View Full Version : Calling All Rye Experts
I have been into bourbon for a while now and am loving it, but I'm starting to get curious about rye. How does it compare to bourbon flavor-wise? Is Jim Beam Rye as good as Jim Murray says it is? How does it compare to Old Overholt and Wild Turkey? By the way, I can get the JB for $11, the Overholt for $14 and the WT for $19. Thanks!
...I'm starting to get curious about rye. How does it compare to bourbon flavor-wise?
Rye is grain used in making whiskey. In most (but not all) bourbon, it makes up a rather small (~12%) portion of a product that's predominantly made from corn. But that small portion is considered responsible for a great deal of the bourbon's total flavor. Just how great, and in what ways, is subject for much discussion, as is whether using wheat instead does just as well or even better. As a general rule, just like hops in craft beer, the more rye flavor a bourbon has the better the critics like it.
In Rye Whiskey, of course, rye makes up the majority of the grain used. The flavor is quite distinct from bourbon, but yet similar to those bourbons that most of us like the best. That said, there is a fairly wide range of flavors within the straight rye whiskey world. For one thing, rye is considerably more expensive than corn (most needs to be imported from other states or Canada), and in order to make a rye whiskey that is price-competitive with bourbon, it makes sense that costs need to be cut from somewhere else in the process. I'm not sure how that's done, but it probably varies among different distillers, making for quite noticeable flavor distinctions. Like you've probably already done with bourbon, you'll really have to try a few yourself to get an idea, but of the ones you mentioned, Old Overholt and Wild Turkey should give a pretty good representation.
Is Jim Beam Rye as good as Jim Murray says it is?
It was once. I have a bottle of 7 year-old Jim Beam yellow-label rye from ~1978 that is the best I've ever tasted. Every bit as good as Van Winkle 12-year-old. The current Jim Beam product, however, is dull and thin by comparison. It's not only not as good as it was, it's also not as good as most other ryes you could choose.
On the other hand, to give you an idea of JB Brand's integrity, the same company also makes Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey. They've gone to great lengths to maintain the unique flavor of that product and it tastes almost nothing like it's yellow-labelled brother. I suspect it tastes as close to the way it originally did as they can get it. JB does the same thing with Old Grand Dad bourbon. That earns my respect.
I'm hardly an "expert", but I have tried all three, and indeed drink rye whenever I can -- it's my favorite style of whiskey.
Of the three, the JB Yellow is okay but, as another poster has already said, a little thin. Might be good introduction to rye, though -- at the price you can hardly beat it.
Old Overholt is my favorite brand of rye, mainly because it has one hell of an incredible finish. A little sweeter and smoother in body at first, though. Personally, I highly recommend it.
I've only tried WT Rye once -- I live out in the country in PA, which means my choices are often limited. I liked it a lot -- there's honey notes to it that I've never tasted in any other rye (but I have tasted in other WT products). Highly recommended, as well.
Hey, try 'em all! :)
I'm not an expert but an enthusiast. Old Overholt is my choice until I can find and try Julian's VanWinkle Rye. I've introduced a couple of bartenders to Old Overholt when I ordered it and they've dipped their straw in it and were very pleasantly surprised.
I think there is a real concensus on this subject. Of the current offerings of American rye in the non premium range, Old Overholt is the most satisfying to me, with Wild Turkey very respectable and close. The Van Winkles are different, and worth exploring.
I am continually amazed at how different the Rye offerings are, a very wide range of character is possible with this grain. Rye also seems to have the ability to extract more of the oak flavor from the barrel than Bourbon or Tennessee. Perhaps the reason is that rye is a lighter grain and does not cover up the oak as much? I do applaud Beam and HH for continuing to supply rye whiskey, but wish that they would extend the age to around 8 years. I also have a bottle of the older Jim Beam 7 YO rye, and it is outstanding. Smooth, full of flavor, nice rye spice without being too forward.
Mark A. Mason, El Dorado, Arkansas
> I am continually amazed at how different the Rye offerings are, a very wide
> range of character is possible with this grain. Rye also seems to have the
> ability to extract more of the oak flavor from the barrel than Bourbon or
> Tennessee. Perhaps the reason is that rye is a lighter grain and does not
> cover up the oak as much?
It's not as sweet as corn, and that has something to do with it.
> I do applaud Beam and HH for continuing to supply rye whiskey, but wish that
> they would extend the age to around 8 years. I also have a bottle of the
> older Jim Beam 7 YO rye, and it is outstanding. Smooth, full of flavor, nice
> rye spice without being too forward.
I'll bet. That said, I think I'm one of the few people really enthused about Beam's rye, probably moreso than any other available rye. I'm ready to retract that statement when I finally get my hands on the Sazerac.
> Of the three, the JB Yellow is okay but, as another poster has already said,
> a little thin. Might be good introduction to rye, though -- at the price you
> can hardly beat it.
I think I'm the lone Beam rye enthusiast around here. Love the stuff. Just a massive hit of rye up front, but it never really lets up through the finish. Yes, it's lighter, not too sweet and has very little wood character, but it's got plenty of body to it, so I would disagree with calling it thin. It is an excellent introduction to rye since, to my taste, it has the biggest pure rye flavor of any of the non-Old Potrero whiskeys.
> Old Overholt is my favorite brand of rye, mainly because it has one hell of
> an incredible finish. A little sweeter and smoother in body at first, though.
> Personally, I highly recommend it.
The Overcoat is excellent as well. I've found that some find it a little hot, and that the sweetness doesn't always go so well with the rye spice depending on what one's been eating lately. Minor quibbles, though. Great stuff.
> I've only tried WT Rye once -- I live out in the country in PA, which means
> my choices are often limited. I liked it a lot -- there's honey notes to it
> that I've never tasted in any other rye (but I have tasted in other WT
> products). Highly recommended, as well.
Yup, big honey notes in the WT. Complex little beast, and though it's probably my second favorite rye, it's not one I recommend for beginners due to the complexity and (relatively) high price.
> Hey, try 'em all! :)
Not a bad idea. I'd not bother with the Rittenhouse, though.
There is a Rittenhouse 100 proof that I would put above the Beam (to my taste). I have not had the Rittenhouse 80, but I have heard that it is thin and it is probably the one you are refering to ?
Mark A. Mason, El Dorado, Arkansas
> There is a Rittenhouse 100 proof that I would put above the Beam (to my
> taste). I have not had the Rittenhouse 80, but I have heard that it is thin
> and it is probably the one you are refering to ?
Nope, it's the 100°; only had the 80° once and learned enough of a lesson. I don't find the Rittenhouse 100° thin, I just find it kind of dull. Not a whole lot of rye flavor, too much corn, and not long enough in the barrel, giving it a "green"-ish, raw taste. IMO, Heaven Hill bourbons need longer in the barrel -- on average -- to achieve full quality. Now that wouldn't necessarily cross over to their ryes, but if the aging conditions have anything to do with that, I certainly wouldn't discount the possibility.
I know I'm one of a very, very few Beam rye fanatics (at least in its current state), but I have my reasons. When I want to drink rye, I want rye, damn it, and plenty of it. Both the Beam and the other rye of whose I seem to be one of few admirers, Old Potrero, provide that in spades. The huge, spicy, uncompromising rush of rye flavor and spice couldn't be mistaken for any other kind of whiskey, but at the same time it's not a one-dimensional drop for me. Every once in a while, on its trip down my gullet, I get flashes of corn sweetness and even a little grape/raisin character, green apple and lots of other things. It's the lightest of the ryes, sure, but the most complex and flavorful, to my palate. Must be my particular body chemistry that's responsible for my preference, since like I said, the Beam rye fan club is a pretty lonely place.
Stotz said:"...the Beam rye fan club is a pretty lonely place."
Well don't sweat it, you can count Jim Murray in as one of the charter members.
I said in an earlier posting that I liked Old Overholt (which I do) but I'd not yet tried any VanWinkle Rye. Last night at the Filson Club in Louisville I had the chance to taste the VanWinkle Family Reserve Rye -- and I LOVED it. I believe strongly in variety. Just as I can enjoy steak and seafood I can love a rye and a bourbon both. This Rye is well worth owning and I intend to buy a bottle as soon as I find it.
Hello, Just my 2 cents worth. I have not tried the Jim Bean Rye and the Old Overholt. I have tried the Van Winkle 13yr Family Reserve and 12 12yr Rye Along with the 18yr Sazerac Rye All I can say if you like Rye you owe it to youseld to try any of these, The 13yr VWFR is wonderfull the Sazerac Is another that just jumps out and grabs me and the 12yr VW Rye is right in there. All I can say it's hard for me to imangine a better Rye than these 3. Creggor.
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