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All About Rye Whiskey


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#61 limewine

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 11:07 AM

Isn't Old Overholt made by the same guys who make Jim Beam?  Aren't these the guys who jumpstarted the small batch bourbon craze when they figured out that they could take regular old Jim Beam out of the still and just age it/bottle it/label it differently as Baker's, Basil Hayden's, Booker's or Knob Creek?  I don't understand why they aren't doing this with Old Overholt.

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Neither do I. When I was working on my rye story, I asked Beam representatives that question; while refusing to show their hand on any future plans (or much of anything, for that matter), their response to the point about high-end ryes was, essentially, people should drink Basil Hayden bourbon (which has a high percentage of rye in its mashbill). About a year and a half ago, I was told much the same thing while chatting with Fred Noe, the brand ambassador for Beam's small-batch selection, though he also showed distinct surprise at the number of requests he was getting for a premium rye (I was something like the fourth person that day who had asked him about it).

(And as an aside, in that conversation Noe told me that the small-batch bourbons have different mashbills from the regular Beam and from each other, and that they weren't simply aged and bottled differently. Just saying, that's what I was told.)
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#62 kvltrede

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:29 PM

...I asked Beam representatives that question; while refusing to show their hand on any future plans (or much of anything, for that matter), their response to the point about high-end ryes was, essentially, people should drink Basil Hayden bourbon (which has a high percentage of rye in its mashbill)....

Wow. Really? I've only had the Basil Hayden once so I'm no expert--and I should probably keep my mouth shut--but I certainly wouldn't have guessed it had a substantial amount of rye in the mashbill. I found it to be a nice enough whiskey but mild and forgettable. In fact, my first thought was that the BH was a nice whiskey for people who don't really like whiskey. Now that I've read this I'm tempted to give it another shot but, really, between the whiskeys I know I prefer to the BH and those I haven't yet tried I couldn't say when that might happen. YMMV.

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#63 slobhan

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:45 PM

FWIW, Paul's article from the mag is also posted online, here.
Note: link will change 2/28/07

I haven't tasted many ryes in my day, but Paul's tasting notes have me ready to organize a rye tasting at home....I'll likely start with something like Old Overholt because of both availability and price.
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#64 slkinsey

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:48 PM

The thing that's infuriating about it, is that they wouldn't even have to change anything. Just put less water in the bottle. That, right there, would make a huge difference. Never mind missing out on the premium sipping rye wave. They're missing the boat as the mixing rye of choice.

Let's say they're charging 15 bucks a liter for Overholt at retail. Okay, assuming that this stuff comes out of the barrel at 125 proof, a liter of 100 proof Overholt would have to contain 800 ml of barrel-proof whiskey cut with 200 ml of water. A liter of 80 proof Overholt should have 640 ml of barrel-proof whiskey cut with 360 ml of water. That means that there would be 160 ml more of barrel-proof whiskey in the 100 proof liter, for an increase of 25%. Fine. Raise the price by 25%. I'd pay $18.75 for a bottle of 100 proof Old Overholt in a second.
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#65 eje

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:03 PM

Wow.  Really?  I've only had the Basil Hayden once so I'm no expert--and I should probably keep my mouth shut--but I certainly wouldn't have guessed it had a substantial amount of rye in the mashbill.  I found it to be a nice enough whiskey but mild and forgettable.  In fact, my first thought was that the BH was a nice whiskey for people who don't really like whiskey.  Now that I've read this I'm tempted to give it another shot but, really, between the whiskeys I know I prefer to the BH and those I haven't yet tried I couldn't say when that might happen.  YMMV.

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A friend and I did a blind Bourbon tasting a couple years ago, tasting about a dozen Bourbons ranging hugely in price.

We found the Basil Hayden did come out near the bottom among both experienced whiskey drinkers and novices. We were especially surprised when we discovered it was one of the more expensive Bourbons we had tasted.

I haven't had it in a couple years and at that time I really hadn't had much Rye, so I can't say if I thought it had a Rye character.
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#66 Splificator

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:09 PM

When I was working on my rye story, I asked Beam representatives that question; while refusing to show their hand on any future plans (or much of anything, for that matter), their response to the point about high-end ryes was, essentially, people should drink Basil Hayden bourbon (which has a high percentage of rye in its mashbill). About a year and a half ago, I was told much the same thing while chatting with Fred Noe, the brand ambassador for Beam's small-batch selection, though he also showed distinct surprise at the number of requests he was getting for a premium rye (I was something like the fourth person that day who had asked him about it).

I've been bothering the folks at Beam--from the president of the company on down--about this for at least five years, and have gotten precisely nowhere with them. As Sam says, all they'd have to do is age the Overholt a little longer and bottle it at a higher proof and they'd instantly lead the market. The people I've talked to realize this.

But still nothing.

Ironically, Overholt has an excellent claim to be the oldest continually-maintained brand of whiskey in America, and is approaching its 200th anniversary. Maybe we'll see something then.

But I doubt it.

Edited by Splificator, 09 January 2007 - 01:24 PM.

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#67 Kent Wang

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 04:04 PM

What are your thoughts on Hirsch? I have the 8 year and it is very light and smooth, akin to the way Canadian whiskey compares to Bourbon. Really, it is too light and tasteless for me. What percentage rye is it? Wikipedia says that the Canadian laws governing what can be called rye whiskey are not as stringent as the American ones.

Does percentage rye composition really matter? Is there a strong correlation between quality and "rye-ness" and the percentage rye composition? What percentage is the Wild Turkey Rye?

#68 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 09:28 PM

I would also be very interested to know the mashbills for different ryes, if anyone were to have this information handy.

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#69 slkinsey

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 08:18 AM

What are your thoughts on Hirsch? I have the 8 year and it is very light and smooth, akin to the way Canadian whiskey compares to Bourbon. Really, it is too light and tasteless for me. What percentage rye is it? Wikipedia says that the Canadian laws governing what can be called rye whiskey are not as stringent as the American ones.

The Hirsch 8 year is a Canadian Rye. They also make an "American Rye" at 21 years, I think. The fact that they label one of their rye bottlings as "American" tells us something. It tells us that the Hirsch 8 year isn't really what we would consider rye whiskey down here. In Canada, "rye" is just another name for "Canadian Whiskey." Canadian Whiskey, by law, is a blended whisky of cereal grains aged no less than three years. In practice, most of these contain little if any rye. I don't know what percentage of rye Hirsch Canadian Rye has, but I think it's reasonable to assume that it isn't very much.

Just about all the rye whiskey in America is "straight whiskey." This means that the grain bill must contain no less than 51% and no more than 79% of the primary grain. It must be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% abv), aged for at least two years at no more than 125 proof (62.5% abv) in charred new oak barrels, and bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% abv). No neutral grain spirits or any other substances may be added. The rye whiskies of which I am aware that are not straight whiskies are exceptions because they exceed the "<79% of the primary grain" rule (e.g., the Anchor Distilling ryes).

Does percentage rye composition really matter? Is there a strong correlation between quality and "rye-ness" and the percentage rye composition? What percentage is the Wild Turkey Rye?

Percentage of rye composition doesn't necessarily make a difference in quality. There are some perfectly good rye whiskies with a relatively low percentage of rye in the grain bill. The Van Winkle rye, for example, has exactly the minimum amount of rye allowed (51%). On the other hand, this isnt exactly the most "rye like" rye whiskey I've ever tasted.

Here are the percentages of rye I've seen on the internet, which may or may not be correct: Wild Turkey is 65%. Old Overholt is 64%. Van Winkle is 51%. Wild Turkey is distilled to a relatively low proof -- something like 110 proof -- which contributes to its distinctiveness.
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#70 eje

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 08:56 AM

More info about Hirsch here:

Did the A.H. Hirsch distillery close down?

There is an A.H. Hirsch Bourbon and 21 year Hirsch Selection Rye available that are real Kentucky Bourbon and Straight Rye Whiskey. They are rather expensive, though.

The Hirsch Selections 8, 10, and 12 ryes are made in Canada and are not "Straight Rye Whiskey".
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#71 Kent Wang

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 09:58 AM

Just about all the rye whiskey in America is "straight whiskey."  This means that the grain bill must contain no less than 51% and no more than 79% of the primary grain. It must be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% abv), aged for at least two years at no more than 125 proof (62.5% abv) in charred new oak barrels, and bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% abv). No neutral grain spirits or any other substances may be added.  The rye whiskies of which I am aware that are not straight whiskies are exceptions because they exceed the "<79% of the primary grain" rule (e.g., the Anchor Distilling ryes).

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Thank you, sir. Excellent explanation.

What is the rationale behind placing the 79% maximum? I tried to Google this but failed to turn up anything, though I stumbled upon the Code of Federal Regulations pertaining to US alcohol labeling laws. An interesting read.

#72 eje

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 10:57 AM

[...]
Just about all the rye whiskey in America is "straight whiskey."[...]The rye whiskies of which I am aware that are not straight whiskies are exceptions because they exceed the "<79% of the primary grain" rule (e.g., the Anchor Distilling ryes).
[...]

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The Anchor 19th Century style is labeled "Straight Rye Whiskey", at least here in CA.

I thought the reason two of them aren't labeled "Straight Rye Whiskey" had to do with the barrels, rather than the percentage of Rye.

The 18th Century style is aged in toasted, rather than charred, oak barrels, so it can't be labelled "Straight Rye Whiskey".

The Hotaling's was aged in "once used" rather than new charred oak barrels, so it also can't be called "Straight Rye Whiskey".

Anchor Distilling
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#73 slkinsey

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 11:43 AM

Hmm. I wonder how that's allowed.
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#74 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 11:51 AM

I've never had any of the Anchor ryes (hard to find around here) but I thought the 18th Century style was 100% rye, and that's why they can't call it "rye whiskey" on the bottle. Perhaps the 19th century style has a more orthodox mashbill (which certainly seems appropriate, given the name).

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#75 eje

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 12:11 PM

I've never had any of the Anchor ryes (hard to find around here) but I thought the 18th Century style was 100% rye, and that's why they can't call it "rye whiskey" on the bottle. Perhaps the 19th century style has a more orthodox mashbill (which certainly seems appropriate, given the name).

-Andy

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Nope, all the Anchor Ryes use 100% rye malt in their mashbill.

edit - By the way, they're featuring Whiskeys at this winter's Elixir Cocktail Club. Supposedly, Master Distiller Bruce Joseph from Anchor will be there tomorrow night. Gives me some motivation to stop by. Though, I really want to stop by on April when Compass Box's John Glaser will be there. Oh, and the night they feature the Ardberg, and the night they feature Beam, and the night they feature Buffalo Trace...

Edited by eje, 10 January 2007 - 12:25 PM.

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#76 E. M. Pashman

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 03:39 PM

The relevant section of the regs for labeling claims on whiskies, 27 CFR 5.22(b)(1)(i), reads:

‘‘Bourbon whisky’’, ‘‘rye whisky’’, ‘‘wheat whisky’’, ‘‘malt whisky’’, or ‘‘rye malt whisky’’ is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125° proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

Subparagraph (iii) continues:

Whiskies conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section, which have been stored in the type of oak containers prescribed, for a period of 2 years or more shall be further designated as ‘‘straight’’; for example, ‘‘straight bourbon whisky’’, ‘‘straight corn whisky’’, and whisky conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, except that it was produced from a fermented mash of less than 51 percent of any one type of grain, and stored for a period of 2 years or more in charred new oak containers shall be designated merely as ‘‘straight whisky’’. No other whiskies may be designated ‘‘straight’’. ‘‘Straight whisky’’ includes mixtures of straight whiskies of the same type produced in the same State.

So to be labeled "rye whisky", the stuff in the bottle must be distilled to 160 proof or less from a mash of at least 51% rye, then barreled in charred new oak at no more than 125 proof. (Note that there's no age requirement.) To be labeled "straight rye whisky", the stuff in the bottle must meet all those requirements and then also have been aged for at least two years (in those same charred new oak barrels).

I searched the regs pretty thoroughly and did not find anything that indicates there's a ceiling on the proportion of rye that can be included in the mash of something labeled "rye whisky" or "straight rye whisky", so it's likely that Anchor's ryes that aren't labeled "straight" lack that designation, as eje suggested, because they're aged in something other than charred new oak.

Eric

Edit: Oh, I forgot to mention -- the 79% cap slkinsey mentioned probably came from confusing the regulatory destinction between "bourbon whisky" and "corn whisky" as having something to do with rye. The regs stipulate that bourbon be made from a mash of at least 51% corn, but then further state that anything made from 80% corn or more cannot be called bourbon and must instead be called "corn whisky". But none of this 80%-cap stuff has anything to do with rye.

Edited by E. M. Pashman, 10 January 2007 - 03:47 PM.


#77 slkinsey

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 10:04 AM

Posted Image That's it! I must have combined that in my mind at some point. Thanks for the clarification, Eric.
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#78 JerseyRED

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 11:49 AM

Mr. Pashman,

Sincere thanks for reading through all of that material and presenting your "findings" in a clear and succinct manner! You've truly cleared up my befuddled understanding of the subject.

Thanks again, Rich
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#79 E. M. Pashman

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 12:57 PM

No problem.

So, looking at this further, the reason Anchor can't put "rye" on the label of its Potrero 18th Century is because it doesen't spend any time at all in charred new oak. (Instead it's aged entirely in "toasted" new oak -- I wonder if there's really a clear legal distinction.) But I guess if they really wanted to have the word "rye" on it, they could pour the distillate into charred barrels just for the amount of time it takes it to pour it out again into the toasted barrels they currently use. ...

Also interesting that Anchor Potrero 18th Century is they only rye -- silly labeling laws be damned -- I've come across that's malted. Anyone know of any other malted ryes?

Oh, and anyone in DC know if Anchor's whiskies are available anywhere? All this labeling-law talk has got me thirsty.

Eric

#80 Bricktop

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 06:52 PM

I just picked up a bottle (OK two) of the Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond.
I poured myself a little sip, and it's VERY good. I can see this becoming my
house rye, and at $12.99 a bottle, why not?

#81 Bricktop

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 03:58 PM

Coming back from DC on Sunday, I felt obliged to stop in MD, and purchase a bottle of Pikesville Rye. It's 80 proof, but man, it is an excellent value at $10.99 a 750. They also have it in 1.75's for about $18 but I passed on that size just in case. Next trip down, it will be a must buy.

I must say, it absurd that you can get a rye of such quality as this and the Rittenhouse at bargain price. Not complaining, you understand, just commenting. :)

#82 eje

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 09:30 AM

Gary Regan has an article about Rye Whiskey in today's San Francisco Chronicle:

Spirits: Rye, resurrected, Gary Regan

After falling out of favor for nearly 70 years, rye's popularity has returned. American distillers have been issuing some incredible new bottlings, such as the 18-year-old Sazerac and the 21-year-old Rittenhouse rye. Without missing a beat, bartenders are getting very creative with this spicy whiskey.


Nice mentions for local bartenders Jimmy Patrick of Lion and Compass, H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir, and Greg Lindgren at Rye.
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#83 Kent Wang

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 05:33 AM

Nice article.

I have a bottle of the Sazerac, which everyone seems to be claiming is six-year but there's no age statement on the bottle. Why is that?

#84 Joe Blowe

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 09:13 AM

I have a bottle of the Sazerac, which everyone seems to be claiming is six-year but there's no age statement on the bottle. Why is that?

From what I understand, a distiller is required to make an age statement only when a whiskey is aged less than four years. By aging longer than four years and not making an age statement on the bottle, this allows a distiller in some leeway in blending the contents from year-to-year and not violate a printed age statement (e.g., the removal of the "7-year Old" statement from Evan Williams Black Label).

Regarding the age of Saz Jr., I know that at least one company insider has posted over at straightbourbon.com that it is at least, on average, six years old...
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.

#85 KOK

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 11:18 AM

Coming back from DC on Sunday, I felt obliged to stop in MD, and purchase a bottle of Pikesville Rye.  It's 80 proof, but man, it is an excellent value at $10.99 a 750.  They also have it in 1.75's for about $18 but I passed on that size just in case.  Next trip down, it will be a must buy.

I must say, it absurd that you can get a rye of such quality as this and the Rittenhouse at bargain price.  Not complaining, you understand, just commenting. :)

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I'm curious where you bought it if it was Sunday. I think Frederick has some liquor stores open but I'm not sure. Most all stores are closed for liquor sales Sundays. I'm also a bit sad to see the price was $10.99, which, while a good value is $3 to $4 more than I'm used to paying. I bought 3 bottles some time ago so maybe there was a price increrase. LOVE Pikesville Rye!!

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#86 Bricktop

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 01:57 PM

Coming back from DC on Sunday, I felt obliged to stop in MD, and purchase a bottle of Pikesville Rye.  It's 80 proof, but man, it is an excellent value at $10.99 a 750.  They also have it in 1.75's for about $18 but I passed on that size just in case.  Next trip down, it will be a must buy.

I must say, it absurd that you can get a rye of such quality as this and the Rittenhouse at bargain price.  Not complaining, you understand, just commenting. :)

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I'm curious where you bought it if it was Sunday. I think Frederick has some liquor stores open but I'm not sure. Most all stores are closed for liquor sales Sundays. I'm also a bit sad to see the price was $10.99, which, while a good value is $3 to $4 more than I'm used to paying. I bought 3 bottles some time ago so maybe there was a price increrase. LOVE Pikesville Rye!!

Kevin

State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. Where can you get it for $7.99? :shock:

#87 KOK

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 05:42 AM

Coming back from DC on Sunday, I felt obliged to stop in MD, and purchase a bottle of Pikesville Rye.  It's 80 proof, but man, it is an excellent value at $10.99 a 750.  They also have it in 1.75's for about $18 but I passed on that size just in case.  Next trip down, it will be a must buy.

I must say, it absurd that you can get a rye of such quality as this and the Rittenhouse at bargain price.  Not complaining, you understand, just commenting. :)

View Post

I'm curious where you bought it if it was Sunday. I think Frederick has some liquor stores open but I'm not sure. Most all stores are closed for liquor sales Sundays. I'm also a bit sad to see the price was $10.99, which, while a good value is $3 to $4 more than I'm used to paying. I bought 3 bottles some time ago so maybe there was a price increrase. LOVE Pikesville Rye!!

Kevin

State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. Where can you get it for $7.99? :shock:

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I've bought it in Westminster for $7.99 (before 10% coupon) though I see now it's listed at $8.99 which would make it $8.50 or so w/ coupon. (link below).

I've also got it for $7.75 at Corridor in Laurel (Rt 198 and the BW Parkway) for $7.75, though I've not been there for a couple of years.

State Line may be a bit higher as they have Sunday hours and are right on the border so they probably get good interstate business.

Thanks,

Kevin

http://www.cranberry...Spirits.htm#Rye

Edited by KOK, 28 March 2007 - 05:43 AM.

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#88 eje

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 10:07 AM

Article in last Sunday's NY Times, which I somehow missed until now:

Shaken and Stirred: The Real Manhattan, Jonathan Miles*

On a recent Monday, the two microdistillers introduced their latest offering at a party at the Four Seasons: Hudson Manhattan Rye, a 92-proof whiskey made with 100-percent rye ground at the Tuthilltown mill. “Rye was the New York whiskey,” said Mr. Erenzo, just as the Manhattan was the New York drink. Tuthilltown’s Hudson Manhattan Rye, Mr. Erenzo said, was expressly designed to be mixed into a Manhattan — to reunite, after 70-some years, New York rye whiskey with the cocktail it wrote into history.


Was anyone on hand to try their new Rye?

*Link may require registration and/or payment.
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#89 slkinsey

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 10:27 AM

That stuff is awfully expensive for mixing, even in something as elemental as a Manhattan. I've seen it around for something like 35 bucks a bottle -- a 375 ml bottle!
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#90 eje

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 12:24 PM

That stuff is awfully expensive for mixing, even in something as elemental as a Manhattan.  I've seen it around for something like 35 bucks a bottle -- a 375 ml bottle!

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Wow! Ouch on that price to volume ratio! I didn't realize it was so expensive.

Do they only sell half bottles? There is plenty of whisk(e)y in the world that sells for upwards of $70 per 750ml. Companies just don't usually market it for making Manhattans with.

I guess they are targeting places that sell really upscale Manhattans.
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