James E. Pepper 1776 Sherry Finished Rye

83 Slightly Flawed

While sherry finishes gain momentum in the American whiskey world, this presentation misses with a bitterness on the rear palate that throws off otherwise enjoyable sweet flavors.

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What it is

James E. Pepper is a relatively new distillery located in Lexington, KY. The distillery itself has only begun making it’s own distillate recently, but the company has sourced whiskey for some time, usually from MGP Ingredients in Lawrenceburg, IN.

This Limited Edition straight rye, finished in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso Sherry barrels, follows suit. It is distilled by MGP, and is at least three years old, and is bottled at 92 proof. It is non-chill filtered.

James E. Pepper 1776 Sherry-Finished Rye Stats
  • Style: Straight Rye finished in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso Sherry Barrels
  • Mash Bill: 95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
  • Proof: 92º (46% ABV)
  • Age: At least 3 years
  • Batch: PXI
  • Price Paid: $39.99
  • Availability: Limited Release


Medium Brown


Sweet dark chocolate, spice cake, dark ripe fruits, and just a hint of oak greet the nose. It’s very rich, and deviates from the typical citrus bite of MGP rye, though some candied orange zest is present.


And here’s where the rye assets itself. The black pepper spice is prevalent down the center of the palate with some sweet notes on the perimeter of the tongue. A slightly bitter note makes itself known on the rear palate, somewhat marring the overall flavor, but not completely.


The Bitterness from the rear palate remains, taking on a brown-paper-bag characteristic at the end of the long finish, with a burst of sweetness in the middle.


Overall, this is a slightly flawed, yet still drinkable rye. Sherry finishes, long a staple in the Scotch world, are making their way into American whiskey, sometimes to great success. Were it not for the bitterness at the end of the palate and on the finish, this would also be a great success. Unfortunately, that bitterness keeps this from being a homerun sip. That’s especially disappointing considering the success of a very similar product from Limestone Branch- Minor Case Rye Whiskey, another MGP rye finished in sherry barrels.

ModernThirst.com Score: 83 out of 100.

Minor Case Rye Whiskey



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About Author

Bill is the Co-Founder, Editor-in Chief, and official Bourbon-o-Phile for ModernThirst.com, and Founder and Chief Blending Officer for Four Gate Whiskey Company. He is a native of Louisville, KY in the heart of Bourbon Country. He attended the University of Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. He has also been published on Liquor.com. He has conducted various bourbon and whiskey tastings in cities across the country, and consulted for multiple national labels. He is married with two daughters, and lives in east Louisville. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BillStraub and email him at Bill@ModernThirst.com.

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