Every publication this side of "Highlights for Children" has done a story about the rye revival. I've written a couple of them myself.
But for all the buzz, rye sales are still very small. They've grown a little but not much.
Last December in The Bourbon Country Reader, I wrote that I've talked to the distilleries and if they were making rye three days a year, it is now four, but that's all the more it has grown after several years of good press.
A little bit of growth from a very small base.
Now I've gotten some sales numbers. The person who gave them to me explained that the numbers for Heaven Hill's and Sazerac's products are low. As private companies, they don't have to report. What numbers we have for those companies come from what they sell to control states. But this will still give you some idea. It represents a running year, so May 2009 through April 2010 in this case.
Jim Beam Rye is far and away the leader at 42,365 cases. Beam reports and I'm told its figures are accurate. To give you a frame of reference, the big bourbon and Tennessee whiskey brands -- Jim, Jack and Evan -- each sell millions of cases a year. Wild Turkey 101 and Maker's Mark are each a bit shy of breaking the million-case threshold. A brand like Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve will sell more than 100,000 cases a year.
Second after Jim Beam Rye is Old Overholt Rye, which Beam makes. It clocks in at 18,804 cases. Third is Beam's Ri 1, at 3,746 cases. The Beam ryes are 87 percent of the category (as reported).
Next, astonishingly, is Templeton Rye at 3,351 cases, followed by Wild Turkey Rye at 2,750 cases. Sazerac Rye ("Baby Saz") is next at 1,158cases, Rittenhouse BIB and 86 have reported just 254 and 183 cases respectively.
Why gather these numbers if we know they're not accurate? We know some (Beam's) are accurate. We know the others aren't high, we know they''re low, but we don't know how low.
Even though they don't report, if Heaven Hill's or Sazerac's ryes were outselling Beam's, they'd figure out a way to get that information out there. Heaven Hill, for example, provides enough information about the sales of Evan Williams black label to support their claim that it ranks third after Jack and Jim.
That Templeton Rye, sold in two states, is outselling Wild Turkey Rye, that is sold in 50, is fascinating too. High West sold over 1,000 cases, most of it Rendezvous Rye. Wasmunds Rye Spirit sold 787 cases.