Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey Review
Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey is produced (blended and bottled) by Cooper Spirits Company based out of Philadelphia, PA and was released in 2015. According to the Hochstadter's website (which reminds me of the Thulsa Doom snake cult from Conan The Barbarian) this whiskey is a blend of 5 different ryes "curated" from distilleries around North America. They go on to list Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Alberta Canada as the geographic locations in regards to the source of distillation. The Hochstadter's brand dates back to 1884 and was resurrected in 2012 for the release of Hochstadter's Slow & Low which is actually a category of flavored whiskey called Rock and Rye.
If I had to guess the obvious distilleries I would go with MGP (Indiana), Barton and/or Brown Forman (Kentucky), and Alberta Distillers (Alberta, Canada). However in regards to the PA distillery I am coming up empty. There is no information indicating that Cooper Spirits Co. actually distills anything themselves. They are listed as an importer in Philadelphia but no mention or concrete evidence of an actual distillery. So who is distilling Straight Rye Whiskey in PA that meats the minimum 4 year age requirement? Referencing SKU's Complete List of American Whiskey Distilleries and Brands comes up with one possibility: Pittsburgh Distilling Company. This is probably a stretch at best but they started up in 2011 and are distilling a Straight Rye Whiskey. Again, total speculation.
Producer: Cooper Spirits Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Cost: $36 pre tax in Chicago, IL.
Blend Components: 5 different rye whiskies sourced from Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Alberta, Canada
Filtration: Non Chill-Filtered
Age: The blend components range in age from between 4-15 years old with an emphasis on the bulk of the blend being 8 years old. *There is no age statement on the bottle.
Mashbill: N/A but considering one of the components is from Indiana (MGP) there is likely some 95/5 rye in the mix.
Pour: 2 oz neat in a Glencairn glass
Nose: Pipe tobacco, cedar cigar boxes, old leather, sweet oak, fresh sweet mint, spearmint, barrel spices, and dark chocolate.
Palate: Thick viscosity - chewy and warm. Pipe tobacco, caramel, cinnamon, menthol, and dill.
Finish: Medium. Cinnamon, caramel, and vanilla bundled up in a sweet slightly spicy medium fade with a healthy dose of mouth drying oak.
This is a rye whiskey that punches above its weight class. For just under $40 you get a rye with loads of spice, sweets, and just the right amount of oak. There is a lot of complexity here which leads me to believe there is a considerable portion of older rye in the mix. I also really dig the minimal packaging, old-timey label design, and raised glass texture on the neck of the bottle. I grabbed this bottle on a whim while traveling in Chicago mainly because it's not distributed in SC and it is my mission in life to try every single rye whiskey. I also had to at least step food in one Binny's location before returning home. Mission accomplished, 2 for 2.
Rye aside, something about CSC and their marketing practices irk me. From the brand website for example: "...curated from distilleries across North America. Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Alberta." Also the following statement contained in the press release style writeup on BarBizMag: "Each of the five whiskeys in the blend was curated from Cooper's extensive collection of more than 50 straight rye whiskeys of various ages." I gotta call bullshit on this one - 50 different straight rye whiskeys?! Usage of words like "curated" and "collection" make the late Cooper sound more like a fine arts collector or a librarian rather than a distiller/blender. Also lacking is information on where the actual magic happens in regards to aging, blending, and bottling of all this rye whiskey. The CSC brand websites offer little information. Typical NDP smoke and mirrors. Supposes I should just shut my mouth and be happy that CSC actually disclosed the # of straight ryes comprising the blend, distillation origin, and age range. The fact remains that this is a well blended, inexpensive and ridiculously tasty straight rye whiskey. Cheers.
UPDATE (9/1/16): Turns out that my speculation of Pittsburgh Distilling Company supplying the Pennsylvania rye component was way off. Charles Jacquin et Cie is actually responsible for supplying the rye component (thanks /u/zillah1985). This correction forced me to go down the rabbit hole and do some research on the Cooper family and their brands/distilleries.
In October 2015 on a Straight Bourbon post the marketing rep for Hochstadter's showed up and confirmed the statement above. "Our Hochstadter's Vatted Rye does include rye made in Pennsylvania. We have made a select number of small quantities of rye ferments and distillates at Charles Jacquin's et Cie". I wish she had come back and answered some of the questions generated by her post but oh well. Based on information later in that same topic and through some google-fu I have come up with the following:
- Norton J. "Sky" Cooper is the president and CEO of Charles Jacquin et Cie. The brand was purchased by his father post prohibition. He also serves as chairman of the board at Chatham Imports, Inc. Also interesting is that Charles Jacquin et Cie is a subsidiary of Chatham Imports, Inc. which owns the Michter's brand.
- Robert Cooper (son of Norton J. "Sky" Cooper) was the founder and president of Cooper Spirits Company which was made famous by creating the St-Germain elderflower liqueur (now owned by Bacardi).
- John Cooper (son of Norton J. "Sky" Cooper) is the founder of Maurice Cooper et Cie and created the ginger liqueur Domaine de Canton (now owned by HH).
These two brothers left their fathers company to start their own liquor businesses and were supposedly at odds at the time this article was written. That was in 2009 so a lot could have changed between then and the time of Roberts death. It looks like Robert Cooper was sourcing the Pennsylvania component of the Horchstadter's Vatted Rye from his fathers company who was doing a small amount of rye distillation and fermentation.