The Passenger has its own rye whiskey, thanks to Catoctin Creek

If you like Catoctin Creek's Roundstone Rye, you're going to love the Virginia distillery's new, single-barrel Roundstone Rye. Aged for more than two years, it has a wonderful butterscotch flavor and a spicy, lingering finish with more oak and less vanilla than the original Roundstone. Intrigued? There's only one place you'll be able to try it: the Passenger.

Bottles of the Passenger's Roundstone Rye at the Catoctin Creek distillery. (Photo courtesy of Alexandra Bookless)

The new release comes from a single barrel of whiskey selected by members of the Passenger's staff during a tasting at the distillery."We blind-tasted it, and tried different barrels multiple times," explained bartender Alexandra Bookless, who doubles as the bar's assistant general manager. "We all agreed on this one."

The chosen barrel was a unique one, from the Black Swan Cooperage in Minnesota, which is reflected in the taste. "It's a different cooperage than they usually do for rye," Bookless says. "It's unique. You can definitely tell it's different."

This isn't the first time the Passenger has had its own custom whiskey. In 2012, the bar was one of several local cocktail spots that selected its own Four Roses bourbon. "We tried 20 or so whiskeys, chose one we liked and bought the whole barrel," Bookless says. "The staff really liked doing it, so we decided to do it again, but we wanted to use a local distillery." She says that Catoctin Creek was a natural fit: "We really like working with them. They understood what we were looking for."

Passenger staff selected the barrel about four months ago, and returned to the distillery last weekend to hand-bottle the entire run of 168 bottles. The Passenger's Roundstone Rye will be available at the Shaw bar on either Thursday or Friday, depending on delivery, but will make its official debut at the bar Saturday night as part of Catoctin Creek's fifth anniversary celebration. The party, which begins at 8 p.m., will feature giveaways and an entire chalkboard of Catoctin Creek drinks.

Bookless has already begun playing around with the new rye in cocktails, and so far, she's taken with the way it tastes in a Sazerac. "The rye has a lot of butterscotch and caramel notes," Bookless says. "It's rich, which goes well with the sweetness of a Sazerac."

After the debut, there should be enough of the house rye to last for months. This leaves one problem: What to do with the barrel, which currently sits in the bar. "We're not really sure yet," Bookless says. "We could age beer in it. Our Four Roses barrel is at 3 Stars [Brewing Company] right now. They're aging a beer in it, which should be ready in four months. But we could put other things in [the Catoctin Creek] barrel, too. We haven't decided."

The Passenger, 1021 Seventh St. NW. 202-393-0220. 

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.



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