I throw out a question for any who are interested: is rye whiskey better today than at any time in recent memory? I believe this to be so, at least since the mid-80's when the whiskey glut resulted in some well-aged ryes being put in price-brand bottles.

Three or so years ago I found Old Overholt rather poor, thin stuff, "muddy" (a word applied by Chuck Cowdery a couple of years back for this kind of rye, very properly in my opinion). Jim Beam Rye seemed (and still to a degree may be) a little thin and sharp. Wild Turkey rye was youngish and feisty, a whiskey lookin' for a rumble. Pikesville and Rittenhouse were good sound ryes, especially Rittenhouse, but regional-related brands little known outside their traditional markets. ORVW carried the flag for quality rye.

That was then.

Today, ORVW rye is still available (but possibly not quite what it was 5 years ago), ditto Heaven Hill's aforesaid ryes which seem unchanged, but Wild Turkey rye and Old Overholt have really developed for the better in my view. They seem older than before, better balanced, rich and hearty without spiritiness or a weedy quality. I haven't had Beam rye in many years and since Overholt is on an uptick I am hoping Beam rye is, too.

I think Wild Turkey rye may well approximate an 1810's Samuel M'Harry rye aged extra-long (for that time). M'Harry approved a 50/50 corn and rye mash which Turkey is pretty close to I think (the rye is a few points over 50% but can't make that much difference).

I hope HH considers releasing its Rittenhouse at a somewhat older age than hitherto, say 6-7 years. That would leave its Pikesville as the standard bearer for young rye whiskey.

And today we have, at a price, some interesting older ryes of which Black Maple Hill 18 years old strikes me as the best. Sazerac 18 year old rye is good, too (very suitable for the cocktail of that name and also Manhattans - dry ryes are partiularly good in mixed drinks).

Rye whiskey almost disappeared - from being the premier straight whiskey style on the upper East Coast and prominent in the Mid-Atlantic Region it declined big time in the mid 20th century.

Rye offers at its best a challenging palate but may reward those who like real whiskey and persist..