The Real Holy Water – The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey

Everyone deals with lock-down in different ways, but it does seem that there is one thing that unites everyone, a good drink. When news broke that Melbourne was heading back into lock-down everyone rushed to the bottle shop to grab something to get themselves through the week, and then the next when news broke that the lock-down was being extended we all did the exact same thing. To be honest its oddly comforting. Going over the shelves I am still astounded by the amount of Aussie whiskey that graces them, the sheer variety on display proves how much the industry has grown in recent years. I wanted to pick up something local to support the smaller producers during this time, and I happened to grab a bottle of something that’s local, tasty, and also supports everyone they can. This World Whisky Wednesday is all about The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey.

Whiskey is religion. Rye is The Gospel.

The Gospel distillery is that brilliant whiskey story we can all enjoy. Founders Ben Bowles and Andrew Fitzgerald first entered the distillery game when they launched their original Melbourne Moonshine back in 2015 to much acclaim, using nothing but a set of Portuguese still and a corn recipe that South Carolinian Bowles came into in his early years. While Melbourne Moonshine had it’s up and downs (you should try it, it’s good stuff) a shift occurred in 2016 when the pair thought about heading deeper into the distillery game. Moonshine is all good, but what about whiskey?

Plans were set in motion and experimentation began with the duo located a single farm where from they could source their rye, nestled within the Murray Mallee region in South Australia. After that they took a close look at how they would make their spirit, Australia’s regulations are….. somewhat lacking in specifics, but as the distillery saw the American market as a key part of their future they took the dive to follow the American regulations for rye, distilled from a mash at least 51% rye, distilled to no more than 80%, matured in charred virgin American oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

They took their time too. They started all of this experimentation in 2016, moved distillery to the new Brunswick location in 2019 and released their first rye in September of the same year, The Gospel Solera Rye. It wasn’t until 2020 that the Straight Rye Whiskey was released, ticking all the boxes to hold the promise of its name.

The spirit is distilled first in a stripping run through an in house designed and built six metre tall column still, then through a pot still. At least two years of aging follows in virgin American oak with chars ranging from medium to an alligator skin. After that, bottle it, sell it, drink it. Simple stuff. Since the humble beginnings the team has grown to include Aussie whisky alumni such as Master Distiller Ian Thorn (previously Starward) and Alex Poulsen (previously Hippocampus and Boatrocker), so it only looks up from there.

So with all that said and done, lets try this whiskey out.

Heavy hitter on the palate, filled with all those beautiful rye tones you know and love, heavy vanilla and caramel, star anise grilled in brown sugar, grapefruit and lime juice, nutty caraway. There’s this oddly creamy creamy on the nose, this fluffiness to the whiskey as though everything is bouncing off a trampoline of flavour to get to you! the sugar starts to get lighter with time and there’s hints of fairy floss, and it’s intensely earthy and fresh. Cocoa and grains, rich dark bread and a lathering of butter. It’s open and inviting, like when you used to smell a neighbours BBQ and they would invite you round for a few beers.

Ooofff that’s flavour right there. At first it’s this rush of caramel and sugar but then it cools down and everything else starts to come through, clove, vanilla, blackberry, earth and spices. There a hint of meat in there somewhere that has me thinking of kangaroo salami, rich coffee that has me thinking of black Melbourne coffee, a fresh note of eucalyptus trees. I don’t know how they did it but they distilled the flavour and relaxation of Brunswick into a whiskey, damn that’s easy! Cinnamon donuts, hints of chili, flecks of pepper, this magnificent build halfway through the palate of spice that drops off as things turn metallic and we get iron flecks and copper, stretching further into sweet root vegetables with grilled swede, hint of radish and ginger.

Finish, and the finish just keeps going. It’s this constant dance between the bread hit off the rye against raspberry and blackberry muffins, jersey caramels and cashews, deep and relaxing. Put on a good tune and just let the whiskey carry you away.

This is a ridiculously good whiskey. Rye whiskey has been getting more popular the world over for some time, with more and more distillers turning towards it but I have never tasted rye quite like this before. The only thing that would come close is the TOAD from Oxford, but they are completely different whiskies. I want to savour this whiskey, I want to drink it all at once, I want to have it neat, on ice, with heat, in cocktails simple and sophisticated and discover the depths of the drink. It’s just brilliant.

The best thing about Gospel though is that it does not stop there. I bought this bottle to support a local distillery but these guy have been supporting local as much as possible. When Covid hit they started doing what distilleries doing, making hand sanitizer. Then they gave away the profits to hospitality staff who were among the hardest hit. They were approached by a industrial wholesaler but had to turn them down as they were making sanitizer for NFTs. Broke at this point in time they continued doing what they could, making sanitizer to help those in need.

They’ve supported, and continue to support those communities who were devastated by the bush fires. They support local and independent business. They’ve helped advertise and spread word of books written by indigenous Australians (seriously, you should read that stuff, damn eye opening), and advertised and spread word of the Amplify festival which highlighted the experiences of being deaf and disabled in the Victorian music industry.

They are almost infuriatingly nice folk to be honest, and to top it all off the bottle cost me less than $100. This is Australian whiskey we’re talking about and these guys have it at not only an affordable but a great price. It’s great.
Yes, you should buy a bottle of The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey. I will be buying a bottle, I’ll probably buy a few to be honest and use it for a whole range of occasions. The taste of the whiskey, the story, their support for everyone makes me want to support these guys as much as possible. All that’s left is to play that tune and relax with the rest of the bottle.

Now this is good religion.

This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery, The Gospel or otherwise, and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.

If you would like to learn more about The Gospel, click here to discover their story, and here to see their shop.

If you enjoyed reading this, why not give me a follow on Twitter at @Somewhiskybloke? There you can stay up to date with what I’m drinking and what news I’m ignoring while trapped in the wonderful whisky bubble.

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