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Joe Blowe

All About Rye Whiskey (Part 1)

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Can someone explain to me why I spent double the money I'd have spent on Rittenhouse for this milque-toasty Russell's Reserve 6 year rye? Jeepers.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm relatively new to rye, but I too felt the Russells Reserve was a waste of money. So far Old Overholt is my favorite, but it appears that the range of ryes is limited here. Rittenhouse isn't stocked by my local stores and I've never tasted it. How many different kinds of Rittenhouse are there? I will be back east next month, staying in midtown. What should I look for and do you know of a liquor store midtown with a good selection of rye? My mother is 92 and slowing down, so cocktail hour is now more than just an hour. Usually it involves lots of snacking on goat cheese or goldfish, and sometimes it just fades into ice cream hour. She routinely keeps scotch and vodka on hand, but never rye.


Edited by Katie Meadow (log)

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Can someone explain to me why I spent double the money I'd have spent on Rittenhouse for this milque-toasty Russell's Reserve 6 year rye? Jeepers.

I for one am extremely concerned with the trends in rye lately; it appears that the marketing people have figured out that rye is now big but was lacking in "premium" brands. The last few years have seen a relatively significant growth in available brands, but offhand I can't think of a single new mixing grade rye new to the market in the same time frame. On the contrary, they seem to be trying to dumb the style down. Exhibit A: ri1.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Some good news may be on the horizon in that respect. I had the opportunity yesterday to sample some Redemption Rye. This is a new brand which will be hitting the market within a few months. It's made with a 95% rye mash bill, in contrast to the usual 51% or so, resulting in a uniquely spicy rye character that is not unlike drinking an alcoholic glass of rye bread. I believe the plan is to release a bottling at 92 proof and a barrel proof. The 92 proof bottling should sell for around 25 bucks! Right now it's pretty young, clocking in at around 2.5 years. But I think there's the sense that they might as well start releasing some of it now, but continue holding some back to see how it develops with age and eventually figure out the sweet spot. So it will likely evolve somewhat over the next half-decade or more. In the meantime, they get to put the product out there, build some awareness, and make some money off their efforts without going the usual route of starting off with a vodka. I thought it was very promising, and definitely plan to purchase some when it is released. The unusually strong rye character will make for some very interesting mixing. I was also happy to hear that they are committed to offering a product at a price point appropriate for mixing and casual drinking rather than the usual route of releasing a super-expensive extra-age spirit.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Keep an eye out for the Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye. I don't know the exact percentage, but I seem to recall hearing that it's made from a pretty high proportion of rye grain, and it certainly tastes that way to me.

I've been looking forward to seeing how it mixes, but I've been enjoying it so much straight that I haven't been able to bring myself to make a cocktail with it yet. One can certainly taste the grain, as well as some nice sweet overtones from the sherry barrels they use for aging.

It retails for about $40 for a 750, which seems fair for what it is.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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It retails for about $40 for a 750, which seems fair for what it is.

For what it is? It's aged one year. One! For 40 dollars.

I mean, sure it's good. (80% rye, by the way). But 40 bucks is not a "mixing and everyday drinking" spirit, and it seems comparable to other whiskies priced at a bit more than half as much. Okay, bump it up a bit for dumping it into a sherry barrel for the last three months (whence the color and body comes). But too many distilleries are coming out with $40-$60 spirits. They are rarely worth that price given the age and quality versus what's already available at a substantially lower price point. Is this stuff really that much better than Old Overholt? Or Rittenhouse? It's a bit like the Cornelius Applejack, which at $40 a bottle doesn't approach the quality of Laird's bonded. So why is it double the price? I can spot a company 5 or even 10 bucks due to the economies of scale. But who mixes regularly with $40 spirits? Not me. That's what I like so much about Redemption Rye. Finally, a new rye whiskey that can be a staple rather than a treat.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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For what it is? It's aged one year. One! For 40 dollars.

Sure, I'd be happier if it were 10 or 15 bucks cheaper. But it's the product of a new, small, independent distillery, which I'd like to support. I assume it's tough to get a business like this up and running, and I think the liquid landscape is better for these new small projects. I'm willing to drop another buck or so per cocktail to encourage these guys.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Agreed about the prices. To keep our perspective here, buffalo trace's antique collection goes for about $60/btl and just a few years ago was under 50. These are, imo, some of the world's finest whiskies. I'm all about supporting small distilleries on principle but let's be real here, it is highly improbable that these new guys are offering even half the quality of the antique collection.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Aged twelve whole months, I see...

Maybe this is just for the cash flow and in a few years they will release product that is aged longer. The trouble is the risk of getting written off because the young stuff isn't up to standard.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Anyone else (besides Matt Kayahara) have experience with the Alberta Springs rye? I had it in a Manhattan at Tender Bar in Tokyo and I'm wondering what it's like straight. The reviews I've read here and there suggest a sweeter, less spicy rye than the US bottles, which my tasting of Tender's cocktail would bear out.

ETA Matt, please weigh in as well!


Edited by Chris Amirault Accidental faux pas -- CA (log)

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Don't know how useful this is to you now that you're back from Japan, Chris, but my take on Alberta Springs is this: while it's one of my favourite Canadian whiskies, is not comparable to U.S. straight rye whiskey, despite its 100% rye mash bill. As you note, it's sweeter and less spicy than American rye... yet I think of it as being one of the spicier Canadian whiskies available. Worth acquiring if you need to fill the "Canadian whisky" slot on your bingo card, but not a substitute for US rye; it's still a blended whisky.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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That sounds pretty accurate, Matt, given that drink. Hrm.

On a very different note, thanks to the generous Alon Munzer at Hungry Mother, I had the great fortune to try the Templeton Prohibition rye. Without question, it has the most pronounced rye aroma and flavor of any rye I've never tried. I loved it -- and longed for some Katz's pastrami....

Anyone else try this?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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...Templeton Prohibition rye...

Anyone else try this?

Hi Chris. I just got back from Chicago, and one of the bottles of interesting booze I brought back with me was a bottle of Templeton Rye.

I agree on the flavor -- it's delicious. But I've gotten used to the bold (and 100 Proof) flavor of Rittenhouse Bonded so I'm wondering if I'll enjoy the (80 Proof) Templeton in cocktails as much I enjoy the Rittenhouse. I suppose that means my (our?) next project is to mix up some Sazeracs and/or Old Fashioneds using each rye and do a side by side comparison.

I'll be reporting back..

Dan

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Templeton Sazeracs are amazingly smooth. Shortly after its Chicago release, I went through a bottle in about two weeks just making Sazeracs. It's probably good for my wallet and sobriety that I concluded I can't really get behind 80-proof whiskey.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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Ok. Here are the results of the great Sazerac taste-off.

First of all, here is my preferred Sazerac recipe:

2 1/2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded

1 tsp Simple

3 dashes Peychaud's

4 spritzes of Absinthe from an atomizer

(Stir, strain into absinthe-misted rocks glass with one large rock)

For this science experiment I divided the recipe by three (approximately) so I could do three Sazeracs: Rittenhouse Bonded, Templeton, and Sazerac 6. So it went:

1 oz Rye

1/2 tsp Simple

1 dash Peychaud's

1 spritz of Absinthe

(one large ice cube)

Rittenhouse: Strong rye scent and flavor. Smooth. Delicious.

Templeton: Smooth, but weaker than I'm used to. Perhaps too smooth. Almost seemed watery.

Saz 6: Good, but also weaker than I'm used to. The least assertive of the three.

After a few sips of each, I made a completely non-scientific move and mixed the contents of the Rittenhouse and the Templeton glasses. This was pretty good, and makes me think the next experiment should be a comparison of Rittenhouse to a half and half combination of Rittenhouse and Templeton's.

I have had a few sips of Thomas Handy neat, and have never had Michter's. Those are two that I'd love to try in a Sazerac. So far, though, the Rittenhouse is my favorite. Has anyone out there compared Handy or Michter's to Rittenhouse in a Sazerac? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Dan

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Templeton: Smooth, but weaker than I'm used to. Perhaps too smooth. Almost seemed watery.

Saz 6: Good, but also weaker than I'm used to. The least assertive of the three.

After a few sips of each, I made a completely non-scientific move and mixed the contents of the Rittenhouse and the Templeton glasses. This was pretty good, and makes me think the next experiment should be a comparison of Rittenhouse to a half and half combination of Rittenhouse and Templeton's.

Completely agree. Templeton alone just doesn't have enough kick, and compared to Rittenhouse the Sazerac 6 is boring. Half-and-half Rittenhouse & Templeton would be a noble experiment, though. I've dreamt of a 100 proof Templeton, but I don't think it's likely to ever happen.

I have had a few sips of Thomas Handy neat, and have never had Michter's. Those are two that I'd love to try in a Sazerac. So far, though, the Rittenhouse is my favorite. Has anyone out there compared Handy or Michter's to Rittenhouse in a Sazerac? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Handy Sazerac's are certainly the best I've had...felt a bit like gilding the lily, but some Elixir Vegetal added to the rinse (hat tip: Troy Sidle) was phenomenal. About the only thing that's widely available that I could imagine topping Handy in the Sazerac would be some of the very old Rittenhouse, but I haven't tried it.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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I've still got some of the 2006 Handy I reserve for special Sazeracs, though my go-to for 'everyday' purposes is Wild Turkey Rye; next to it Rittenhouse just doesn't seem all that assertive.

I generally eschew the Sazerac Rye in Sazerac Cocktails but while in New Orleans last weekend I had one at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel made thusly, and I don't know if it was the beautiful environs, the great friends, or the air conditioning, but it tickled me in a way that that whiskey has rarely tickled me before.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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What would you do: Choices are pretty limited here and as I keep whinging, prices are high. Looking for something for mixing.

In the local stores my only rye choice is Jim Beam for $35. They also have Blanton's special reserve single barrel bourbon for $50. The Blanton's is only 80 proof btw (for export only). Mail order, Wild Turkey Rye is $57 + shipping. Other rye whiskey mail order is totally out of my price range.

I bought the Blanton's because I was into instant gratification. Just couldn't bring myself to pay that much for Jim Beam. But I am interested in your thoughts on a high rye bourbon vs. Jim Beam rye, or if I just need to suck it up and get the WT.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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The bar Southwark in Philly has a pretty deep selection of Rye, and a Sazerac is my default drink there, but I haven't been very scientific about making comparisons. Sounds like a good project...

I usually request Sazerac 6, they use Herbsaint as a rinse by default. But recently, I have been splurging on Rittenhouse 100, with a rinse of Vieux Carré absinthe. That absinthe is a little weird in this drink, more minty than most, but I like it quite a lot in this combination. The bartenders there also tend toward a 4-dash hit of Peychauds, which I've come to prefer.

I was recently sequestered away in a remote location with my only whiskey being two bottles of Saz 6 and one of McKenzie rye. I'd planned to use the McKenzie for other things, but I ended up making Sazeracs with it, as well as Manhattans with Carpano Antica and Whiskey Barrel bitters.

The McKenzie has been dissed a bit up-thread for being young and overpriced, but I thought it made a delicious Sazerac, especially with the original-formula Herbsaint, and worked great in the Manhattan too. It's got a very pronounced rye flavor, a little edgy, which I like, and which I think worked very nicely in the mix.

So, sure, the McKenzie might be a little too expensive for what it is, but it's interesting, and tasty, so I'm buying another bottle the next time I see it...


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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haresfur, I'd get the Wild Turkey. JB's not awful, but almost everything else is better.

But it's too bad you can't get the Rittenhouse. I just made my first Sazerac in a while, and I am reminded that Rittenhouse 100 is one of those increasingly rare alcoholic products that is both inexpensive and really good. Of course, this probably means it'll be a US$60 bottle in 5 yrs, but meanwhile, it's quite a value.

(2.25 oz rye, 3 dashes Peychaud's, about 1 tsp 2:1 simple, a few drops of Lucid to rinse.)


John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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What would you do: Choices are pretty limited here and as I keep whinging, prices are high. Looking for something for mixing.

In the local stores my only rye choice is Jim Beam for $35. They also have Blanton's special reserve single barrel bourbon for $50. The Blanton's is only 80 proof btw (for export only). Mail order, Wild Turkey Rye is $57 + shipping. Other rye whiskey mail order is totally out of my price range.

I may simply be cheap, but I'd be very tempted to use the Beam as my standard pour, while still acquiring 1 bottle of the WT for special occasions.

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I think it really depends on how you want to use the rye. JB rye is very soft, not nearly as spicy or potent as the Rittenhouse or WT 101; it's the sort of rye you'd give to your friend who loves a wheated bourbon like Maker's Mark as the first go-round. But IMO it really doesn't work in some recipes. I've never made or had a decent Sazerac or Manhattan with it, in particular.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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