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Thread: Describing Rye

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  1. #1
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    Describing Rye

    I've been drinking a little rye lately. Right now I kind of see it as almost a cross between scotch and bourbon. Meaning, it's kind of like bourbon, but not full bodied. It has more of a scotch body, which means thin. It's a little spicer then bourbon. What you think?

  2. #2
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    Re: Describing Rye

    I enjoy bourbon, rye and scotch and my personal take on them is that rye is much closer to bourbon than to scotch. If I had to sort out ryes, I would put the ones I've tried thus far into groups:

    Full bodied, thick, robust rye taste: Van Winkle Family Reserve 13, Old Rip Old Time rye 12, Wild Turkey rye, Old Overholt

    Medium body, "thinner", more austere/elegant/drier: Sazerac 18 (this and VWFR 13 are my favorites )

    Light body, sweet: Jim Beam rye, Pikesville Supreme

    Weird: Old Potrero (the "essay" I tried really hard to like, before getting rid of the remaining half bottle ).

    Of these, the Sazerac probably stikes me as most like a scotch, but I still find it closer to a comparably aged bourbon (Eagle Rare 17 for example). Scotch gets flavor from the malted barley, maybe peat (most are lightly peated, at most, and some have little or no peat), maybe ssherry casks (Macallan, Aberlour, etc.) and/or maybe some knid of trendy "wood finishing". The barley malt sweetness is different than the corn sweetness in bourbon and the oak barrels in bourbon use give lots of bourbon flavor. With straight rye, all that is there, the corn is reduced some and the rye taste is added to the choir. So it's easy to rationalize that bourbon and rye are close cousins and scotch is a distant relation. But everyone's tastes are so different, there is no right or wrong to any of it, just interesting seeing what the differences are. Ed V.

  3. #3
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    Re: Describing Rye

    I find that certain ryes--Old Overholt, Beam and Wild Turkey come to mind--have a thin and muddy flavor I don't find pleasant. The ryes I like--Van Winkle Family Reserve and Rittenhouse 100--have some of the richness of bourbon but also the spicy and minty flavors I associate with rye.

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    Re: Describing Rye

    I find that certain ryes--Old Overholt, Beam and Wild Turkey come to mind--have a thin and muddy flavor I don't find pleasant.
    It just goes to show how tastes differ. While certainly not has deep and complex as the VW or Sazerac, I've always found WT Rye to have a fairly straightforward and enjoyable bold and spicey flavor - it is my slurping Rye when I want something I don't have to concentrate on too much. I agree the Beam is thin - but I've always found some distincly suble flavors in it. I totally agree with you as to the Overholt, though; of the three, that is the only one I would call muddy.

  5. #5
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    Re: Describing Rye

    I also find the Wild Turkey rye to be quite good. It's the only straight rye that I've tried thus far. Spicy and fruity with a good 101 bite. I hope to broaden my rye experience in the near future. Unfortunately, the Washington liquor stores don't stock much variety when it comes to rye.

    Thinking of this thread last night, I paid close attention to the mouth-feel of the Scotch I was drinking (Ardbeg). If anything, it felt thicker and weightier than what I remembered of the WT rye feel. In any case, I certainly wouldn't have characterized this Scotch as "thin".

    Time for a side-by-side comparison!

  6. #6
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    Re: Describing Rye

    Good idea. I've been eager to open up the WT, JB, and OH ryes for a side by side. I need to get to scheduling a fun little tasting centered around this. Too bad these are the only lower priced ryes available in NY.

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    Re: Describing Rye

    Yeah, those are essentially what we can get, too.

    The website for our state-run liquor monopoly lists availability as follows:

    Jim Beam Rye - commonly available at most stores
    Wild Turkey Rye - commonly available at most stores
    Old Overholt - commonly available at most stores
    Old Potrero (at $100.85) - 1 unit available in the entire state (!)
    Rittenhouse Rye 100 - 1 unit available in the entire state (!) an hour north of Seattle
    Rittenhouse Rye 80 - 9 units at the big downtown store

    I'm planning to try the Jim Beam next. My options are pretty limited, but I've wanted to try that one anyway.

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    Re: Describing Rye

    I paid close attention to the mouth-feel of the Scotch I was drinking (Ardbeg). If anything, it felt thicker and weightier than what I remembered of the WT rye feel. In any case, I certainly wouldn't have characterized this Scotch as "thin".
    Exactly. Ardbeg (and the other heavily-peated scothes) are my favorite scotch. Even the 10yo can't be described as "thin." I think scotch to bourbon/rye comparisons (regarding taste, body, flavor, etc.) are very difficult given the vast differences between ingredients, distilling methods and casking. For me, trying to compare the two would be like comparing beer to hard cider.

  9. #9
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    Re: Describing Rye

    In any case, I certainly wouldn't have characterized this Scotch as "thin".

    If you are drinking a scotch that is as full bodied as bourbon, give me a name, I'd love to try it.

  10. #10
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    Re: Describing Rye

    The Ardbeg 10 would be a good place to start. From my experience, most of the Islay heavyweights would hold up quite well against bourbon in terms of body. Laphroaig (esp the cask strength version) or Lagavulin would also be recommendations.

    These have very different flavor profiles from bourbon, of course, but if we're talking character and texture, I'd recommend trying them.

 

 

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