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All About Rye Whiskey


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#211 brinza

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Posted 11 April 2009 - 07:15 PM

I know that many fellow Egullet members share my great interest in Rye Whiskey. I thought that some of you might be interested in this article from Malt Advocate Magazine, where they conducted a Rye Roundtable, and brought together every significant personality in the modern Rye distilling industry in one room to talk about the state if the rye business. The roundtable included such notables as Julian Van Winkle,  Fritz Maytag, Jimmy Russell and many others.

Here's the link to this article. It's a google cache of the original as MA no longer has the article posted.

I hope that you enjoy the article.

Cheers,

Craig

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That roundtable transcript was fascinating and eye-opening. It's good to know that those people are so in-tune to what's going on as far as what consumers are craving and what "the cocktail people" are doing. It will be interesting to see if any of them do anything to change the availability of rye.
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#212 John the Barman

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 09:30 AM

I think the best we can hope for in the next few years is a regular supply of the bottlings that are out there right now. I really don't think we will see new expressions in the 8 to 15 year range for at least 5 years from now because current demand for great bottles like Sazerac 6yr and Rittenhouse 100. Fritz is right in the article. We need to learn to drink young Rye. At least for awhile. I hope someone follows the Old Pertrero 18th century spirit model. 2+ years at 124.1 proof. 100% malted rye is harder to do, but the age and proof aren't. If 1 or 2 kentucky distilleries put just a few days a year to a whiskey like this, we would be in good shape before too long.

And Jim Beam needs to change that stupid bottle out. Ri 1 is an insult to any one that loves the stuff. The whiskey is ok for sours and such, but the bottle is so stupid i don't even pick it up for beginners.

Of course, like everyone else who knows the whiskey, I think it should be discontinued and re-bottled at 100 proof(or even cask strength :) ) as 5+ yr Overholt or Jim Beam Rye.

I've been told that Ri 2 and Ri 3 will eventually come out. Its uncomfortable to think about.

#213 brinza

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 07:01 AM

ri 1 has no finish

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You nailed it right there. When I tasted it, it just seemed kind of flat, lifeless. Like striking a bell that's sitting on the ground. No resounding peal, just a dead thunk. I'd be hesitant to spend even $25 on the stuff. No way can I see paying the $40+ they're asking (and this from someone who happily buys Booker's bourbon for $46). Maybe the lack of finish is a moot point in if used in a cocktail (something more complicated than an Old Fashioned, that is), I don't know. Has anyone here mixed with this yet?

I think the best we can hope for in the next few years is a regular supply of the bottlings that are out there right now.

I'd be OK with that.

The vodka-style packaging combined with the elevated price seem to suggest that the whole marketing campaign of this product has been conducted as it if were vodka. Case in point: a new distillery recently opened in Pittsburgh called Boyd & Blair. They make potato vodka using locally grown potatoes; it's distilled in small batches; and the proprietors fill the bottles themselves. As vodka goes, it is very good--comparable with the best Polish vodkas. They wanted to price their product at around $20-$24, but the PA LCB said, "No, you'll sell more if it's priced at $29.95." It's been selling like gangbusters*. But then it actually is vodka. (ri)1 is not vodka. I doubt their strategy will work.


*I actually would like to see them succeed because they are a local company and they are the first distillery in Southwestern PA since the 1800s. They do have plans to eventually expand into making gin and whiskey.

Edited by brinza, 16 April 2009 - 07:02 AM.

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#214 RoyalSwagger

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 11:27 AM

Rye is supposed to have spice and backbone both of which were completely lacking when I first tried R1. It's a husk of a rye wrapped in a pretty casket. How could a whiskey company treat rye like vodka with more emphasis on the packaging than the spirit within. Apparently they are doing a good job of it, in the little city of Tucson where you can't find a decent drop of rye behind any bar (other than my own,) I now find R1 popping up in some of the nicer downtown establishments. I ask if they have any other rye for my Manhattan, and the bartender looks at me like I'm crazy only to respond "this is one of the most premium Rye's on the market." I feel like saying,"have you ever tasted any other rye's?" I quickly understood that this question would have fallen on deaf ears when I asked for my Manhattan stirred and he poured both the whiskey and the vermouth straight into my glass and stirred the undiluted concoction with a sipping straw.

#215 John the Barman

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 12:38 PM

I've mixed with it. Good spirits make good cocktails. Ri1 makes average ones because its an average spirit. Its still Rye. Its just quick finish, no complexity Rye. Sours with muddled berries work well because of the latent fruit, but I would never use it in a stirred drink.

#216 shantytownbrown

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 04:38 PM

I quickly understood that this question would have fallen on deaf ears when I asked for my Manhattan stirred and he poured both the whiskey and the vermouth straight into my glass and stirred the undiluted concoction with a sipping straw.

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i'd rather have it that way than how I am usually served manhattan's locally at a bar...shaken to death, watered down, cloudy messes....

so i often will ask for e'm just as you got it..and they'll even screw that up, like by again shaking it to death and pouring it in a collins glass over more ice...(well at least the last place threw in some angostura bitters)....ugh..

i'll still vote for Mitcher's (4 yo) and Sazerac
I havent seen R1 around connecticut yet, but i will sheild my eyes when i do

#217 db_campbell

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 05:39 PM

I feel, perhaps, we are ourselves the victims of our own desires and/or expectations when it comes to the Ri1. I think we could all, for the most part, agree that Rye is among the more intimidating spirits in the cocktailian's cabinet for the uninitiated. Therefore, why do we seemingly find it surprising - and even dismaying - when a rye whiskey marketed toward cocktail newbies is largely devoid of those aspects of rye that we find so endearing - namely, the spice and character.

Especially considering Ri1 is a product that we freely admit seems marketed toward the 'trendy' vodka crowd, why are we surprised when it downplays the more rye-centric characteristics that we love? The bottle itself indicates that the product is to be the most "vodkaic" (if that can enter the lexicon) rye on the market. That the palate confirms this seems simply academic.

Of course, I lament alongside everyone else that Beam has decided to release Ri1 in lieu of a Bonded Overholt, and I certainly don't mean my comments to be a criticism towards anyone; I suppose I'm merely caught slightly incredulous by the seeming hub-bub surrounding the product's relative disappointment.

As a matter of reference, this post was prefaced by my own mixing of a Ri1 Manhattan (8:4:1) w/ Boissiere & Angostura, which seemed to highlight the softer characteristics of the vermouth & bitters -- something I imagine the non-classic cocktail crowd would treasure if venturing out to try such a beverage.

#218 Kent Wang

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 10:23 PM

I feel that Sazerac 6 is also fairly dull and lacks spice, yet I see it at a few medium-level cocktail bars.

Haven't had the Ri(1). How does it compare?

#219 RoyalSwagger

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 02:00 AM

Agreed, the Sazerac 6 isn't great but, compared to the R1, in my humble opinion is a step above. The Saz does lack spice though it definitely has that Rye backbone, and the price difference is a factor (and the bottle looks pretty nice on any bar alter.)

"Vodkaic"... that's great.

#220 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 08:14 AM

I don't know if I would say that the Saz lacks spice, but that it has a different spice; more in a white pepper, nutmeg, nutty direction in contrast to the dark earthy spice of something like Wild Turkey. Sazerac also has wonderful fruity notes that are absent in most ryes that I've tasted, making it delightful to sip with a few chips of ice and also great for many cocktail applications where more finesse is desired. I can understand perhaps feeling ambivalent about Saz if you have a ready supply of Rittenhouse BIB but in places that don't its a nice tool in the arsenal.

That said, WT 101 is still my favorite (well, apart from Handy).
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#221 John the Barman

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 11:35 AM

Handy is Saz 6yr at Cask Strength. The present bottling is a 5-6yr from what I'm told. While the barrels may be selected to provide for a spicier whiskey, the fruitiness of Saz 6yr still comes through. In my opinion its the proof that makes Handy the amazing product that it is. I wonder if Jeam Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Tutlletown, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers or Four Roses will add to the Cask Strength Rye Market. Thank you Buffalo Trace and Anchor Steam for Handy and the 18th Cen Spirit.

#222 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 01:16 PM

Handy is Saz 6yr at Cask Strength.  The present bottling is a 5-6yr from what I'm told.  While the barrels may be selected to provide for a spicier whiskey, the fruitiness of Saz 6yr still comes through.  In my opinion its the proof that makes Handy the amazing product that it is.  I wonder if Jeam Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Tutlletown, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers or Four Roses will add to the Cask Strength Rye Market.  Thank you Buffalo Trace and Anchor Steam for Handy and the 18th Cen Spirit.

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The one I have is the 2006 bottling, which I seem to remember anecdotally described as taken from casks between 10-14 years of age. It does clearly come from the same mashbill as the Saz 6 though, the character is unmistakeable.

Did the older releases of Handy come from different lots of different ages than the more recent ones?
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#223 db_campbell

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 01:39 PM

Did the older releases of Handy come from different lots of different ages than the more recent ones?

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According to the press sheets that BT releases, the inaugural 2006 Handy was aged 8 years, 5 months, while both the 2007 and 2008 iterations were aged 6 years, 5 months.

#224 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 08:51 PM

Did the older releases of Handy come from different lots of different ages than the more recent ones?

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According to the press sheets that BT releases, the inaugural 2006 Handy was aged 8 years, 5 months, while both the 2007 and 2008 iterations were aged 6 years, 5 months.

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Thanks for the info, I think I've had this question answered before but couldn't figure out where. :wacko:
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#225 John the Barman

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:05 AM

Yes, thank you. I must have been mixing up 6 yr 5 month for 5 to 6 years. Even at this somewhat young age, Handy is mind blowing.

#226 davicus

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 10:16 AM

I had a Sazerac at TVH last night made with a rye that I can't seem to find. I thought he said it was a Buffalo Trace brand but I'm not sure if it's Eagle or Weller or what... I know he said it was 114* - and each year it's made the proof varies... and it definitely wasn't old grand dad 114. Any ideas?

Incidentally, it was rinsed with chartreuse instead of absinthe. Oh dude.

edit: looks like it was a Thomas Handy 2008 release. Wow.

Edited by davicus, 05 May 2009 - 10:27 AM.

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#227 Chris Amirault

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 11:27 AM

Green or yellow Chartreuse?
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#228 davicus

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 11:47 AM

Green. I may actually have to go back tonight.
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#229 Relish

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Posted 09 May 2009 - 03:49 PM

I've recently moved to Washington DC from New York. As a rye whiskey lover, I thought I'd be able to find Pikesville Rye in this neck of the woods, but haven't seen it at either my local stores or well-stocked places like Central Liquors and Calvert Woodley.
Is Pikesville available in DC or is it really only distributed in Baltimore and environs?

Incidentally, Central Liquors had some of the Thomas Handy on the shelves -- something I've never seen anywhere -- priced in the 70's I think. Very tempting but not in my budget at the moment!

Edited by Relish, 09 May 2009 - 03:49 PM.


#230 weinoo

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 05:18 AM

I've recently moved to Washington DC from New York.  As a rye whiskey lover, I thought I'd be able to find Pikesville Rye in this neck of the woods, but haven't seen it at either my local stores or well-stocked places like Central Liquors and Calvert Woodley.
Is Pikesville available in DC or is it really only distributed in Baltimore and environs?

Incidentally, Central Liquors had some of the Thomas Handy on the shelves -- something I've never seen anywhere -- priced in the 70's I think.  Very tempting but not in my budget at the moment!

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You may be right about the Baltimore connection; I picked up 3 bottles of it in Annapolis a few months ago - $11.99 a bottle.
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#231 CincyCraig

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 09:55 PM

For what it's worth, despite Pikesville's Maryland roots, it is made by Heaven Hill in Bardstown and it is distributed via HH's normal distribution channels (ie, Southern Wine & Spirits).
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#232 brinza

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 10:14 AM

I was in Morgantown a few weeks ago and was able to stock up on Rittenhouse BIB @ $12 a fifth. I also took the opportunity to try a bottle of WV's Isiah Morgan Rye Whiskey which is unaged (white dog). Very strange stuff. Definitely not for sipping, and not likely to work in the usual whiskey cocktails. The nose is very pungent in a way similar to a very pungent cachaça like Santo Grau.

The liquor store I was in also had (ri)1 for $62. I just shook my head. Jeez, I thought $46 was bad. I can't imagine very many WVU students are buying this (and judging from the pallet-loads of near gallon-sized bottles of Jagermeister in the store, I don't think they are).
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#233 dietsch

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 07:51 PM

I don't know how many of you watch Mad Men, but I do. And if you do too, you know that Old Overholt featured in a scene between Don Draper and a guy who's probably Conrad Hilton.

The year in which this scene is set is 1963. If you haven't seen it, let me recap. Don's at a country club, where his boss is hosting a party. Don wants another drink and finds a bar inside with a white-jacketed man at the bar, back to Don. Don asks for an old-fashioned. White-jacket says, "I'm on the same mission, but there's no bourbon around." Don realizes this is another guest, not a bartender, and goes behind the bar himself to see what he can find.

He picks up a bottle, shows the label to the other guy, and says, "Is rye all right?" It's a bottle of Old Overholt. Now, if you've read Robert Simonson's Sixties Accuracy in Every Sip piece in the Times, you won't be surprised by the Overholt. But you'd also know that when they needed a case of gin, they went with Tanqueray over Beefeater because the Tanq label hasn't changed much since the Sixties, whereas the Beefeater label has.

The Overholt label hasn't changed much, and I just rewatched that scene for the fifth or sixth time, and the label on the show matches the current label. The only thing different I see on the bottle is it seems there's a strip across the cap. I don't know what you call it; it's the strip of paper that's glued to one side of the neck, goes up over the cap, and is glued to the other side.

I suspect the prop master chose Overholt for the same reason she chose Tanq, because the label's stayed the same for so long.

But that's not what I'm here for. What I'm really wondering is, what Overholt would people have been pouring in 1963? The bonded or the 80 proof? Has anyone sussed out when the 80 supplanted the 100?

I may have overlooked that answer, if you've already discussed it. I searched through every page of this thread and I didn't see it. I see the consensus that Overholt would probably be better as a bonded whiskey, and I noticed that Overholt used to be bonded as recently as 1950, but I didn't see anything about the switchover.

Edited by dietsch, 01 September 2009 - 07:54 PM.

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#234 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 10:02 PM

Can't help much on the timeline of the proof change, but the strip of paper across the cap is the old-school tax stamps which as far as I'm aware would indicate a bottle from somewhere between 1933 and 1980 (would love a correction on that if anyone has better info).
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#235 dietsch

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:18 AM

Can't help much on the timeline of the proof change, but the strip of paper across the cap is the old-school tax stamps which as far as I'm aware would indicate a bottle from somewhere between 1933 and 1980 (would love a correction on that if anyone has better info).

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Thank you, Andy. That makes sense, and it makes the bottle look more historically accurate, so it's good to know. I still sometimes find bottles with those, and I can't always tell whether they're just really old or whether the bottler is just going retro.
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#236 Splificator

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 04:50 AM

Overholt used to be bonded (and, as far as I know, only bonded) as recently as the 1980s. I've still got half a bottle left of an '80s bottling, still made in PA (but bottled in Cincinnati). Shaggy, but not bad.


Edited for geographical accuracy.

Edited by Splificator, 02 September 2009 - 04:55 AM.

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#237 dietsch

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 10:00 AM

Overholt used to be bonded (and, as far as I know, only bonded) as recently as the 1980s. I've still got half a bottle left of an '80s bottling, still made in PA (but bottled in Cincinnati). Shaggy, but not bad.


Edited for geographical accuracy.

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Thank you very much, Dave, that's just what I needed to know!
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#238 FireAarro

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:35 AM

Sorry I didn't mean to imply that at all, merely that they weren't "quality mixing spirits". Wether that means that it is too pricey or too bland, distinctive, sweet, or crappy to make cocktails with differs on a case-by-case basis. And this doesn't mean that the whiskey doesn't have other merits, even if it's a low-end one, merely that one of it's merits is not that it makes great cocktails. Jim Beam Rye is the same way in some regard; it is not awful, and can be pleasant by itself or in simple highballs, it just doesn't have the presence to work well in cocktails. Being priced similarly to Overholt makes the choice an easy one. Many Bourbons fall into this same category.


Sadly, Jim Beam is the only reasonably priced Rye in Australia, at $35 for 700mL (others start at about $50). As a result, I haven't really tried any others and wonder what I'm missing out on. The Beam has performed wonderfully in cocktails for me though, and stands up better in most everything than any Bourbon I've mixed with.

#239 brinza

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 12:25 PM

Just wanted to mention here that I've finally been able to get myself a bottle of Handy last weekend. I've tasted it twice before, but this is the first bottle I've been lucky enough to find. 129 proof. Price: $55.99 I have no real comment to offer (It's Handy! What else needs to be said?), other than to simply say I'm a happy boy. :smile:
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#240 filip

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 10:36 AM

Has anyone tried the High West Rendezvous Rye? I've heard good things but haven't been able to try it anywhere. Thinking about picking up a bottle but thought I'd get some reactions first.

thanks