Castle & Key Distillery - Slow Hands Kentucky Rye Whiskey Single Barrel Release

One thing about young distilleries is there are no rules, no one size fits all, no surefire path to market and this second rye whiskey release from Castle & Key follows that formula – no rules. And rye whiskey fans will likely find the variety and transparency around this release refreshing.

Castle & Key Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky released its first ever ‘Restoration’ Rye Whiskey back in December. They are following up that release with ‘Slow Hands’ a small collection of cask strength single barrel rye whiskies. The name pays homage to the time, effort and care it takes to distill, age and bottle spirits of the highest quality.

There is no legal definition of single barrel so you’ll find that each distillery puts their own nuance on their single barrel releases. The latest Castle & Key release all falls under the Slow Hands name but as you take a look through the production notes below you’ll discover several variables. Often times when a distiller offers single barrels they are pretty much the same distillate but perhaps they were aged in a different part of the barrel warehouse or one is aged for a few more months and therefore yield similar yet slightly different results. In the case of Slow Hands each of these four barrel is unique. They all start with the same mashbill but the source of the grains may vary, the position in the warehouse may vary and even the yeast may vary.

This first release is relatively small with only four barrels yielding about 200 bottles each but according to Castle & Key Brand Ambassador and Blender Brett Connors there may be anywhere from 10 to 20 barrels offered throughout the year.

When Will Castle & Key Release a Bourbon?

Ok, before we dive into the rye whiskey let’s address the often asked question.

Q: When will the first Castle & Key Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey be released?
A: “The goal is to release a bourbon this year,” said Castle & Key Distillery Co-Founder Wes Murry. “We are relying on the palettes of Jon Brown and Brett Connor…to identify the approximate size of the release. Our goal is to release this year. We are not quite sure of the size. 2022 will be a much larger release. Kind of what the warehouse will give us is what we will put in the bottle. Not trying to force it. Trying to maintain a high bar here.”

So, there you have it, the first bourbon release will in fact happen in 2021. Now, back to the rye.

Slow Hands Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Release

“With our Slow Hands series our focus is to bring forth the anomaly, the unusual, and the interesting, to showcase the dynamic nature of maturation,” says Brett Connors, Brand Ambassador and Blender. “With four unique barrels, we are confident whiskey drinkers will find the right one that fits their preferences.” 

The 2021 Slow Hands Single Barrel Rye release features four individual cask strength barrels, each with their own unique flavor profile. The entry level proof is all the same but beyond that each one has something unique. They all feature the same mashbill but the sources of the grain varies from Kentucky to Germany, the barrel chars vary, the yeast varies, the location in the barrel warehouse varies and the age varies. Oh and the water, the water is pulled from Castle & Key’s on-site key shaped Springhouse, that’s the one other element that’s common. Thank you Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr. for creating this distilled spirits landmark of a watering hole!

Slow Hands Rye Whiskey Production & Tasting Notes

Rye Mashbill

  • 17% Yellow Corn
  • 63% Rye (multiple sources)
  • 20% Malted Barley

Barrel No. 237

  • Rye Source: Kentucky
  • Barrel Entry Proof: 118°
  • Char: 4
  • Barrel Warehouse: B 3A01 (3rd floor, Position A and slot 01 in the rick.)
  • Age: 4+ years
  • Proof: 115.9° (58% ABV)
  • Aroma: Grain bright, powdered cacao, light touch of dates and golden raisins, overall sweetness with light spearmint and a touch of praline
  • Taste: Brown sugar with light golden raisin building into a medium spice box, baked cinnamon and cracked black pepper; medium warmth, light leather, cacao, and toasted oak
  • Mouthfeel / Finish: Round and full mouthfeel with a medium length finish holding the heavier spice notes

Barrel No. 281

  • Rye: Blend of Kentucky and Germany
  • Barrel Entry Proof: 118°
  • Char: 3
  • Barrel Warehouse: B 1E02 (1st floor, Position E and slot 02 in the rick.)
  • Age: 4+ years
  • Proof: 108.3° (54% ABV)
  • Aroma: Honey roasted peanuts, baked apricots, pie dough opening to nice sweetness with a hint of clove and a bright floral tone
  • Taste: Nice soft entry, medium brown sugar, and cinnamon crumble building into cooked stone fruit with a light orange peel and wintergreen overlay
  • Mouthfeel / Finish: Jammy and bright mouthfeel with light black pepper on a delicate and crisp finish

Barrel No. 334

  • Rye: Blend of Kentucky and Germany
  • Barrel Entry Proof: 118°
  • Char: 3
  • Barrel Warehouse: B 3A06 (3rd floor, Position A and slot 06 in the rick.)
  • Age: 4+ years
  • Proof: 115.1° (58% ABV)
  • Aroma – Baking chocolate, bread crust, walnuts, and leather with hints of Valencia orange and nutmeg
  • Taste: Bold flavor of rye bread, bitter chocolate, leather and pipe tobacco; followed by caramelized sugar and clove
  • Mouthfeel / Finish: Full bodied and well balanced between sweet and spicy elements

Barrel No. 396

  • Rye: Germany
  • Barrel Entry Proof: 118°
  • Char: 3
  • Barrel Warehouse: B 2A02 (2nd floor, Position A and slot 02 in the rick.)
  • Age: 3 year 10 months
  • Yeast: A different variety
  • Proof: 111.9° (56% ABV)
  • Aroma: Chocolate meringue pie, raisins, peach pit, and marzipan; light floral (lavender) and lavish with an amazing depth
  • Taste: Big baked brown sugar, dark chocolate, mineral burnt pie crust, wonderfully integrated baking spices, dates, candied orange peel, and a hint of anise
  • Finish: Full bodied with a great rich viscosity finish is medium in length, but carries the full palate through

One thing to note on the proof is they all went down from the barrel entry proof. Generally, you hear about proof going up as a whiskey ages. There are many factors that can affect a barrels net proof. Many Kentucky barrel warehouses are metal clad warehouses whose temperatures vary widely as the seasons change. Castle & Keys Warehouse B has a brick exterior and is up to four and a half stories at its tallest point. It also sits kind of in a holler along a creek that is often shaded. And there is no heat cycling. These traits are neither good nor bad, simply different.

Slow Hands is Available Now at the Distillery

Castle & Key Distillery’s ‘Slow Hands’ cask strength single barrel rye whiskey goes on sale Friday, March 26, 2021. The distillery will be releasing one barrel every Friday for the next four weeks. Slow Hands is offered with a suggested retail price of $59.99 for a 750 ml bottle. Because of Covid reservations are required to pick up a bottle. Sales are limited to one bottle per person.

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The Long Wait is Over: Castle & Key Distillery to Release ‘Restoration’ Kentucky Rye Whiskey
Castle & Key Distillery Celebrates the Grand Opening of its $30 Million, 3 Million Proof Gallon, Distillery Destination [Video]

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