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All About Rye Whiskey


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#1 Joe Blowe

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 09:03 AM

http://www.latimes.c...ll=la-home-food

Rugged spirit's rebirth
We'll give it to you straight: Rye, the whiskey of George Washington, is back in vogue.

By Charles Perry, Times Staff Writer

TODAY a cornerstone will be laid here on the site of George Washington's distillery, which is being rebuilt after 190 years of neglect. During Washington's lifetime it produced as much as 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year, making it the largest distillery in the young nation.

Rye whiskey is what Washington made, so it's fitting that the rebirth of his distillery comes at a time when there seems to be renewed interest in rye, which leapt from obscurity during the Revolution to become the country's leading tipple. It was the patriotic drink; unlike rum, the favorite in Colonial days, rye required no trade with England.

Also included is a list of 10 ryes tasted by their panel...
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#2 slkinsey

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 11:28 AM

Great to see more attention being paid to rye whiskey! It's so much more interesting than bourbon, in my opinion.

Here are the ryes sampled by the Times:

Black Maple Hill Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, 18 years old
Hirsch Selection Canadian Rye Whiskey, 10 years old
Hirsch Selection Canadian Rye Whiskey, 12 years old
Hirsch Selection Canadian Rye Whiskey, 8 years old
Jim Beam Straight Rye Whiskey
Michter's Single Barrel Straight Rye
Michter's Straight Rye, 10 years old
Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey
Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, 18 years old
Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

I'm a little disappointed that they didn't try Rittenhouse bonded rye, as I think it is one of the very best on the market. There is also some issue having to do with the "old Michter's" and the "new Michter's" rye, that I would have liked to have seen explained (the old Michter's distillery closed and now it's not clear that the stuff sold as "Michter's" is really the same).

Has anyone had any experience with Old Potrero's 18th Century Style Whiskey, which is 100% rye and only aged 2 years? It's always seemed interesting to me, but is very expensive.

Also glad to see a recipe for the Ward Eight there. Good drink. (I like this recipe better, though.)
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#3 mrbigjas

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 11:43 AM

i didn't know beam made old overholt. how about that.

#4 KOK

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 12:05 PM

One of my favorites, Pikesville Rye was nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps it's considered an also-ran as it can often be had for less than $10/ fifth. Or maybe it's only available in the Wash., D.C. area.

Mixed in a cocktail, straight up, or with a little ice, it is a very dependable rye for an excellent price.

Thanks,

Kevin
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#5 eje

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 12:42 PM

Sadly, I've never seen either Pikesville or Rittenhouse here in SF, so perhaps they are not sold in CA.

Of what I consider the "sipping" ryes, I haven't seen either the Sazerac, or my personal unmentioned favorite, the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye recently. Anyone know if either of these are available somewhere in the Bay Area?

My favorite mixing rye is the Wild Turkey.

-Erik
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#6 Joe Blowe

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 06:01 PM

Regarding Pikesville and Rittenhouse (among others), I actually did the footwork on this and found out that they are simply not distributed in California. You won't find it, UNLESS your local proprietor is circumventing the assigned middlemen. :hmmm: So, the LA Times just did not have access to those brands...

However, it wouldn't have been too difficult to mail-order them like I did. I love my Rittenhouse BIB (purchased from Binny's), and I can't wait for the day that I can cruise on down to my local liquor store and pick up a bottle as needed.
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#7 eje

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 06:58 PM

Some more thoughts after reading the article.

I'm curious from the bartenders in the group, if a lot of customers order bourbon or rye cocktails.

I know I've been to a few "cocktail" bars here in SF that don't even have a dusty bottle of Jim Beam rye behind the counter. In a lot of bars, I find ordering an Old-Fashioned is a leap of faith, let alone a Sazerac.

RE: Anchor Whiskey

Took the Anchor tour (free!) earlier this year, and sadly they are no longer allowed to pour the whiskey or gin in the tasting room.

I tried the 19th Century Rye once in a bar and thought it quite lovely. Never been able to justify the cost for a whole bottle at home, however. I would imagine the 18th might be a bit rougher, given the lack of aging and the 125 proof. I don't think they export the 18th Century outside of CA.

-Erik

Edited by eje, 28 September 2005 - 09:32 PM.

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#8 mbrowley

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Posted 29 September 2005 - 04:32 PM

Has anyone had any experience with Old Potrero's 18th Century Style Whiskey, which is 100% rye and only aged 2 years?  It's always seemed interesting to me, but is very expensive.

View Post



Knocked back a few Potrero's at Blackberry Farm in TN earlier this year in the company of the rest of the Southern Foodways Alliance board; smooth, delightful, just a little smokey (it's not actually smoked, just a feel). Seemed a shame at that price to add ice, so I did with just a splash of water.

As for Sazerac - who could've guessed that it's another SFA connection? - Had it first a few years back smuggled onto the upper deck of a bright red bus ferrying us from Oxford to Taylor, MS. The top was open to the brisk autumn air and we were going about 40 mph. Frankly, I was so cold, I don't recall the taste, but I'm still smiling at the memories of the company and the foresight of my friend from Louisville to bring 750 ml of liquid warmth...
Matthew B. Rowley
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#9 Alchemist

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 03:30 PM

Rye is the new Gin, and Gin was the new vodka. All kowtow to Rye, it's genteel dryness and sublime complexity make it a joy to work with. And we are now in the season of the brown liquors. Oh, joy!

Edited by Alchemist, 30 September 2005 - 03:30 PM.




A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

#10 eje

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 11:41 AM

I will revive this thread to point out that Sazerac has a new, somewhat limited, bottling of their Straight Rye Whiskey available this holiday season.

Might be the perfect stocking stuffer for the Whiskey fancier on your list...or perhaps a little holiday splurge for yourself!

-Erik
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#11 kvltrede

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 01:17 PM

As long as the topic of rye has been bumped I'll hop on. Has anyone here tried Olde St. Nick Rye? Apparently it's a bonded rye made in Kentucky.

I have book of spirits reviews from the Beverage Tasting Institute from 1999. I was flipping through it the other day and saw Olde St. Nick listed. They gave it a rating of 94 and their description prompted a quick visit to the Sam's and Binny's websites. No luck. Google wasn't much help either except that the one link not in Japanese--and which was last update 6/2004--says that Olde St. Nick is export-only. That piece of info is from 1999.

So, anyone tried it? Any overseas eGulleteers tried it or seen it on a liquor store shelf or backbar?

Kurt
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#12 cdh

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 01:36 PM

Must chime in to concur about Pikesville rye. Found some in Maryland and have been mixing with it to quite satisfactory results. Makes a great Manhattan, and a fine milk punch. Tremendous value!
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#13 scratchline

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 03:31 PM

I've never seen the Olde St. Nick, and I've been searching out rye whiskeys nationwide for the past five years. Is that new Sazerac the younger bottling that I've heard rumors about or a special bottling of the 18 yr? Also what do those who've tried it think of the Canadian Lot 40? Not widely available in the Northeast, but I picked some up in Arkansas and think it makes a good Manhattan. It's stamped "made with malted rye". The Canadian Hirsch mentioned in the LA Times is very light rye. Have only sampled the 8 yr., but have some of the 12 yr on the shelf as well. I see it turning up in NYC now. What's the concensus on that one?

Was very sorry to see the 12 yr old Van Winkle rye is a thing of the past. I preferred it to the Reserve.

Sip safe.

Edited by scratchline, 15 December 2005 - 03:33 PM.


#14 eje

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 06:57 PM

Is that new Sazerac the younger bottling that I've heard rumors about or a special bottling of the 18 yr?

View Post

I think there is a new younger bottling; but, I haven't seen that.

The one I got as an, uh, early christmas present to myself is 18 years old, bottled fall 2005.
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#15 scratchline

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 07:44 PM

Aaaaah, that's mighty fine stuff. That's the favorite whiskey of a buddy of mine in Nashville, so I took him a bottle at Thanksgiving and we broke into it. Enjoy.

I haven't seen that younger bottling either. If it's half as good as the 18yr., it'll be just fine.

#16 eje

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 01:48 PM

A friend and I decided we would do a tasting of as many Ryes as we could reasonably find. We ended up with:

Sazerac 6 yo
Sazerac 18 yo (2 bottlings)
Classic Cask Rye
Van Winkle Family Reserve rye
Van Winkle 12 yo Rye
Black Maple Hill rye (made by Van Winkle)
Jim Beam Rye
Old Overholt Rye
Michter's Straight Rye Whiskey
Pikesville Rye
Rittenhouse Bonded Rye

We sipped straight and made no attempt to blind ourselves to the brands or cost.

Our initial reaction was, really, there are no bad whiskeys on this list. Also, unlike our bourbon tasting last year, for the most part, we felt the Ryes we tasted were pretty fairly priced. The ones which are more expensive are much more distinctive and delicious than the cheaper labels.

The two ryes which seemed the least like the others were the Jim Beam and the Van Winkle 12 year. I don't know if they use a larger percentage of other grains in their mash or if there are other differences in the manufacturing process; but, these two were the least Rye-ish.

The younger Sazerac's flavor has a lot in common with its older sibling, but, is clearly a less distinctive whiskey. It compares very favorably to the somewhat more expensive Michter's.

The Rittenhouse Bonded and Pikesville are clearly the great deals of the bunch. The Rittenhouse, especially, compares well to all but the very expensive labels. It really is too bad it's not easier to get in CA. To me, the Beam and Overholt, while good, aren't great sipping whiskies. The Overholt, especially, seemed to have something of a bitter finish.

Of the expensive labels, the Sazerac, Van Winkle Family Reserve, and Classic Cask were our favorites. My friend preferred the Family Reserve and I preferred the Classic Cask. However, I don't think I could justify the current price of the Classic Cask to purchase a new bottle for myself. The Black Maple Hill we had was an older bottling made by Van Winkle. I believe it was a 15 year old Whiskey. While the Rye base was there and tasty, the oak overtones were, to me, a bit harshly tannic and smoky.

It was interesting to note that we thought we detected some differences between the 2004 and 2005 bottlings of the 18 year Sazerac. The 2004 seeming a bit sweeter and the 2005 a bit more lean.

In addition we had a couple archaeological bourbon finds from the back shelves of low turnover liquor stores.

The first was a 2 liter bottle of Eagle Rare which my friend located and feels is one of the best bourbons he has ever had. It still had the tax label and was distilled at somewhere that is now closed. To me, it is a very good bourbon; but, tastes a bit like the built in platic pour spout may not have been entirely inert.

The other was an ancient bottle of J.W. Dant Olde Bourbon Bourbon I found. This one was really mellow and sippable; but, both of us were amazed that the aftertaste actually tasted like corn. Bizarre.

In conclusion, it was a fun exercise. I was surprised to find, even at higher proofs, most Ryes mellower and more sippable straight than many of their sometimes harsh bourbon cousins. As a bonus, I now have a lot of Rye in my cabinet for cocktail making.

Cheers!

edit - removed Wild Turkey from list, see below.

Edited by eje, 06 February 2006 - 12:45 PM.

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#17 slkinsey

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 09:10 AM

Interesting, Eric! I wish we had good data on the grain bills for the various rye whiskeys.

I know, for example, that the Van Winkle ryes have only 51% rye in the mash -- the lowest percentage allowed by law. This strikes me as hardly a rye whiskey, although I don't know what percentage is more usual for a rye.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#18 mbanu

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 11:30 AM

Although many people seem disappointed at not having to hunt down a good rye, one of the best I've had is also (at least around here) one of the most widely distributed; Wild Turkey Rye. Like all of Wild Turkey's whiskeys, the distillation proof is low, the barrelling and bottling proof are high. It also uses a good chunk of rye in the grain mash, unlike some of the "technically rye" mixes that hover around 51% rye, 45% corn and 4% barley.

I had a bottle of Old Overholt once that had a Georgia Moon aftertaste. They've probably changed both Old Overholt and Georgia Moon since then, but I still don't think much of it.

#19 eje

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 12:44 PM

A friend and I decided we would do a tasting of as many Ryes as we could reasonably find...Wild Turkey Rye

View Post

I should have mentioned this in my write up. In the excitement of getting things together, I sadly neglected to pack my bottle of Wild Turkey. I thought it was in the box I had packed to take the week before; but, alas, it was not.

I was especially interested in how it would compare to the younger Sazerac and the Rittenhouse.

The Wild Turkey Rye is one of my favorite Ryes, especially for mixing. From memory, it has a spicier flavor that I find really works well in Sazeracs.
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Erik Ellestad
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#20 scratchline

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 03:07 PM

Great post, Erik. Very interesting about the differences in the Saz 18 bottlings. I sampled the 2003 with a friend at Thanksgiving, and it was tremendous. Between the two of us we have now assembled bottles of the 01, 02, 03, and 05. I'm looking forward to completing the list and sampling them side by side.

I've really liked this whiskey in the past but was amazed at how good that 03 was. Of course may be it was the season.

I'm very pleased to see rye making a comeback since its spicier flavor is often more to my taste than bourbon. That said, I'm thoroughly enjoying exploring the wide world of bourbon. There are few things to compare to the nose of Old Rip Van Winkle 15 year old. Maybe the scent of the chocolate chip cookie batter from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen.

Thanks again for the tasting notes.

Edited by scratchline, 08 February 2006 - 09:01 PM.


#21 Sneakeater

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 03:14 PM

For the little it's worth, I got a bottle of Sazerac 18 (I don't remember the year off hand), and I liked it all out of proportion to what I thought its reputation was. I'm glad to see that others feel strongly favorably disposed to it as well.

#22 Joe Blowe

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Posted 31 March 2006 - 12:08 PM

FYI, Heaven Hill's Rittenhouse BIB recently took the prize for best North American Whiskey at the 2006 S.F. World Spirits Competition.

I've been keeping Rittenhouse on hand for the last year or so, and I gotta say it again: Not only is it the best bang-for-the-buck whiskey in America right now (IMO), but it would be just as good at twice the price. Now that it's an award winner, I hope that doesn't become the case! :laugh:
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#23 mrbigjas

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Posted 31 March 2006 - 01:22 PM

i like it a lot too. if only we could get it in PA... come to think of it, if only i could get it in NJ or DE, either. i haven't seen it either place. where is this stuff sold?

#24 eje

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 09:16 PM

To add to your list of hard to find rye whiskies, Anchor Distilling bottled 30 cases of an 11 year old version of their 100% rye whiskey called, "Hotaling's Whiskey".

Old Potrero Hotaling's Whiskey

This unusual whiskey has been aged for more than eleven years in once-used, charred oak whiskey barrels. Many of the finest Scottish "single malts" are aged in the same manner. The method of producing this Hotaling's Whiskey is identical to our other Old Potrero whiskeys—it is a pot-distilled spirit from a mash of 100% malted rye. Only the barrel aging is different. At more than ten years in barrel, we were surprised and delighted to see this product develop a fine, mature, and mellow character. It has been a long time in developing, but it has been worth the wait!


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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
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#25 eje

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 08:35 AM

I gave Anchor Distilling's Old Potrero Single Malt Hotaling's Whiskey a small taste last night.

The Hotaling's comes on pretty strong out of the bottle. Kind of a rough and tumble nose, befitting its Barbary Coast roots.

Given that it is 100 proof, it's also not surprising it's a little hot on the tongue. There's a bit of vanilla and good, clean rye flavor.

Aside from savoring the nose of the spirit in the glass before drinking, one thing I like to do is enjoy the smell a spirit leaves in the glass after it is gone.

The Hotaling's leaves behind a haunting and almost wine like complexity.

I hope this isn't a one off for Anchor, because, I believe they have created a new American classic.

~Erik
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#26 Graphix

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 10:35 AM

hah, funny you mentioned Georgia Moon mbanu. I noticed te liqour store around the corner from me stocks it, is it worth picking up a bottle just to try? Would it be mixable? or not worth it? I hadnt seen it befor and could help but laugh at the "bottling." for anyone who hasnt seen it, it comes in this...
http://www.sixthseal...orn_whiskey.jpg

peace,
B

#27 Splificator

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 08:35 AM

I hope this isn't a one off for Anchor, because, I believe they have created a new American classic.

Just tried this myself and am inclined to agree. The cool thing about it is that it's 100% rye malt (rather than the usual rye-corn-barley malt mashbill), aged in used oak barrels (rather than the standard new oak) in a climate closer to Scotland than to Kentucky--in other words, it breaks the mold in many ways. I'd love to see more whiskies doing that (Heaven Hill's excellent Bernheim wheat whiskey is another).
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#28 slkinsey

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 07:05 AM

What's Hotaling's going for at retail?
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#29 eje

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 09:32 AM

Sam,

It's the same price as Anchor's other whiskies, around $60 US.

~Erik
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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
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#30 eje

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 10:33 AM

Just a fair warning kind of post.

If you've tried Anchor's other whiskies and don't like them, you probably won't like the Hotaling's Whiskey either.

A friend tried it, and even though I had warned him about the whiskey's pugilistic nose and initial impression, he was still was a bit put off. He did eventually enjoy it after adding a bit of water.

In any case, this whiskey was reserved from the first batch of whiskey that Anchor distilled, so perhaps future releases, (cross your fingers,) will be more subtle.

It was also released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the great earthquake.

Hotaling's was a brand of whiskey made in San Francisco, whose warehouses inexplicably survived the quake and subsequent fire.

I particularly like the poem quoted on the back of the bottle:

'If, as they say, God spanked the town
For being over frisky,
Why did He burn the churches down
And save Hotaling's whiskey?'


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Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA