William “Bat” Masterson personifies what made the west wild. His claim to fame wasn’t as a heavy drinker but as a western folk hero of the late 19th Century. He is a pioneer of an extreme lifestyle that in comparison makes Tony Hawk look like an extra on the wholesome Leave It To Beaver. That is why he’s the inspiration behind a whiskey that is responsible for making rye my favorite type.
Masterson moved from Canada to the United States in 1853 searching for the American dream. Buffalo hunter, Army scout, gunfighter, U.S. Marshal, gambler, frontier sheriff, sports editor and columnist are just some of the career choices he made over his six-decade life stretching from Dodge City to New York. One of the highlights from his storied past was a gig as deputy for Sheriff Wyatt Earp. After parting ways, these friends found each other in Tombstone Arizona where Earp was a partner in a gambling saloon and Masterson was gambling for a living. It was during this time that that Bat Masterson earned his reputation as a gunfighter not to mess with.
Back in the late 1950’s NBC aired a western series based on his life. They explained Masterson’s “Bat” nickname with his use of a cane as his weapon of choice instead of a gun. However, that’s not the real story. According to his 1907 biography written in the third person he rambles, “It was a hunter he won his name of ‘Bat’, which descended to him, as it were, from Baptiste Brown, or ‘Old Bat’, whose fame as a mighty nimrod was flung across all across…” Huh? That passage supports my suspicion that Bat liked to drink a bit of whiskey.
A Colorado journalist interviewed a Masterson acquaintance that treated the interview as a joke. He made up crazy fictional stories about Masterson shooting 26 men as a gunfighter when in fact it had only been a couple. The reporter published these exaggerated stories and they spread like wildfire building Masterson up as a celebrity. Masterson took this reputation and continued to travel western towns promoting prizefights and gambling until late in his working life when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him deputy U.S. marshal for the southern district of New York.
Just like William Masterson, this 10-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey was born in Canada. Alberta Distillers distilled the spirit in small batches using their famous traditional copper pot still then aged it in white-oak barrels. The finished whiskey traveled to 35 Maple Street in Sonoma California and was released as a premium 100% rye whiskey.
This is a classic example of a Canadian style rye whiskey and like Masterson; it has a lot going on. Just like a master gun fighter waiting to draw in a duel, the nose of this rye takes its time. At the premium price, it’s a good idea to stare right back anticipating the draw as rye grain notes waft through a whirlwind of fragrant and spicy sweet notes.
The peppery spicy sweetness reminds me of an adult version of one of those small town carnival stands that sells caramel corn, cotton candy and snow cones. All the aromas mingle to attract people from all around to the point where you’ll wonder why Kevin Costner didn’t just distill rye instead of building that Field of Dreams baseball field. With this whiskey, all the rye aromas weave with the oak and sweet confections creating a signature smell that’s instantly inviting and tempting. In the mouth, it has an elegant balance of wood and fruity flavors with the classic rye spice naturally transitioning to a refreshing palate cleansing finish that sets up the next sip. It delivers every time.
After I heard Masterson’s story it made sense why this rye is tied to him. It was a wild time in history when whiskey was the drink of choice and this whiskey lives up to that time. However, it’s a good thing this refined whiskey wasn’t around back then. It would have destroyed the classic Westerns. A bunch of cowboys nosing whiskey would replace gunfight scenes in John Wayne films. The Good The Bad and The Ugly would feature Clint Eastwood as a whiskey critic. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance would be called The Man Who Did Shots With Liberty Valance. And Masterson would have found notoriety as a whiskey connoisseur instead of a sports editing buffalo hunting deputy marshal army scout gambling gunfighter who hung out with Wyatt Earp and the President.