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Thread: Rye Conundrum

  1. #1
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    Rye Conundrum

    The conversation in the Knob Creek Rye thread got me to thinking about my thoughts on Rye Whiskey, or what I think my thoughts are on Rye Whiskey.


    Ryes have me a bit confused at the moment. When people ask me what the difference is between rye and bourbon, part of my answer always brings up the taste profile in relation to bourbon. Usually, it goes along the lines of rye being "bolder", "sharper", "spicier", etc. In reality, however, I'm hard pressed to find those attributes in many ryes at all! As I stated in the KCR thread, OO and JBR are dull, flat, watery and boring. The Ri1 is definitely soft as WhiteDog experienced in trying to get a good cocktail out of it...though I do enjoy it. Barton ryes are soft on my palate. 354 Ritt 100 tastes like bourbon. The 1 Ritt is similar, though better IMO. I adore Handy and Saz Jr. But, for their unique taste profile, not necessarily for what I would call spicy boldness. Though, they do possess a baking spice quality. The LDI ryes are interestingly tasty, but not a slobberknockerey spicy kick. Just interestingly different. As I got to thinking, I determined that most ryes just seem muted to me. Really, only the WTR 101, and to a lesser degree the KC Rye are what I would term "bold, sharp, and Spicy".

    Is this just a total miss of the mark, on my part? Was/am I expecting the wrong things in rye whiskies? Or, is my spice-o-meter just funked up?
    JOE

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    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  2. #2
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    I have to agree with Joe here. For the last 20 years or so the rye flavor profiles have been sort of a timid step away from Bourbon. Just a little different mind you, but not enough to cause any offense.

    This is where the micros could really shine by making bold, complex, imaginative rye whiskys that could either be an interpretation of earlier styles or something completely new like a dry, spicy, floral rye aged in toasted rather than charred barrels.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  3. #3
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    I have to agree with both of you boys. I think that's why I'm not really a fan of ryes, for the most part. I've had a few that were not quite so 'short on character'... Willet 4-year-old, Handy (17?), Saz to a lesser degree... that's about the extent of the few that I didn't find boring. Not too big a surprise, as I tend to like my Bourbon with more wood and a bit sweeter than some other folks; so even some of the younger, mellower Bourbons that find a lot of favor leave me wanting a bit more character.
    Just one man's opinion.

  4. #4
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Richnimrod View Post
    I have to agree with both of you boys. I've had a few that were not quite so 'short on character'... Willet 4-year-old, Handy
    Just one man's opinion.
    Joe, I really like this thread. I don't find a lot of differences in most ryes that I have in my cabinet versus the bourbons.
    Squire, I like your idea.
    Rich--Great examples. If ok, I might add Double Rye! from HW but their other ryes really have some strong bourbon notes IMO.

  5. #5
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    I like my rye to taste like bourbon.
    "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero"
    T. Durden

  6. #6
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    I tend to think of rye as what makes bourbon "bolder", "sharper", "spicier" - when compared with a wheated bourbon. But I think you're on to something - many rye whiskies aren't like that to a huge degree. Although many ryes are "barely ryes" compared to bourbon, when I think of one like a Jeff 10 that is all rye - it isn't sharp to me, but it is a "different" kind of sweet, and maybe a bit more savory. More like baking spices. The finish is more peppery for me with most ryes than bourbons, and I agree that there are a lot of dud ryes out there (OO, JBR, etc). Maybe it is the balance? In a bourbon, a bit more rye give is more zip, but when it is ALL rye, it almost seems to mellow out to some degree.
    Gary
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  7. #7
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    I like the baking spice notes you guys have used. If I'm in the mood for turmeric or white pepper kick I grab rye...basically savory in my head. If I want sweet I tilt to bourbon (caramel, toffee, burnt sugar).

    So for me I explain as "some times you want a salty snack, other times sweet". Though I freely admit not all bourbons and ryes fall neatly into those descriptors.

  8. #8
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    I thought the first release of HH Rendezvouz was bold, sharp, spicy and sufficiently ryeish.
    Thad

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  9. #9
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    I have to agree with Joe here. For the last 20 years or so the rye flavor profiles have been sort of a timid step away from Bourbon. Just a little different mind you, but not enough to cause any offense.

    This is where the micros could really shine by making bold, complex, imaginative rye whiskys that could either be an interpretation of earlier styles or something completely new like a dry, spicy, floral rye aged in toasted rather than charred barrels.
    Interesting point, Squire. Considering that the major bourbon distilleries in the midst of having their arses handed to them with the transition from brown liquors to vodkas as the preferred liquors, did they "dumb down" rye? In other words, keep making it (if only one day a year), but reign in the spicy profiles in deference to the new market realities?

    I agree to a point on the micros, but I really wish the majors take the lead with expanding the rye profile.
    JOE

    Wag more.
    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  10. #10
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    Re: Rye Conundrum

    Joe I don't know if it was dumbing down because they thought customers no longer wanted such flavors (understandable considering the times) or just make it cheaper because customers wouldn't notice or care.

    Can't blame 'em though, demand for rye whisky was so low that the major distillers could fulfill an entire annual supply by distilling rye just one day a year.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

 

 

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