There was a time when the widespread involvement of MGP of Indiana in the American whiskey scene was seen by drinkers as some kind of mystery or secret; a trivia question revelation that rye whiskey brands such as Bulleit, Templeton, Redemption, Sagamore Spirit and many others were all drawing on the same stocks as they blended similar ryes to crowd the shelves of your local package store. Over time, though, American whiskey drinkers have grown better educated, and the contributions of MGP—they call it the Ross & Squibb Distillery, but everyone still just seems to say “MGP”—have arguably become better understood and appreciated. Drinkers have more understanding that just because it may be the same, iconic “95-5” rye recipe, the resulting bottles can still vary greatly depending on how companies choose to finish, cut and proof their releases. Likewise, MGP house brands such as George Remus Bourbon and Rossville Union Rye have helped to solidify the idea of the massive distillery’s “house style,” showing us what the distillers at MGP believe their spirits taste like at their best.
And yet, it’s still easy to forget even now just how big MGP really is, and just how many disparate mash bills they produce. The 95% rye recipe is iconic, and will always be associated with MGP and the many national brands that have sourced it—so many, in fact, that this rye played a large part in changing the American perception of what rye whiskey tastes like. But that 95-5 mash bill isn’t the only rye being produced at MGP—they also dabble in what we would term “Kentucky-style” rye, which has only 51% rye in the grist and is thus much more corn heavy. For decades, this kind of “barely legal” rye was the national standard, before high-rye recipes from MGP and others pushed the style in a spicier and drier direction.
MGP’s own subsidiary Luxco (the companies merged in 2021), the producers of everything from Ezra Brooks and Blood Oath to Rebel Yell and Daviess County Bourbon, are now highlighting this lesser-known MGP rye with the creation of a new brand called Alias Straight Rye Whiskey. Hitting shelves in May, and eye-catchingly distinct in a blacked-out glass bottle and correspondingly black label, it seems to visually promise that this is something outside the ordinary. And so it is—this brand is a way for MGP to showcase a rye mash bill that is quite a bit different from what they’re typically known to produce. It weighs in at 51% rye, 45% corn and 4% malted barley, bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof). There’s no age statement, but the “straight” designation and lack of a corresponding exact age in months tells us that the spirit is at least four years old.
So with all that said, let’s get to tasting and see how a Kentucky-style rye from MGP of Indiana really comes across.
On the nose, I’m immediately getting a greater feel for the corn component of the mash bill than you would get on pretty much any 95-5 MGP rye, which makes all the sense in the world. There’s some cornbread here, along with pure rye grain/rye spice, a little caramel, slight mint, and an interesting trace of jalapeno pepper. Fruit is being teased out slowly, with somethin like baked pear.
On the palate, this is also clearly more like “Kentucky rye” than modern high rye whiskey, with a good rush of rye flavor, coupled with a greater degree of sweetness on the front end. The texture is actually a bit on the syrupy side, which makes the initial flavors of pear, menthol and rye grass seem almost a bit saccharine. I’m getting a bit of cinnamon sugar, before a transition into more notes of green oak. The overall impression is sweet on the front end, but then significantly more dry on the back, with a combination of herbal, peppery, minty and lightly fruity elements. A touch of ethanol heat rounds things out.
All in all, I can see why Luxco would want to explore this route, although there’s ultimately not a lot that makes this rye specifically stand out from other Kentucky-style ryes. It will likely be comfortable at home among other, younger mid-shelf ryes, and the $28 MSRP is a pretty solid value overall, putting Alias comfortably in line with some of the other best MGP value ryes, such as Dickel. At that price point, this could be a very versatile cocktail rye indeed.
Distillery: Luxco (MGP of Indiana)
City: Lawrenceburg, IN
Style: Straight rye whiskey
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $28 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.