In this Taste Test, we look for spiritual enlightenment from The Gospel Distillers in Brunswick VIC and their holy (moly this is good) Straight Rye Whiskey.
About Gospel Distillery
Started off the back of a moonshine distillery, The Gospel Distillers is a brilliant young whiskey firm in Melbourne’s hipster heartland, Brunswick.
Its founders, Andrew Fitzgerald and US expat Ben Bowles were determined to bring the best of American whiskey to Australia—and perhaps the best of Australian US-style whiskey back to the States!
Using their wealth of experience from making moonshine and other white spirits and liqueurs, the duo stretched their legs into the realm of rye whiskey. And in this case, their Straight Rye Whiskey.
There are a whole bunch of rules in the USA about what constitutes rye whiskey (let alone ‘straight’ whiskey) as well as all the laws on whisky-making here in Aus, so Bowles and Fitzgerald had to negotiate two sets of regulations.
Rather than sticking to the line of these rules, they decided to go way beyond all the ‘at leasts’ and minimums to produce one of the best rye whiskies we’ve tasted.
About the bottle
The name of this distillery isn’t based on any religious fervour. Fitzgerald and Bowles played off the widely-held belief that whisky was first produced for medicinal purposes by monks in Scotland and Ireland way before it was made for fun.
The vintage apothecary quality of the bottle is a nod to all the poor souls made to drink whisky to cure what ailed them.
Grain and barrel
First of all, rye whiskey in the States must be made from at least 51% rye grain and “stored in charred new oak containers.”
To be a straight rye whiskey, it can never be blended with anything other than more straight rye and mustn't have any additives or colourings—just pure straight rye and water to bring it down to proof.
More importantly, this straight rye must stay in those oak ‘containers’ for a minimum of two years, which is handy because that’s also the minimum for Australian aged spirits too.
Where Gospel has gone is way beyond the legal minimum.
They use 100% unmalted rye in their mash bill rather than just 51%. All the grain is sourced from the same farm in South Australia. They have also imported their new American oak barrels from a cooperage in Kentucky that sources its timber from a single forest.
Gospel’s double-distilled new-make sits in these barrels for longer than two years just to be sure.
You can read more about the stipulations of straight rye whiskey on The Gospel Distillers’ site here.
This whiskey has a deep earthy nose with that signature rye spice and caramel and wholesome satisfying notes of freshly baked bread.
The caramel and spice continue in the flavours, with elevated green apple acidity, dried cranberry and creamy oak.
It has a medium length dry finish of light spices, teak and creme caramel.
The Gospel’s Straight Rye Whiskey drinks beautifully with a dash of water or a small ice cube, or even just neat.
However, in an old fashioned, the bitters really bring out the spice and sweetness of this whiskey and in a Manhattan—my favourite drink for rye—the sweet-sour balance of the cocktail lends itself perfectly to all the flavours and structure of this delightful spirit from Gospel.
Can I get an amen in here?