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Masterson’s Straight Rye Whiskey

Review: Masterson’s 10-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey   84/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on September 02, 2012

Masterson’s Straight Rye Whiskey is distilled and aged in Canada, for a company from Sonoma California called 35 Maple Street. As a straight rye whiskey, the spirit must be barreled and aged in new American Oak, but Masterson’s also holds the distinction of being one of the very few straight rye whiskeys which is distilled from a mash of 100 % rye grain. It is bottled at 45% alcohol by volume. The whiskey is apparently named for the famous frontier lawman, William “Bat” Masterson. The choice is appropriate because Bat Masterson, who became famous in the American wild west, was actually born in Canada. Just as is Masterson’s 10-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey.

This spirit is being brought into my home Province of Alberta by Purple Valley Imports, who provided the sample for review.

In the Bottle 5/5

Masterson’s Whiskey arrives in the handsome bottle shown to the left. When my friends and I unwrapped it at a recent tasting, we were all in agreement that the bottle deserved a perfect score. The look of the  bottle itself is unique, and the box it arrives in instantly generates conversation as it is adorned with news clipping from the old west which record the original Bat Masterson’s exploits as a gunfighter and lawman. A solid cork closure tops everything off, and all of us at the tasting could not wait to try the whiskey inside.

In the Glass 8/10

I poured out a small sample of the whiskey into my glencairn glass and began my review with a good look at the spirit. It is a rich golden colour which is consistent with a straight whiskey which has spent at least ten years in new oak barrels. I gave my glass a tilt and a slow swirl and discovered a moderately heavy sheen on the inside of my glass which gave up medium-sized droopy legs that ran back slowly down into the whiskey. Again this is consistent with my expectations.

When I nosed the glass, I found it was full of wood (oak and cedar) and rye spices. Some dusty dry grain is evident as well, and I sense a strong indication of sweet honeycomb in the breezes too. There is a little fresh tobacco smell, and some light baking spices (vanilla, ginger and cinnamon) and maple syrup as well.

As the glass sits, the nose becomes even more complex with woody oak building up, some more spicy rye welling up, and sweet honeycomb and butterscotch reaching out further into the breezes.

In the Mouth 50/60

The entry into the mouth is a little heated with an explosion of rye grain and wood spices. The wood spice in particular tastes very fresh in the mouth almost as if you are chewing on a freshly cut chip of cedar wood. This initial entry into the mouth is perhaps just a bit sharp. Those fresh-cut wood chips have imparted a some sharp sap flavours into the rye. There is however, a nice dose of vanilla, some sweet honeycomb, and flavours of butterscotch which serve to temper this sharpness.

To be honest, I find most Straight Whiskeys to be a little rough for me (a straight whiskey is one which has been barreled in fresh unused oak). The fresh barrels impart strong woody flavours which taste to me almost like wood sap. The rye and the sweet caramel flavours can get a little lost in the shuffle, and we have a bit of that here. However, I found if I let my glass sit, the rye comes roaring back, bringing with it fruity flavours and some sweet notes of vanilla and butterscotch.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The whisky exits with a nice kick of rye spice that gets you square in the tonsils. The heat from the fresh oak is felt throughout the palate and, if you wait for it, a pleasant creeping burn of spice wells up in the back of the throat. All of this might be uncomfortable except for the nice push of sweet butterscotch that accompanies the finish.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The first time I tasted the Masterson’s Straight Rye Whiskey was when I was judging the Canadian Whisky Awards last fall. It was just a small sample of about 2 1/2 ounces, and it was part of a flight of over 30 samples which I had to review in a three-week span. I kept my tasting notes for each sample, and I recently compared these notes to my review. I am glad I was not tempted to publish any reviews based upon my actions as whisky judge. This is because the Masterson’s Whiskey has tasted better each time I have tried it subsequently, and quite frankly, it tastes much nicer than what I indicated in my scores for that particular competition. Masterson’s has strong oak and cedar notes, and a firm imprint of rye. The rye is perhaps buried in the oak somewhat more than what I would prefer, but as I said, I am liking it more each time I return to the bottle.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Horses Neck

2 oz Masterson’s Straight Rye Whiskey
4 to 8 oz Ginger Ale
Cracked Ice
Lemon peel

Place a long strand of lemon peel in a highball glass
Fill the glass halfway with cracked ice.
Add the rye whiskey
Add the ginger ale.
Enjoy !

The name “Horses Neck” apparently stems from the curvature of the lemon peel spiral which is reminiscent of a horses neck, or so I have been told.  The drink should be allowed to sit a few minutes before consumption to allow the oils from the lemon peel to be soaked into the ginger ale!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


2 Responses to “Masterson’s Straight Rye Whiskey”

  1. Jerry said

    Question, please – I’m confused as I can’t seem to find any Canadian regulation that specifies new wood, although I do find reference to the mandated use of “small wood”, for a minimum of three years aging. All the other sources I was able to find seem to indicate that it was permissible to age in new or used wood, charred or not, with the only limitation being the size of the barrel. Where is new wood for this whisky specified?

    • Masterson’s 10-year-old- Straight Rye Whisky is sold both in the United States and in Canada. In fact it is produced primarily for the US Market. Any Whisky sold in the United States which calls itself a “Straight” whisky must be barreled in new oak as per US regulations whether it is an American Whisky or a whisky from another country.

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