Was rye '100% rye' during its heyday?
I understand that Wild Turkeys Rye is basically made from a disproportioned mashbill of their usual bourbon whisky.
Is rye in that case, just a spicy bourbon (because of all the extra rye)?
Are there any other production differences from 'normal' bourbon?
It is likely that "rye whiskey" meant any number of things, including rot gut grain alcohol doctored to taste a little like rye. Even among the scrupulous, a rye whiskey mash bill was likely to contain grains other than rye. Proportions might have varied widely, depending on the cost and availability of different grains. Cost and availability may also have led some to practice mono-grain distilling at times, but I don't think 100% rye was ever typical or common.
Rye, like barley, oats and wheat, was known in Europe and many people kept to what they knew. Corn, the New World grain, caught on gradually. It was only after Kentucky was opened for European settlement, late is the 18th century, that it was widely planted.
Today, the only difference between a rye whiskey and a bourbon is which grain dominates the mash bill. Because rye is expensive, the percentage of rye in a rye will tend to be less than the percentage of corn in a bourbon. For example, according to Regan, the mash bill for Wild Turkey Bourbon is 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malt, while the mash bill for Wild Turkey Rye is 65% rye, 23% corn and 12% malt.
<A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>
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