Silverback Distillery’s Blackback “Alpha Series” Rye (4 year single barrel 110 proof)
Founder Christine “Hoochmama” Riggleman and her family are operating out of both Virginia and Pennsylvania to bring their creative spirits to the market. As the only mother-daughter distilling duo in the nation, this family (or gorilla troop) business takes great pride in their roots, and in sharing their products with the world.
The family patriarch, Denver Riggleman, is the namesake for the family business. I’m not sure if the family nickname was always well-received by the Dad and Co-Founder, but there’s no denying that it plays well into the branding for the distillery. Clever product names like Blackback Bourbon, Alpha Series Rye, and Beringei Vodka work in perfect harmony with the self-described “troop” of distillers.
From the Silverback website:
Why is the distillery named “Silverback”? Silverback is the nick-name given to Christine’s husband, Denver, by their three wonderful, wise-ass daughters. His early graying hair, overprotective demeanor and generally grumpy attitude (although sprinkled with unbridled exuberance) contributed to the name.
We reached out to Lauren Riggleman Weller (aka Babyhooch), GM and Distiller for Silverback, to get more information on their products. Lauren was very quick to get back to us, and she gave us great information on the products and even set up a phone interview where we spoke with her in-depth about the products.
In tasting their products it’s clear they aren’t trying to rush things by using smaller barrels–which hopefully more craft distillers have the foresight to do as well. Lauren graciously shared with us that Silverback Distillery is aging their products in 53 gallon barrels from Independent Stave in their Virginia location.
Today we’re reviewing Silverback’s Blackback “Alpha Series” Rye which is a four year old single barrel product coming in at cask strength (110 proof). Interestingly, the Alpha Series rye went into the barrel at 110 as well–which tells us there wasn’t a lot of evaporation in this [just over] four year product. Alright, enough chat, let’s pop this bottle and have a taste!
Nose – Rye comes through first, as expected. There’s a light touch of grain mixing in that is detectable, but not unpleasant. A soft fruity sweetness rolls through and blends nicely with a touch of oak. This is interesting on the nose because at first it presents itself as a very traditional rye, but it as it breathes a bit, it shares more of it’s character. While there is some complexity on the nose, it only shows up in very brief bursts.
Taste – The rye flavor is spot-on, and works it’s way into just a bit of nice, almost-buttery caramel. There’s a light note of bubble-gummy sweetness that I sometimes get in ryes. In tasting this twice I can’t decide if there’s a spearmint note, or if I’m just expecting there to be one…and making myself believe it’s there. Again the complexity exists, but shows up with quick jabs rather than an uppercut. There’s a bit of ethanol that rolls through to the back of the palate bringing some heat with it, but I wouldn’t say this drinks hot, especially for the proof.
Finish – On the shorter side of medium. It falls off a little quicker than expected, and it isn’t very complex. The nice classic rye profile and soft sweetness disappear and a light amount of spice holds on just a little longer.
Craft Corner Evaluation: Ready
This is a cool product. I could easily see this taking over as a house rye, as it’s checking off all of the traditional rye boxes. A lot of times we end up thinking “it’s good for craft” when trying products from new smaller distilleries, but Silverback Distillery has surpassed that boring title. This is good rye. I think we’ll try this in a blind lineup of rye soon to see where it lands against some of the bigger names. The “Alpha Series” is the oldest product released by the mother-daughter duo, and it makes sense that they wanted to be sure it was dialed-in properly before it hit the shelves (note: it’s totally sold out now). To that end, they’ve done a good job. While not a very complex pour, this is obviously made with high standards and with plenty of attention to detail. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of their expressions hit a higher age point to see what the troop can do!
Our Craft Corner Evaluation: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is. Our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible. As such, we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us. While there isn’t a true definition of the Craft Whiskey category, we want to explore spirits from brands who identify as “Craft” with a system that indicates if the spirit is “Ready, Close to Ready, or Not Ready” as a means of dictating how close the spirit is to being on par with offerings from major distillers within the same price range. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!