I know these two Ryes have been discussed to death on this forum. I also know that they are well regarded by most members. But I found out something new about them today that I don't think has been discussed before.
Ontario, where I live, had been a bourbon wasteland up until very recently. Just in the past 2 or 3 years we're starting to see more selection and a few one-off/rare releases. One area where we are still lagging behind is in Rye. The only Straight Rye I've ever seen for sale here has been Rittenhouse (one allotment last year) and Baby Saz (a few dozen cases once or twice per year). None of that aged rye (the Medley and/or Cream of Kentucky Rye stocks), that's been adored and depleted in the past few years, ever made it north of the border.
Saz 18 and VWFRR are still being released anually, so I thought I would try turning up the heat on our LCBO (provincial liquor control board) and the distributor who handles Sazerac here in Canada, to see if we could get a small allotment. What harm could come of trying, right? After a few phone calls and emails, and a bit of run around from the bureaucracy, I was finally able to talk to the distributor. What he told me was interesting. They did try to bring some here, but hit a roadblock.
The LCBO prides itself on its quality assurance standards. Every alcoholic beverage sold in Ontario is tested to check for a number of chemicals (sulphur, lead, pesticides, synthetic dyes, etc...). I don't know how many products pass or fail. But apparently, Saz 18, VWFRR (and Pappy 23) were all refused by the LCBO because their levels of ethyl carbamate were too high.
Ethyl carbamate (I've come to learn) is a suspected carcinogen, but is naturally present in virtually all distilled products (more so in some than others). Health regulators have set acceptable limits for various products (in the case of the LCBO, the limit is 150 parts per billion for spirits - much less for wine and beer). According to Wikipedia (I know ...) American beverage manufacturers in the 1980s agreed to limit the levels to less than 125 ppb in spirits. But the three mentioned must have had levels above 150 ppb to be refused entry here.
I'm not trying to stir anything up, or start a health scare - far from it. I smoked for almost half of my 44 years, so I have at least a limited tolerance for suspected carcinogens. I know very little about the various chemical compounds that might or might not be present in my booze. All I know is what I like. I've been lucky enough to sample VWFRR on a few occasions (but, sadly, never the Saz 18) and have one lonely bottle in the bunker for a special occasion. A few extra parts per billion will not deter me from enjoying every drop in that bottle, or from seeking out more if I can find any.
But what of this? Has anyone here done any research in this area? Do other states do this kind of testing? And what has been the result? By most American standards, Ontario would be seen as a nanny state, but it looks as if our tolerance is actually quite high in this case.