Through the miracle of the world wide web I obtained in 5 minutes interesting information on Starka from www.polmos.szczecin.pl[/url], the site of the Polish distiller that makes this drink. When searching back through the history threads on these boards I noted someone asked Chuck Cowdery if he could buy a schnapps or jenever gin that might provide a link with straight rye whiskey. I think Starka might be a candidate. The site states (there is an English section) the drink is like "whisky" in that it is made from "rye cereal" and, as vital, from "non-rectified" spirit. This would be low proof spirit probably not unlike the spirit that formed the basis of U.S. rye whiskey in the old days when the rye in the mash bill was as high as 80%.
The site states that unlike "whisky" Starka has a special bouquet and flavour (not further defined). In saying this clearly the site is thinking of Scotch whisky though, not U.S. whiskey. The site also states the barrels employed are oak "pedunculate" (?) and are used "after white grapes", i.e., are ex-white wine barrels I would think. Photos are shown of the different Starkas, the youngest is 10 years old, the oldest an impressive 53 years old. Some clearly are flavoured in different ways, one (going by the colour) surely by sherry wine, but others seem to be the plain rye spirit aged long in oak. This would be at best toasted oak unless they are doing charring too. But either way, I think that one or two of these, say the one aged 10 years, may approximate the kind of pre-Prohibition rye whiskey that was aged in non-charred barrels (as clearly some was). Putting it another way, if Maytag's rye was aged ten years perhaps it would taste like the 10 year old Starka, or fairly close. The mix of immigrants to America who first made rye whiskey would surely have included Poles (many worked in Pennsylvania) for whom rye was a natural grain from which to distill or make bread; this influence may have entered into the composition of the first American spirit. In any case, Polish expertise in rye spirit distillation is a subset of the Northern European skill at spirits making which generally used rye. German and other strands from this tradition are known at a minimum to have influenced the making of U.S. rye whiskey.