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Sweetmeats
09-28-2005, 08:03
There is a giant article in today's LA Times about rye whiskey being "back in vogue." It talks about George Washington and the cornerstone being laid, some history, tasting notes, etc. I'm sure it nothing that readers of SB don't already know but it is always interesting when articles like this are in more "mainstream" publications.

Here's a link if anyone wants to read it:

www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-rye28sep28 (http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-rye28sep28),0,2392610.story?coll=la-home-food

Mark

chasking
09-28-2005, 09:01
Ha! I knew it!

I see this as a next logical step in the progression that started in the 90s, when suddenly after decades of neglect consumers suddenly took an interest in more robust, darker styles of beer, fueling the microbrewery explosion and resulting in a much wider selection of beer in most stores now, even if the vast mass of humanity still appears to favor Miller Lite. Since I was one of those consumers interested in more interesting beer, and subsequently I got interested in spirits, including rye whiskey, I figured I was not alone---it appears the interest in more interesting spirits is finally reaching critical mass, and the world at large is taking notice.

Perhaps now rye will take off as a new hip spirit, although I suspect few of us will complain. I can see it appealing to the same people who are not really brown spirit enthusiasts but drink Jack Daniel's in such vast quantities.

Hopefully, somebody at Barton will realize that rye is a hot product, and expand distribution of Fleishmann's.

Sweetmeats
09-28-2005, 09:17
I've never tried a straight rye whiskey. Any suggestions? Is Wild Turkey a good one to go with to see if I like it?

Gillman
09-28-2005, 10:18
Interesting article. Word is getting around, I hope the glitterati in L.A. take to this drink, it could be the next big thing. Larry Kass, are you listening? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

I wonder about some of the information offered, e.g., that old rye becomes sharp. He gave the source for that, a person at Buffalo Trace, and fair enough but I would not agree with that assessment in general. He said, without quoting the source, that Maryland whiskey was grassy and Pennsylvania rye, sweet and brooding. That may be true but I wish I knew the source of that. From my knowledge, Maryland rye was fruity-like, which is confirmed on the back label of the current Pikesville (which however doesn't taste fruity to me). The estery taste possibly resulted from the addition of blending agents. Pennsylvania rye was more like, well, who really knows? The historical ryes Dave Gonano has kindly brought to Gazebo were interesting but may have evolved in the bottle and I am not sure we will ever know what they were like on release. And, I am not sure I would call his Pennsylvania Overholt sweet, it was kind of toasty and woody I'd say (sweet pecan with an edge?). Oh well, we'll never know for sure I guess and probably each maker in the rye States had its own style anyway..

I note some apparent confusion with Canadian rye whisky. Canadian rye is included in his list of sample products at the end of the article. But Canadian whisky is not a straight whiskey. This is acknowledged in the article because at one point he states there is not that much "rye" in Canadian whisky today, but he also says two "straight" ryes are made in Alberta and not available in the U.S. Well, they aren't available in Canada either as far as I know. He may be thinking e.g., of Alberta Distillers' rye whiskies but albeit made from 100% rye they are blended whiskies and not straights. And if they are not straights, the fact that they are made from all-rye cereals (plus barley malt) is not that significant since the high proof of the base will be relatively flavourless. Maybe he is referring to the straight-type whisky made in-house by (some) distillers in Canada and used only for blending, but since not available at retail, I don't think he meant that. The Hirsch Canadian ryes are no doubt quite good but (again as far as I know) they are not straight rye whiskey and why include them in this article and not any other example of Canadian whisky?

Anyway these quibbles aside, it is a good article and hopefuly will do much to spur further interest in this drink.

I recall that when I joined this board there was very little interest in rye, even here. Things have changed, and that's good.

Gary

barturtle
09-28-2005, 10:20
Yes, I think that the Wt rye would be a good place to start. I would recommend the Van WInkle rye, but then the bar would be set too high for the rest of the bottlings. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif

Gillman
09-28-2005, 10:26
Wild Turkey rye and Overholt rye are a good place to start. The other products are variations of the palate you will find there. Overholt's rye spec is about 60% even today and may represent what aged rye whiskey was like in Washinton's time. By the way some rye whiskey was aged at the time, a relatively small amount to be sure, but the effects of barrel aging were known, this is confirmed e.g., in Samuel M'Harry's distilling manual which was written circa 1910.

Sweetmeats
09-28-2005, 10:34
Quick question...in the article it says:

"But real sipping ryes have been appearing on the market recently, mostly from bottlers such as Hirsch, Michter, Van Winkle and Black Maple Hill, which obtain their whiskey from various distillers and arrange for it to be aged long past the usual four years."

Is Van Winkle just a bottler? That doesn't seem quite right to me.

Mark

TNbourbon
09-28-2005, 14:05
...Is Van Winkle just a bottler?..



Julian's family has a long history in the bourbon industry. But the Van Winkles do not own/operate a working distillery, and haven't since Stitzel-Weller was sold to Somerset in 1972. So, is Julian 'just' a bottler? Heavens no -- he's just not a distiller. He has selected various whiskey stocks over the years -- including much Stitzel-Weller, made in the family tradition -- and crafts bottlings with a knowledgeable eye (and palate!) and experienced hand. His agreement with Buffalo Trace today calls for the distillery to make bourbon/rye using traditional Van Winkle recipes for distinct VW bottlings.

barturtle
09-28-2005, 14:33
I remember reading in Sam Cecil's book where one of the distillers' would hang a plaque out when they were distilling whiskey for another bottling(they had bought the label); I wonder if they could do the same thing for Van Winkle, then the bottles could say distilled and bottled by...at least once the whiskey changes over http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

BobA
09-28-2005, 15:33
I found their tasting notes, well, interesting. I never would have said Saz was peaty. They also say that Beam does Old Overholt as PA style and Beam rye as MD style; can anyone verify that about Beam being MD style?

Bob

BourbonJoe
09-28-2005, 17:51
can anyone verify that about Beam being MD style?

Bob


I recently, thanks to John Lipman, had the opportunity to taste an old (40's) Maryland Rye. Believe me, it had no resemblance, whatever, to Jim Beam Rye. It was several orders of magnitude better than Beam.
Joe http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/usflag.gif

Gillman
09-28-2005, 18:51
That should be 1810, not 1910, in fact 1809. Thanks Jeff Renner for pointing this out to me.

Gary

JeffRenner
09-29-2005, 06:13
I got interested in spirits, including rye whiskey, I figured I was not alone



That was my entree into interesting spirits as well. I began homebrewing 30+ years ago because there were very few commercial beers of the style that I liked. I always kept a few bottles of spirits - gin (for G&T), rum, Glen Fiddich, Old Forrester, but they would last years.

Then about 7-8 years ago a friend brought a bottle of Knob Creek as a hostess gift, and I was off to the races. I got a few books, and Jim Murray impressed me most of the various authors. He has championed straight rye and is, IMO, in part responsible for the revival of its popularity. And I agree with his high opinion of Jim Beam Rye, though it is not broadly shared here.



Hopefully, somebody at Barton will realize that rye is a hot product, and expand distribution of Fleishmann's.



I agree with you on Fleishmann's. Rather similar in style to Jim Beam rye.

Every summer we visit my sister and her family in central Wisconsin, and I always bring back a number of bottles of whiskey. The prices up there are incredible - at least in the city supermarkets. Wisconsinites evidently drink a lot of spirits, as well as beer. Along with Minnesota, a lot of it is brandy, but rye is common, too, at least based on what I see in the supermarkets and bars. Even a little country bar that might have only three American whiskies will have JB, JD and JB rye. You can't miss that yellow label, even in a dark, smoky bar.

Every year I've looked at two ryes and passed them up - Fleishmann's (Barton) and Stephen Foster (HH). Finally, this year, I decided to get a bottle of each, especially after Murray's high score (93) for the Fleishmann's in his '05 Bible.

I got a 1.75 L of the Fleishmann's since it was only $16.48, but only a liter of the Foster (I wasn't expecting much) for $9.98.

The Fleishmann's is excellent. It's the wrong time of day to do a tasting, but it is in the style of Beam - not a lot of wood, lots of rye fruit, sufficiently aged but not so much that the original spirit is lost.

The Foster is also in this general style, but it lacks the smoothness and complexity of the other. It is rather hot and rough (this from a month old memory). It will be interesting to try these two blind with Beam.

As rough as the Foster is, it appears to be headed downhill. The bottle I bought had no age stated, so it is presumably four years old, but some bottles had "Fully matured at thirty-six months" on the back label.

Two very different ryes from two different distilleries, both apparently attempting to appeal to the same market, Beam drinkers, at a lower cost. One hits the mark, the other falls far short.

I'll post two photos of the different labels. If I can't figure out how to put two on the same post (one seems to be the norm), I'll post the second separately.

Jeff

JeffRenner
09-29-2005, 06:14
Here's the back label of the 36 month old Foster rye.

Jeff

Gillman
09-29-2005, 09:27
Good notes, Jeff. I am a long-time beer fan, too. You should get together with Jeff Yeast!

Do you recall what Jackson said about that Prohibition rye?

Before Murray there was Jackson. I have much respect for Jim but Michael Jackson kickstarted the revival of rye whiskey in his 1988 World Guide To Whiskey. Before that book, there was no text I am aware of that lauded rye whiskey or described it the way Jackson did with his classification of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and so forth.

If Jim Murray wrote about rye before Michael (I know you didn't say he did) I'd be interested to know the details.

I have done my little part to promote rye but most of what I know, and the impetus, came from Michael Jackson.

Does he still show up at those conventions? When is the next one?

You are one of the few to have spotted those two ryes, especially the Fleischmann's. Even during my Barton tour recently no one seemed to know much about it. It probably has a regional market in the areas you mentioned.

Gary

barturtle
09-29-2005, 10:12
I always wondered where these two were actually sold. I've seen them listed as available products, but never seen anyplace that carried them (or had even heard of them). Just their scarcity would make them an excellent Gazebo choice (or trade goods)...I would surely be interested to get my hands (and tastebuds) on some.

JeffRenner
09-30-2005, 08:17
Good notes, Jeff. I am a long-time beer fan, too. You should get together with Jeff Yeast!



Thanks. I have, after a fashion, at this SB thread (http://www.straightbourbon.comhttp://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/48488/an/0/page/0#48488) on how to start homebrewing.



Do you recall what Jackson said about that Prohibition rye?



Sadly, no, not in detail after more than two years. For that matter, I probably didn't remember in detail after two hours. There were a lot more whiskeys that evening. I might see if I can get an email to him (indirectly - I don't have direct access) and see if he could share his notes.

I do remember having a discussion with him about new oak aging, because it didn't seem all that woody. He posited that it might have been partially aged in used oak, as it was his understanding that before the 1964(?) law defining bourbon that new, charred oak was not a requirement. He said that it was pressure from US Representative Wilbur Mills (of the Tidal Basin and stripper scandal (http://www.physics.unlv.edu/~farley/humor/sex/mills.html)), from the major oak-producing state of Arkansas, that got this requirement into law. (This is an interesting topic for further investigation. I've never been able to dig anything up on it. Perhaps one of the SB industry folks could shed some light on it.)

My recollection of it was that it was, first of all, very different from any whiskey I'd ever had before. Very firm, powerful and intense, aromatic with fruit and tight grained wood (not that the wood itself was necessarily tight, but the impression was of that).

I have an inch left of it, and will taste it again and report.



Before Murray there was Jackson. I have much respect for Jim but Michael Jackson kickstarted the revival of rye whiskey in his 1988 World Guide To Whiskey. Before that book, there was no text I am aware of that lauded rye whiskey or described it the way Jackson did with his classification of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and so forth.



I was first familiar with MJ as a beer expert from his 1977 World Guide to Beer. Somehow, despite having a number of his other books, I have missed his World Guide to Whisky. I will have to remedy that.

His first whisky book that I got was the third edition (1994) of his Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, which I probably got in '96 or so.



If Jim Murray wrote about rye before Michael (I know you didn't say he did) I'd be interested to know the details.



Murray certainly does not predate Jackson's 1988 book, AFAIK. When I first "got into" American whiskeys, Murray's then new 1998 Classic Bourbon, Tennessee & Rye Whiskey was one of my first acquisitions. In it, he has a separate chapter on rye. The first sentence is, "If any whiskey style in the world needs, or is more deserving, of a revival than straight rye then I have yet to find it."

He also wrote that it was "what I regard as probably my favourite whiskey style of all." And on that, I agree.

He has also written at least one article in Malt Advocate on rye that I can remember, and writes about it in his general whisky books. I know that I read another early piece by him, which I can't seem to lay my hands on, in which he refers to Bogart's Phillip Marlowe in one of my favorite films, The Big Sleep, saying to an attractive but bookish bookstore clerk, "You know, I just happen to have a bottle of pretty good rye in my pocket," at which point she pulls down the "Closed" shade on the shop door, turns the lock, takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. Bogey says, "Well, hellooo," and the scene fades. Great movie, great scene.

In general, I find that my tastes most often agree with Murray's among the major reviewers, including Jackson.



I have done my little part to promote rye but most of what I know, and the impetus, came from Michael Jackson.



I have done as well, if inspired by Murray rather than Jackson (who may well have inspired Murray - who knows?). Over the last five years or so, I have given probably five nice antique (post-pro) liquor decanter sets - with one decanter each of rye and scotch, with a bottle of JB rye and some decent blended scotch to fill them, as wedding presents.

(I think it is instructive that on eBay, these fine old decanters show up most often in rye and scotch, either separately or as sets. Gin is less common, and bourbon even less so. Vodka never until the later styles of the 50's or 60's, which I don't collect. I have perhaps two complete sets of all four in different patterns from different manufacturers, and a number of other two whiskey sets in other patterns. Clearly, in post-pro America, these were the two spirits that were kept in households that were well enough off to have decanters.)



Does he still show up at those conventions? When is the next one?



No, the 2003 one in Chicago was unusual. The organizing committee got the Goose Island Brewery to sponsor his trip over from London to speak at their brewery the next day. He is an emeritus member of the American Homebrewers Association's Governing Committee, which I sit on. He is no longer very active on the committee. This was the only annual GC meeting that he has attended in recent years. It was very nice to meet with him in an informal setting. His keynote speech was classic, rambling, entertaining MJ, but it was impossible to visit with him in that setting of 500 clamoring fans.

His position is, IMO, unequalled in influencing the beer revival in the world, at least among authors. He and Charlie Papazian, founder of the AHA in 1979 (I joined in 1980), became friends in the 80's at the Great British Beer Festival GBBF), when Michael encouraged Charlie to hold a similar festival. The umteent Great American Beer Festival (http://www.beertown.com/events/gabf/index.htm) is being held in Denver as I type these words, with 1,669 beers on tap.

Below is a photo of me (not my best angle) opening the 1933 Old Overholt with a corkscrew (the top of the cork was gone) with Michael Jackson writing notes about the label and tax strip, which are in the plastic envelope between us (they had come off). Behind us is longtime beer and homebrew writer and guru Fred Eckhardt of Portland, OR. Fred is also an emeritus member of the AHA GC, and is still active on it. He is a wonderful, vigorous octogenerian who always has a twinkle in his eye.

Jeff

chasking
09-30-2005, 08:49
I got a few books, and Jim Murray impressed me most of the various authors.



That's pretty much how it happened for me, too: my wife works for a book publisher that put out an edition of Murray's Complete Guide to World Whiskey (or something like that). One day I was hanging around at her office waiting for her to finish something up and I grabbed a copy off a shelf to pass the time---I was intrigued by the chapter on rye because I had always heard of it but rarely saw it and nobody I knew drank it. Murray's effusive praise of rye inspired me to pick up a bottle of the Beam yellow label.

Regarding Fleishmann's, I had a chance to talk to the master distiller from Barton at a pre-Whiskeyfest event earlier this year (his name eludes me right now but somebody will probably fill it in, or I'm sure it's on the board somewhere), and he mentioned that when they do a batch of bourbon after a batch of rye, using the rye backset, it produces a particularly fine bourbon. Although it's not his decision, I certainly told him I wished we could get Fleishmann's here.

So they have it up in Wisconsin? I'm going up there next week; I'll have to keep my eyes open.

cowdery
09-30-2005, 16:10
If you can get it, the rye to get is Heaven Hill's Rittenhouse bottled-in-bond. Great whiskey, great value. And if Larry Kass has his way, there will be a 20-year-old special edition of it coming out soon.