View Full Version : Describing Rye

07-10-2004, 21:07
I've been drinking a little rye lately. Right now I kind of see it as almost a cross between scotch and bourbon. Meaning, it's kind of like bourbon, but not full bodied. It has more of a scotch body, which means thin. It's a little spicer then bourbon. What you think?

07-11-2004, 05:38
I enjoy bourbon, rye and scotch and my personal take on them is that rye is much closer to bourbon than to scotch. If I had to sort out ryes, I would put the ones I've tried thus far into groups:

Full bodied, thick, robust rye taste: Van Winkle Family Reserve 13, Old Rip Old Time rye 12, Wild Turkey rye, Old Overholt

Medium body, "thinner", more austere/elegant/drier: Sazerac 18 (this and VWFR 13 are my favorites http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif)

Light body, sweet: Jim Beam rye, Pikesville Supreme

Weird: Old Potrero (the "essay" I tried really hard to like, before getting rid of the remaining half bottle http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif).

Of these, the Sazerac probably stikes me as most like a scotch, but I still find it closer to a comparably aged bourbon (Eagle Rare 17 for example). Scotch gets flavor from the malted barley, maybe peat (most are lightly peated, at most, and some have little or no peat), maybe ssherry casks (Macallan, Aberlour, etc.) and/or maybe some knid of trendy "wood finishing". The barley malt sweetness is different than the corn sweetness in bourbon and the oak barrels in bourbon use give lots of bourbon flavor. With straight rye, all that is there, the corn is reduced some and the rye taste is added to the choir. So it's easy to rationalize that bourbon and rye are close cousins and scotch is a distant relation. But everyone's tastes are so different, there is no right or wrong to any of it, just interesting seeing what the differences are. Ed V.

07-11-2004, 17:23
Which Rye are you drinking??

07-11-2004, 17:55
I'd have a hard time characterizing rye as being "scotchlike", although I see where you're going with your post. You're right that ryes generally have a more thin mouthfeel compared to bourbon.

If forced to pick a non-bourbon 'closest sibling' in the whiskey world, I'd probably choose Irish. The small-grain mintiness of ryes (especially the younger/harsher ones like WT Rye) reminds me of the pot-stilled menthol-type taste found in Jameson 1780 and Redbreast. Irishes also tend to have that thin mouthfeel (probably for a different reason though...they're blended with grain whiskey).

But I still think you'd have a hard time arguing that rye is more like anything but bourbon. What else but American whiskey has that same 3-grain mashbill?

07-11-2004, 18:17
I'm on a Jim Beam Rye, right now.

I definitely can tell it's closest to bourbon, but it doesn't have the full body of it.

I'm having a time isolating the "rye" taste. It's there, and in reference to another post on rye, it does linger in the mouth a long time. I think it would distort drinking bourbon right after it.

I can see why we're not a straightrye.com:)

07-11-2004, 18:34
I have similar feelings about rye vs. scotch vs. bourbon.

Rye -whatever type but of course straight whiskey not blended - tends to be thinner in mouthfeel. Why is this, though? The body of rye and bourbon surely come from the wood, - the lignin in the red layer, the char, the tannin. After all, alcohol is vaporised in the stills and what comes over is ethanol and various other chemicals (congeners speaking broadly) not "rye extract" or "corn extract". So, a rye should be as full-bodied as bourbon yet even older ones (e.g. Sazerac rye) seem not to be - ORVW's ryes are the exception but then they are a quasi-bourbon so not really an exception.. This is a mystery I cannot fully understand except that congeners produced in a rye mash must differ from those in a bourbon mash.

The distinctive flavor seems not as long-lasting on the palate as bourbon's. Many ryes seem almost to "disappear" off the tongue. They don't coat the mouth the same way a good bourbon will. But a youngish, high-rye bourbon will taste similar to many ryes. Chuck has said Bulleit could be mistaken for a rye, for example. Some of the Heaven Hill bourbons are quite rye-like too.

I, too, find Irish whiskey has a certain kinship to many ryes. And it is the menthol taste, as you say, the mint-like taste, that seems to be the link. I think the unmalted barley in Irish pot still and the rye used in American rye whiskey must produce similar flavors. The historical Michter's information Chuck found suggested rye whiskey is the descendant of the whiskey made by German-speaking Mennonites (and no doubt other-affiliated German farmers) in Pennsylvania. Either the connection to Irish whiskey is fortuitous or possibly reflected input from Scots-Irish farmers. Their distillation skills were legion. They would have known the pot still type of product from the old country (what is now Ulster).

The menthol/spearminty taste of fermented and distilled rye can also be tasted in certain unflavored genever gins of Holland and korns of Germany.


07-12-2004, 09:56
I find that certain ryes--Old Overholt, Beam and Wild Turkey come to mind--have a thin and muddy flavor I don't find pleasant. The ryes I like--Van Winkle Family Reserve and Rittenhouse 100--have some of the richness of bourbon but also the spicy and minty flavors I associate with rye.

07-14-2004, 10:33
I find that certain ryes--Old Overholt, Beam and Wild Turkey come to mind--have a thin and muddy flavor I don't find pleasant.

It just goes to show how tastes differ. While certainly not has deep and complex as the VW or Sazerac, I've always found WT Rye to have a fairly straightforward and enjoyable bold and spicey flavor - it is my slurping Rye when I want something I don't have to concentrate on too much. I agree the Beam is thin - but I've always found some distincly suble flavors in it. I totally agree with you as to the Overholt, though; of the three, that is the only one I would call muddy.

07-14-2004, 13:59
I also find the Wild Turkey rye to be quite good. It's the only straight rye that I've tried thus far. Spicy and fruity with a good 101 bite. I hope to broaden my rye experience in the near future. Unfortunately, the Washington liquor stores don't stock much variety when it comes to rye.

Thinking of this thread last night, I paid close attention to the mouth-feel of the Scotch I was drinking (Ardbeg). If anything, it felt thicker and weightier than what I remembered of the WT rye feel. In any case, I certainly wouldn't have characterized this Scotch as "thin".

Time for a side-by-side comparison!

07-14-2004, 14:54
Good idea. I've been eager to open up the WT, JB, and OH ryes for a side by side. I need to get to scheduling a fun little tasting centered around this. Too bad these are the only lower priced ryes available in NY.

07-14-2004, 15:40
Yeah, those are essentially what we can get, too.

The website for our state-run liquor monopoly lists availability as follows:

Jim Beam Rye - commonly available at most stores
Wild Turkey Rye - commonly available at most stores
Old Overholt - commonly available at most stores
Old Potrero (at $100.85) - 1 unit available in the entire state (!)
Rittenhouse Rye 100° - 1 unit available in the entire state (!) an hour north of Seattle
Rittenhouse Rye 80° - 9 units at the big downtown store

I'm planning to try the Jim Beam next. My options are pretty limited, but I've wanted to try that one anyway.

07-14-2004, 17:54
I paid close attention to the mouth-feel of the Scotch I was drinking (Ardbeg). If anything, it felt thicker and weightier than what I remembered of the WT rye feel. In any case, I certainly wouldn't have characterized this Scotch as "thin".

Exactly. Ardbeg (and the other heavily-peated scothes) are my favorite scotch. Even the 10yo can't be described as "thin." I think scotch to bourbon/rye comparisons (regarding taste, body, flavor, etc.) are very difficult given the vast differences between ingredients, distilling methods and casking. For me, trying to compare the two would be like comparing beer to hard cider.

07-15-2004, 18:42
In any case, I certainly wouldn't have characterized this Scotch as "thin".

If you are drinking a scotch that is as full bodied as bourbon, give me a name, I'd love to try it.

07-16-2004, 08:37
The Ardbeg 10 would be a good place to start. From my experience, most of the Islay heavyweights would hold up quite well against bourbon in terms of body. Laphroaig (esp the cask strength version) or Lagavulin would also be recommendations.

These have very different flavor profiles from bourbon, of course, but if we're talking character and texture, I'd recommend trying them.

07-16-2004, 09:20
Another good suggestion for something "hearty" to use in a bourbon / rye /
scotch comparison would be Aberlour's Abunadh. Although it's aged in
sherry casks, it's still got a big taste. It's on the "heavier" end
of the scotch spectrum.

Tim Dellinger

07-16-2004, 14:38
I agree with you Clayton the Ardbeg 10 is a wonderful example of scotch being able to stand the test against bourbon. Other examples would be:


Ardbeg 1977 http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif
Laphroig 10 (cask strength edition) http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif
Lagavulin 12 (cask - what a rush) http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif


Highland Park 18 and 25 http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif

For starters I would recommend HP18. The Islay’s are some hefty things start with the Ardbeg 10 there.
Hope I won't be excluded from the board for recommending scotch, but anyways you can't really compare the two.

07-16-2004, 14:45
but anyways you can't really compare the two.

Amen; totally different products.

07-16-2004, 20:08
Although it's aged in
sherry casks, it's still got a big taste.

I don't understand the sherry cask appeal. I had some McCallen 18 a few days ago, and didn't think much of it. Very smooth light taste, but then this sour sherry hits you. Maybe 18 years is too long.

07-17-2004, 10:30
In my opinion, the Macallan 12 is completely over-sherried. I just
don't like the heavily sherried taste. I tend to like things like
Glenmorangie's standard issue, aged only in ex-bourbon. Sometimes
a mix of casks, or things like the Balvenie Doublewood are good, but
in my opinion, sherry casks should only be used in moderation! Or
perhaps heavy on the third-fill sherry casks...

I don't think any of the Macallans could really hold up when tasted
side-by-side with a rye. Sherry can sometimes help a lighter, fruitier
style scotch, but that tends to come off as "weak" next to a rye.

Tim Dellinger

07-17-2004, 11:27
I haven't had a lot of experience with sherry finishes but have always been fond of Black Bush, which is a Bushmills Irish whiskey finished in sherry casks.

07-17-2004, 13:12
It's interesting to taste Macallan unwreathed of all that sherry. Occaisonally, an unsherried merchant's version shows up on the market, i.e., Macallan whisky sold young to an independent whisky broker and aged in the latter's warehouse in ex-bourbon or other barrels not showing sherry influence. Some of these merchant's bottlings are also from sherry wood aging and that version approximates closely The Macallan - Macallan sold by the distillery which always is aged in ex-sherry wood. But the non-sherry Macallan is a chance to see what Macallan is like without the sherry. It is good, but not nearly as good as the official sherried version. It tastes (in my experience) rather thin, showing distillery character but not much complexity. The sherry is what really makes The Macallan, in my view.

In word, unsherried Macallan, or any whisky not too peated or sherried, does tend to resemble the palate of some rye whiskeys (notably Old Overholt).