Boutique-y released three separate bottlings from James E. Pepper – the new name for the Henry Clay distillery which reopened in 2017 after a near 60 year silent period. Each one a rye based spirit finished in a different final cask – oloroso, ale and in the case of Door number 18 of the 2019 Advent calendar – Pedro Ximenez. The expressions vary between 3-4 years, ergo, have been sourced by the James E. Pepper team rather than produced by them. The Boutique-y’ release consists of 1,077 bottles at 50% ABV and a cost of £46.95 from Master of Malt.
Nose: Dried red berries, raisins and sultanas sit with dusty rye spicing – allspice, pepper, wholegrain and doughy bread with a vein of dried earthiness running throughout. Alongside – orange juice, chopped almonds, walnuts, chocolate and a ‘green’ vegetal note. Dilution reveals wild honey and golden syrupy, but also something oddly synthetic – darkroom photo development chemicals?!?
Taste: A soft and pliable arrival which delivers fruits with oakiness before becoming deeper and more expansive. Apples and apricots are joined by raisins, whilst toasted oak, cereals and popcorn highlight the precursor cask rather than the finish. The development delivers dry spicing (alongside a progressively drying mouthfeel) – nutmeg, allspice and ginger – with toffee, cough syrup, Happy Shopper Cola and some overy sticky sherry in the back-palate. Reduction seems less beneficial – washing much of the brightness away and resulting in a muddiness of little discernible flavour character. It’s simply far superior at 50% ABV.
Finish: Medium and incredibly drying – but, pleasingly not, overly tannic with it. Fading berry fruits with cola cubes and ginger spicing.
Boutique-y’s PX finished James E. Pepper shows some promise with a largely soft, supple and gentle outlook. This has quite clearly been achieved though the Pedro Ximenez finish which has added sweetness and fruit – but, at the loss of some of the piquancy of the rye. There’s a commendable maturity here when served at its original ABV – but adding water seems ill-advised, on both the nose and palate. An interesting experiment – but, personally I prefer my rye to be more focussed on the ingredients (that make it rye) and less fixated on the cask.