Jackson + Rye has been a Soho staple for a while now, and seems to be almost constantly full – with good reason! The American South meets a Wild West saloon meets a glance of Corbin and King styled suaveness results in J+R’s dimly lit, two-floor hardwood den and take on a zinc bar.
Something about the décor is still very European – even the menu is set out very brasserie-style, though the dishes themselves are from the hearty South. Chilli and garlic grilled shrimp on a bed of grits and sweetcorn and showered with shallots accompanied by and easy and citrusy Rittenhouse Rye to cut through the grits without over powering it. A main of buttermilk fried chicken and sweet potato fries with the warm spiciness of High West Double Rye, and finally, pecan pie with a spectacular rye whiskey ice cream alongside a thick, sugary sweet Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye.
For cocktails, the evening begins and ends with a Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan (classic Gangster recipe) of whiskey, Martini Rosso and Luxardo Maraschino to provide a smooth, sweet, but bold take on the Manhattan that isn’t served in London that often lest asked for.
Finally, a classic Woodford Reserve Rye Old Fashioned is heady and not kidding around with the citrus – classic in every sense of the word.
Besides the (incredibly) filling meal, a rye whiskey tasting that will soon be a regular attraction at Jackson + Rye!
A preview got us a history of rye, and the relationship between the UK and the USA regarding rye imports – and a tasting of four ryes;
Beginning with an everyday Jim Beam Rye, it comes off a bit more like a bourbon than a rye, a bit thin and flat. The nose is a myriad of spices, the palate begins with a vanilla sweetness, then a collection of spices and distinct warmth and a peppery finish.
The High West Double Rye is a lot more fun – with an immense rye content, you can smell the spiciness from a mile away, as well as a caramel. The mixture of old and young whiskeys that make HWDR result in a contradictory mix of powerful pepper and cinnamon, as well as a thick honey and nutty caramel. A fun ride, this one!
Bulleit makes an appearance – more famous for their bourbon, their new rye is popping up everywhere in London these days. (Personal note? I feel I’m a bigger fan of their bourbon.) Initially, you get kicked in the face with the spice and…tobacco? Followed by a light sweetness of fruits, strongly orange zest. All smoky.
Finally, the Smooth Angler Old Scout 7yr arrives to the table. Probably the most unique in the tasting, this was also the sweetest. It comes off in the nose too, chocolatey. The palate is as well, along with Demerara sugar, but still warming and spicy. A fantastic digestif.
Fun, conversational, and informative, the quality service at the tasting extends to the bartenders upstairs. No complaints here.
Jackson + Rye provides a beautiful environment (if not a bit noisy, it’s crowded enough, the Imelda May soundtrack doesn’t have to be as loud), with excellent service – substantial meals with quality cocktails and an excellent selection of ryes. And the tasting – excellent for introductions to rye – have a confident, conversational environment to both learn, *and* get drunk in. What’s not to love?
Jackson + Rye
56 Wardour Street, Soho,
London W1D 4JF