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Joe Blowe

All About Rye Whiskey (Part 1)

498 posts in this topic

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 (log)

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gallery_8505_416_108.jpg That's it! I must have combined that in my mind at some point. Thanks for the clarification, Eric.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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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


"The only time I ever said no to a drink was when I misunderstood the question."

Will Sinclair

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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

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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?

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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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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.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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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?

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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.

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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. :)

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


DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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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. :)

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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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. :)

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:

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.cranberryliquors.com/Spirits.htm#Rye


Edited by KOK (log)

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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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.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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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!


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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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!

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.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I wish some of these new companies would come out with mixing-appropriate (in terms of price point and flavor profile) whiskies, but they all seem to try for the superpremium sipping whiskey niche. Assuming small Manhattans with 2 ounces of rye and 1 ounce of vermouth, each one made with Hudson Manhattan Rye would have around six bucks worth of whiskey in it. By volume, it's more espensive than Michter's 10 year.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I wish some of these new companies would come out with mixing-appropriate (in terms of price point and flavor profile) whiskies, but they all seem to try for the superpremium sipping whiskey niche.  Assuming small Manhattans with 2 ounces of rye and 1 ounce of vermouth, each one made with Hudson Manhattan Rye would have around six bucks worth of whiskey in it.  By volume, it's more espensive than Michter's 10 year.

Agreed. Judging from people's reactions to the Anchor Distilling's single malt ryes, I can't see this stuff being a very appropriate mixer. Not that I'm averse to mixing with the good stuff on occasion: My one Old Fashioned with the Handy Saz was devine, and with the arrival of my Jade Absinthe imminent, the Ultimate Sazerac isn't too far away.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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ah...the Edouard 72 makes an incredible Sazerac. use a good cognac (or rye if you must)...I find that a dash of simple doesn't hurt ...the Edouard is so potent.

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ah...the Edouard 72 makes an incredible Sazerac.  use a good cognac (or rye if you must)...I find that a dash of simple doesn't hurt ...the Edouard is so potent.

That is precisely what I ordered :biggrin:

My roommate got the PF1901 and a friend from work the Nouvelle Orleans, so maybe a little taste test is in order. Will report back.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Bumping this for a couple of reasons.

First, it is true that Basil Hayden has a higher rye content than the other Small-Batch bourbons, but the others are all the same mashbill as Beam and Beam black, etc. They are, however, treated differently from barreling on, in terms of the barrels into which they are placed, their placement in the rickhouses, and of course, length of storage. This is all information gleaned from conversations I and others (including Chuck Cowdery, author of Bourbon, Straight) have had with Beam personnel.

Basil Hayden has a different yeast than other Beam bourbons, as well. When the Old Grand-Dad brand came to Beam (along with several others, including Overholt) from National Distillers in the late 80s, the one bourbon that was not converted to the standard beam mashbill and yeast was Old Grand-Dad. Basil Hayden is made from that mashbill (in fact, Basil Hayden IS the man pictured on the Old Grand-Dad label). If you've ever tasted OGD, either at 86 proof, BIB, or 114 proof, you'll know right away it has a high rye content (rumored to be between 25 and 30 percent of the mashbill). But barrel selection, age, and proof mean that Basil Hayden won't come across as spicy or floral as the other OGD whiskeys. I actually really like the BIB and 114-proof. The BIB is a great value at around $16-20, and the rye content comes through well in cocktails. An OGD BIB Old-Fashioned is a beautiful thing. And OGD 114 is a nice neat sipper, if a bit fiery at times. Basil Hayden, on the other hand, is a watered down version of the same with a bit of extra barrel age (but since the barrels selected seem to be light on char and wood notes, who cares?). But I guess when Beam introduced the Small-Batch collection, having at least one 80-proofer made sense.

As to the amount of rye in various straight rye whiskeys, I've been told many of them are "barely legal" at 51 percent. But then, a little rye goes a long way, so it doesn't take 70 percent rye to make it the dominant grain. Try a Buffalo Trace bourbon, a Beam or Heaven Hill, a Wild Turkey, and Old Grand-Dad side by side. BT bourbons are all 12 percent rye or less, Beam bourbons are closer to 15-20 percent, Wild Turkey slightly more, and OGD near 30 percent rye. You'll notice the influence in a huge way with only a 5 percent increase in rye from one whiskey to the next.


Edited by TBoner (log)

Tim

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Has anyone given the Alberta Premium Limited Edition 25 Year Old a whirl yet? 100% rye mashbill, 80 proof, $27. I picked up a bottle this evening but haven't opened it yet.


Edited by J_Ozzy (log)

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Has anyone given the Alberta Premium Limited Edition 25 Year Old a whirl yet?  100% rye mashbill, 80 proof, $27.  I picked up a bottle this evening but haven't opened it yet.

Yeah, I have a bottle. Even with the 100% rye content, it isn't anything remotely like an American straight rye - its character is still entirely Canadian. Taken on its own terms as a Canadian whisky, I found it quite nice: mellow, sweet, with lots of barrel character and the underlying spiciness that's the brand's house style. For me personally, I find it has a bit too much oak; I prefer the 10-year expression (sold under the label Alberta Springs).


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Anybody have an opinion on the new Russel's Reserve Rye? Made by the WT mater distiller Jimmy Russel, but the distributor rep said it was mostly a marketing thing to not put the turkey on the label (to get people who might otherwise shy from the high-proof reputation). If it's the same guy who makes regular wt rye it can't be terrible, but I was wondering if anybody has actually tried it yet.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I would say the comparison to WT Rye is similar to the comparison between WT 101 and Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve bourbon. The Russell's Reserve line is not visibly connected to Turkey anymore (the words Wild Turkey do not appear on the RR Rye label). The flavor profile is connected, but only loosely. The signature earth and cinnamon of WT Rye are present in the Russell's Reserve version, but age has knocked some of the fire out of the whiskey. So has a lower proof point. The result is a whiskey that is actually remarkably similar to the Baby Saz, though with less of Buffalo Trace's brown sugar signature. The first time I tasted it, I said, "Iced tea." It's endlessly drinkable, like iced tea. It's very refreshing. And, because of the cooling mint note on the finish, it would make a very nice addition to a glass of iced tea.

I love the regular WT rye (neat or in a cocktail, I think it's one of the best whiskeys in the market), so it's tough for me to say the Russell's Reserve is better. It's just markedly different. I don't think it would work in a Manhattan. It would definitely make a fine julep and a very good Sazerac. But it's probably best to just sip it neat. A good product, and an interesting direction for WT to move with its mid-shelf product line.

BTW, on a somewhat related note, I have it on pretty good authority that in just over a year, Beam is looking at putting a new product on the market for the first time in ages: a premium version of Old Overholt. Rejoice! More rye! (of course, they may reverse field, but I'm told they really want to compete with Baby Saz and WT for a market segment they didn't expect to exist).


Edited by TBoner (log)

Tim

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Wow thanks so much for the great notes. The liquor rep said he was going to bring me a sample but I don't know if I can wait that long now. And as for 100 proof Overholt? Woo-Hoo!

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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