with punctuation (unless it is in Spanish). It just smacks of a contrived attempt at cool. I look at that label and can just see the suits sitting around the conference table white boarding all the possible ways to riff off the word “rye” to make it new, different, hip. At best, they are trying too hard and at worst it is offensive. These are the people who are concerned with the number of calories in my pino grigio or how my MGD 64 sounds. They think we are lemmings who will just follow whatever is shoved our way. It also makes me believe that the people who came up with this name do not really understand American whiskey, especially the spirit of rye, and the mixologists and enthusiasts who honor its place at the modern bar. It is about craft and not contrivance. On its own whiskey is a timeless spirit that is the drink of one who is comfortable in their own skin and is not easily swayed by trend. I do not think the marketing team behind (ri)1 understands this.

I still do not really know what ultra premium means other than to assume, as mentioned before, that it is a prententious way of saying very good. We can now add ultra and premium to the list of words that no longer have meaning like extreme and social security. Very good is still good enough. You know it when you drink it. Very good is so good, in fact, that it does not have to say it on the label. The marketers of America just think they have to tell us everything.

However, in the end, I think (ri)1 is ultra o.k.. That is if it was a mid-level Canadian blended whisky that I would expect to pay about $20 for. Unfortunately, (ri)1 seems to think it is a rye whiskey worthy of about $50 USD. While I have read how much other reviewers have enjoyed it, I can not stand among them. At that price and for what it is supposed to be (ri)1 is an ultra premium disappointment.


 

article clipper Tasting Notes   (ri)1 Rye Whiskey from Beam Global
 

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2 Comments »

  • jes says:

    well written piece. particularly enjoyed the many different inquiries into what kind of spirit it is. shows you truly have the interest in discovering as well as the knowledge to do so. also, good to hear about something that didn’t taste great, and why, since most of these wonderful articles are so delicious. way to keep it real.

  • Tim Brice says:

    Thanks Jes. You are, as always, too kind.

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