First Call Rye Whiskey Review

First Call Rye Whiskey

Meet Luke

Luke is a Level I Certified Whiskey Specialist with a passion for exploring and unearthing the best whiskeys around. Luke has a preference for Rye whiskeys but has tasted over 250 different whiskeys to date varying from bourbons to scotches. He continues to expand upon his whiskey knowledge by tasting dozens of bottles monthly and reviewing them here on Barrel and Brew as he pursues his Masters of Whiskey certification.

Recently, we made the trek to Total Wine instead of our local liquor store. Liquor is a bit cheaper there, and it was time for us to reload our inventory. On our drive out there, we were discussing how a huge part of selling whiskey – especially whiskey sourced from other distilleries – relies on marketing. Well, at Total Wine, there were more stickers and signs pointing to First Call Rye and First Call Bourbon than to any other bottle. The marketing seemed to work since we went home with a bottle.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the taste, price, value and more of First Call Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. We’ll also touch upon the mysterious beginnings of this whiskey and the company behind them – IJW.

First Call Rye Whiskey Review

First Call History

Released sometime in 2021, First Call Whiskey was one of the initial releases of IJW Whiskey. We’ll discuss more on them soon. First Call’s website has almost zero information on the whiskey nor does the bottle – their website actually isn’t even existent anymore and their Facebook is pretty plain too. The little information we do get explains the name behind the whiskey. They wanted to pay homage to America’s original sport, thoroughbred racing. The first call or the call to the post meant that the racing was about to begin.

IJW Whiskey

In 2016, a warehouse in Danville, Kentucky popped up and began stocking barrels of whiskey. They don’t distill anything of their own, but they are partnered with 5 Kentucky distilleries in the area. There is little to no information on the company, their website just says “coming soon”. Just in the last 16 months did they begin releasing whiskey, one of which is First Call.

First Call Rye Whiskey Overview

  • Spirit: Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
  • Owned By: IJW Whiskey
  • Distilled By: Unknown
  • Age: Minimum 3 years
  • ABV: 45%, 90 Proof
  • Mash Bill: Unknown – at least 51% rye

Again, there is so little we know about this whiskey other than what’s legally required of it. Since it’s not aged a minimum of 4 years, the age statement must be on the bottle. As a rye whiskey, it must be 51% rye. Anything else is really speculation.

One guess is that First Call Rye comes from Wilderness Trail Distillery since it’s so close and they produce a good amount of rye whiskey, but like we said, this is speculation.

First Call Rye Whiskey Tasting Notes

I like to know all I can about what I drink – it just gives me an idea of other things I’d like. However, the real important question is, “is First Call Rye Whiskey good?”. We don’t need any background information to answer this question. Let’s find out.

Nose: A much sweeter nose than expected. There is some rye spice, but cherry and bubblegum (especially with ice) see to be strongest here.

Taste: The first thing I noticed was how thin it was on the palate. The rye spice is mild, almost diluted. Somehow I keep getting hints of bubblegum, and I’m not sure why. It’s not necessarily a bad taste, just different from anything I’ve had.

Finish: It’s an easy finish, but the bubblegum turns medicinal, almost floral. The finish is fairly short, but those medicinal notes stick around just a bit.

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Taste Summary

Ehhh. As a rye whiskey guy, this is certainly not it. Not to say it’s terrible, but price will play a huge role here. The quality of the whiskey is average to below average. It’s more thin and dry than I like for sure. I really don’t hate the initial taste of it. I certainly didn’t expect cherry and bubblegum to be primary notes of a rye whiskey, yet here we are.

If it weren’t for the thin palate and medicinal finish, I would like First Call Rye way more than I do. I could deal with it being a touch thin, and I could deal with a slight medicinal finish; however, the two really aren’t a good combination paired together.

First Call Rye Whiskey Price

While the whiskey isn’t my favorite, there are some decent flavors here. Because the quality and viscosity isn’t great here, the price is important. I should also note that this product, First Call Rye and First Call Bourbon, is only available at Total Wine. It’s also hard to miss since it’s so heavily marketed. So, how much does First Call Whiskey Cost?

First Call Straight Rye Whiskey Price: $20-22

The price is extremely consistent here, likely due to the deal between IJW Whiskey, First Call Whiskey, and Total Wine. I will say, that I’m very pleased with the price. It doesn’t change how I feel about the whiskey, but it certainly makes it more of a value play.

First Call Whiskey


As we mentioned, the value of this bottle comes from it’s cheap price point. I don’t think it’s a bad option for you to buy and/or try just because it’s only $20 and it’s not that bad. Personally, I’ll spend the extra $10 to get something a little better, or if my plan is to mix it, I’ll buy something like Jim Beam.

Again, for $20 there is little downside to trying it. If you don’t like it, use it in cocktails. If you still don’t like it, throw some coke in there and that’ll do the trick. It’s better than your bottom shelf options such as Kentucky Deluxe, but worse than most whiskeys you’ll spend an extra couple bucks on.

First Call Rye Whiskey Summary

IJW Whiskey is a mysterious and intriguing company. I want to know more, see where they go, and try some more of their whiskeys – even after not liking First Call. Now the First Call brand seems very gimmicky. I get they needed some kind of brand, but they seemingly just threw a horse and name related to racing on the bottle. There’s no history or even relation to horse racing from First Call outside of the state it’s made in. Woodford Reserve, granted a much bigger whiskey brand, has been around for 20-something years, and sponsors the Kentucky Derby every year – that means something.

The whiskey itself is sub-par. I’ll drink it, but won’t ever buy it again. Perhaps I’ll try and review First Call Bourbon, though. I don’t consider myself to be super picky, but some people really like First Call Rye. It’s easy to drink and it’s cheap, but that’s about all it has going for it. Ultimately, the thin quality and medicinal after taste ruin it for me. It is $20, so if you want something new and cheap to try, go for it. Just don’t expect too much.

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