Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by J. Rieger & Co. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
The fifth of an annual release, Rieger’s Monogram Straight Bourbon Whiskey comes from Kansas City-based craft distillery J. Rieger & Co. This newest expression is the first time a Monogram bottling has been a straight bourbon whiskey. The 2022 Monogram release is composed of whiskeys 6.5 to 10.5 years old, and highlights flavors developed using century-old Oloroso sherry botas.
Kansas City was a destination for those seeking reprieve from the hardships of Prohibition in the 1920s and ‘30s, even earning the nickname “The Paris of the Plains.” Pre-Prohibition, J. Rieger & Co. was known as the largest mail-order whiskey producer in the U.S., notable even now, as mail-order spirits have become more popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, J. Rieger & Co. was eventually plagued with the negative effects of Prohibition and was forced to close shop in 1919. Then, in 2014, after intense research and planning, J. Rieger & Co. relaunched the brand under the tutelage of Dave Pickerell, a veteran of the industry who was known as the “founding father” of craft distilling.
With the Rieger’s Monogram series, the distillery attempts a fusion of high-quality production with craft innovation. Co-founder Ryan Maybee says of this year’s expression, this release “is very special to us as it’s a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a first of its kind for the Monogram label.” There will only be 1,887 bottles released, with availability reserved for the J. Rieger & Co. distillery and a few other retail spots around Kansas and Missouri.
Though there is a rich history behind the J. Rieger & Co. distillery, which is always fascinating to explore, my tasting of Rieger’s Monogram Straight Bourbon Whiskey admittedly left me cold. There is a darkness to the bourbon that implies a rich, mature, full flavor profile that the whiskey ultimately lacked. And a strange chemical note on both the nose and palate couldn’t be ignored throughout, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.
Tasting Notes: Rieger’s Monogram Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: Bottled at 103 proof (51.5% ABV). Blend of straight bourbon whiskeys between 6.5 and 10.5 years old. Finished up to 48 months in nearly 100-year-old Oloroso sherry botas that previously held Williams & Humbert Drysack 15-year Oloroso Especial. Production of 1,887 bottles. SRP $129.99/750 ml.
Appearance: Deep, dark maple in color with medium viscosity.
Nose: Straight away I got an intense sulfurous odor on the nose of an unlit matchstick. It was not a pleasant introduction and unfortunately didn’t dissipate the longer I left the whiskey to breathe. I did attempt to pick out other notes and got hints of brown sugar and plum, along with more bitter nuts, like an almond skin.
Palate: While the nose was jarring, the whiskey itself is subdued, with notes of bitter citrus peel and a meatier essence, some savory spices and cranberry, with kind of a chemical aftertaste that lasts too long to be enjoyable.