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Thread: Describing Rye

  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.

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    Re: Describing Rye

    Which Rye are you drinking??

  4. #4
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    Re: Describing Rye

    I'd have a hard time characterizing rye as being "scotchlike", although I see where you're going with your post. You're right that ryes generally have a more thin mouthfeel compared to bourbon.

    If forced to pick a non-bourbon 'closest sibling' in the whiskey world, I'd probably choose Irish. The small-grain mintiness of ryes (especially the younger/harsher ones like WT Rye) reminds me of the pot-stilled menthol-type taste found in Jameson 1780 and Redbreast. Irishes also tend to have that thin mouthfeel (probably for a different reason though...they're blended with grain whiskey).

    But I still think you'd have a hard time arguing that rye is more like anything but bourbon. What else but American whiskey has that same 3-grain mashbill?



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    Re: Describing Rye

    I'm on a Jim Beam Rye, right now.

    I definitely can tell it's closest to bourbon, but it doesn't have the full body of it.

    I'm having a time isolating the "rye" taste. It's there, and in reference to another post on rye, it does linger in the mouth a long time. I think it would distort drinking bourbon right after it.

    I can see why we're not a straightrye.com

  6. #6
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    Re: Describing Rye

    I have similar feelings about rye vs. scotch vs. bourbon.

    Rye -whatever type but of course straight whiskey not blended - tends to be thinner in mouthfeel. Why is this, though? The body of rye and bourbon surely come from the wood, - the lignin in the red layer, the char, the tannin. After all, alcohol is vaporised in the stills and what comes over is ethanol and various other chemicals (congeners speaking broadly) not "rye extract" or "corn extract". So, a rye should be as full-bodied as bourbon yet even older ones (e.g. Sazerac rye) seem not to be - ORVW's ryes are the exception but then they are a quasi-bourbon so not really an exception.. This is a mystery I cannot fully understand except that congeners produced in a rye mash must differ from those in a bourbon mash.

    The distinctive flavor seems not as long-lasting on the palate as bourbon's. Many ryes seem almost to "disappear" off the tongue. They don't coat the mouth the same way a good bourbon will. But a youngish, high-rye bourbon will taste similar to many ryes. Chuck has said Bulleit could be mistaken for a rye, for example. Some of the Heaven Hill bourbons are quite rye-like too.

    I, too, find Irish whiskey has a certain kinship to many ryes. And it is the menthol taste, as you say, the mint-like taste, that seems to be the link. I think the unmalted barley in Irish pot still and the rye used in American rye whiskey must produce similar flavors. The historical Michter's information Chuck found suggested rye whiskey is the descendant of the whiskey made by German-speaking Mennonites (and no doubt other-affiliated German farmers) in Pennsylvania. Either the connection to Irish whiskey is fortuitous or possibly reflected input from Scots-Irish farmers. Their distillation skills were legion. They would have known the pot still type of product from the old country (what is now Ulster).

    The menthol/spearminty taste of fermented and distilled rye can also be tasted in certain unflavored genever gins of Holland and korns of Germany.

    Gary

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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.

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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!

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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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