Whiskey Review: Pinhook Vertical Series 7 Year Rye

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs. 

The Pinhook brand is memorable and easily recognizable for their well-designed and beautifully illustrated labels, each celebrating an up-and-coming thoroughbred at Bourbon Lane Stable. Aside from looking good, the label ties together three of Kentucky’s most famous industries– tobacco, horses, and bourbon.

The term “pinhooking” was first applied to Kentucky tobacco markets where speculative purchases of developing plants could rake in large profits once those plants had matured. That same principle applies across industries, and use of the word pinhooking became more thoroughly associated with thoroughbreds. Untrained, weaning, or year-old horses can be purchased at auction and re-sold later as grown or trained racehorses for a profit. The idea is simple, but in practice it takes an experienced eye to spot a racehorse when you’re looking at a foal.

Pinhook takes more than just the name from this practice, it informs their approach to whiskey making. Their stated means of operation is to identify promising whiskey which they acquire, age, and blend. This takes several forms, from limited releases to an early partnership with Castle & Key Distillery where their flagship offerings are distilled using a proprietary mashbill.

One such limited offering is Pinhook’s Vertical Series, which provides an interesting tweak to this process and showcases their aging and blending program undertaken with their partners at Castle & Key. These releases are yearly selections from an original lot of 450 barrels of MGP rye (95% rye, 5% malted barley), tracing the whiskey’s development as it ages from 4 to 12 years.

Although there is a certain degree of natural variation between barrels, the single most significant variable with each release is time. The 2023 release marks the 7th year of maturation for the Vertical Series’ Rye and is blended from a small sample of 28 barrels. It’s easy to see how these releases interest both collectors and inquisitive drinkers– the limited release means both that bottles may be on the scarce side, and that the variables having effect on the whiskey are tightly controlled.

Pinhook Vertical Series 7 Year Rye review

We review Pinhook Vertical Series 7 Year Rye, part of a yearly release series from this popular niche whiskey label out of Kentucky. (image via Jacob Writ/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Pinhook Vertical Series 7 Year Rye

Vital Stats: 105 proof, 7 years aged, retails for $90

Appearance: Caramel color, light feel in the glass with attractive legs.

Nose: Cherry pits and brown sugar sweetness, with a slightly herbaceous note bordering on pickle-brine (in a good way!).

Palate: Warm and aromatic. I found toasty, woody, burnt marshmallow sweetness to begin with a slow turn towards what I experienced as alternating resinous cedar or black-leather-tannic structure that facilitates a seamless transition to red wine flavors on the finish.

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