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  1. #1
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    Hello and Old Overholt

    Hi! I just discovered this site and board. I'm nowhere near as knowledgeable about whiskey as you guys seem to be, so I hope I can learn some things while I'm here.

    Rye whiskey is probably my favorite style of whiskey. Unfortunately it's extremely hard to find (at least where I live, in rural PA). The only two brands easily available to me are Jim Beam Rye and Old Overholt. I love them both, but I think if I had to pick I'd give the edge to Old Overholt. I love the way it kind of sneaks up on you -- first it starts out smooth, almost creamy, then it hits you in the back of the head with that crisp rye finish. (I also like the label, with it's picture of a grim old guy -- presumably Old Overholt himself.)

    I'm curious what you guys think of Old Overholt. Also, do you think this style will ever make a comeback?

    Doug


  2. #2
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    There seems to be a small but real rye revival going on. Premium ryes are becoming available. I notice more people want to talk about rye than ever before, and I have been participating in forums like this one since the old Prodigy Wine and Spirits bulletin board in, my God, the prehistoric early 90s.

    The original Old Overholt Distillery was at Broad Ford, PA. Back before prohibition, when rye ruled, Old Overholt was king. After repeal, it became part of National Distillers and the Pennsylvania distillery was eventually closed, with all whiskey production consolidated in Kentucky. In 1987, National merged with Jim Beam. Today, Jim Beam Rye and Old Overholt are essentially the same whiskey. Although the labels don't say so, many people believe the Old Overholt is a little older.

    It may be hard to find the VanWinkle and the other new premium ryes in your area, but it should be possible to find Wild Turkey Rye, and maybe one of the Heaven Hill brands, like Rittenhouse. That way you can at least sample the products of different distilleries.

    - chuck


  3. #3
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    Doug--
    I did find Wild Turkey Rye in my local State Store down here in Bucks County. Just how rural PA are you? Your SS should be able to get Wild Turkey Rye. I had to go to MD to get the Van Winkle, and there's always the magic of Web-ordered whiskey... not that I'd ever do that, of course, that might be in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth. <g>
    Meanwhile, welcome aboard! As Chuck says, more people want to talk about rye than they have for years. Van Winkle's new rye is winning friends, Anchor Distilling's first product was a rye, and Buffalo Trace is bringing out an 18 YO rye this spring. We've been getting some very passionate letters about rye at Malt Advocate. It's that time... and it's about time!

    Lew Bryson
    Hirsch Reserve 16 YO: Real Pennsylvania Bourbon

  4. #4
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    Well, Mr. Bryson, I live on the edge of the Allegh. National Forest, so it's pretty rural. But upon reflection I realized you're right -- there's no reason why even my local (very poor) state store couldn't order me in something. After the holidays I'll see if I can't get a bottle of Wild Turkey Rye.

    For Chuck, I have two questions:
    1. Tell me a little bit more about the Heaven Hill ryes. I didn't know they made one! How do they compare, in your opiniion?

    2. As I've made clear, I'm a whiskey neophyte, so my apologies if this next question is sort of basic, but if Jim Beam Rye and Old Overholt are essentially the same whiskey, how come they taste so different? Or don't you taste significant differences between the two? (I do, anyway. Jim Beam Rye tastes far more aggressive to me.) Which one is your favorite?

    I look forward to a rye whiskey renaissance! Right now it's almost a cult drink, and that's kind of fun, but I worry one day I'll stop by my local liquor store and it'll be gone for good.

    doug


  5. #5
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    Rye was the pre-prohibition whiskey of choice for most eastern Americans, while bourbon was preferred in the South and West. During prohibition, faux whiskey was usually called "rye," because that's what people wanted it to be. (In the same spirit that, in the '60s, ditchweed was often labeled as Acapulco Gold.) This caused rye to get an undeservedly bad reputation. Also, during prohibition, easterners developed a taste for scotch and midwesterners developed a taste for Canadian whiskey, which they took to calling "rye." They never went back to drinking American whiskey of any kind, so real, American rye didn't come back from prohibition as successfully as bourbon did. Gradually, the old rye distilleries in Pennsylvania and Maryland closed down and sold their brand names to distilleries in Kentucky, which is how rye whiskey came to be made there. Today, as there are fewer and fewer people around who remember that history first hand, the people who try rye now tend to judge it on its own merits. I'm glad America has more than one style of straight whiskey. There's certainly room for rye. Contrary to it dying out, I think a more sophisticated appreciation of whiskey in general bodes well for rye's future.

    Heaven Hill, the masters at picking up old brands, has picked up a couple of ryes over the years. The one that comes to my mind first is Rittenhouse. Another is Pikesville. If memory serves, I think Rittenhouse is from Philadelphia and Pikesville is from somewhere in Maryland. HH made rye at its Bardstown distillery before it burned down and is, presumably, making rye now at the Bernheim distillery, in Louisville, which they acquired from United (Diageo).

    How can two whiskeys from the same still taste different? The fact is, most of what a whiskey tastes like happens after it leaves the still, in the aging process. In addition to age, warehouse location has a significant effect on how the whiskey ages. Characteristics of the wood can also have varying effects. As a result, two barrels of whiskey, made in the same still by the same formula, can taste very different after they mature. So that whiskeys don't vary from bottle to bottle, the distiller has a prototype for each brand or expression he bottles. The prototype is matched by combining whiskeys--from the same distilling season, as required by law--that have different characteristics as a result of how they aged. It is also possible that Old Overholt uses an explicitly older whiskey, although they don't identify it as such. It is possible that the Beam Rye is a four year old and the Overholt is a six year old. It is also possible that it's all four years old, but the older-tasting whiskey is bottled as Overholt, while the younger-tasting whiskey is bottled as Beam. For example, whiskey aged on the upper ricks of a warehouse tends to age faster than whiskey from the lower ricks. Possibly the Beam is low rick while the Overholt is high rick.

    - chuck


  6. #6
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    Chuck Cowdery wrote:

    "If memory serves, I think Rittenhouse is from Philadelphia and Pikesville is from somewhere in Maryland."

    According to Jim Murray in _Classic Bourbon Tennessee & Rye Whiskey_, Rittenhouse was made by Medley in Owensboro. He also states that it is old Medley Rittenhouse stock that Julian bottles as VW Old Time Rye and VWFR.

    Michael Shoshani

    PS This book has on its title page a picture of a still-sealed bottle of BIB Old Fitz Rye. It's a Herbst bottling, and the bottom of the label boasts that it is pure pot still whiskey. Damn, what I wouldn't give for a time machine...


  7. #7
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    I should probably have said "Rittenhouse is originally from Philadelphia and Pikesville is originally from somewhere in Maryland."

    - chuck


  8. #8
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    Judging by the names (RITTENHOUSE Square in Philly) and PIKESVILLE, MD, I'd guess you were right!



    Lew Bryson
    Hirsch Reserve 16 YO: Real Pennsylvania Bourbon

  9. #9
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    I believe there is also a Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, maybe on Rittenhouse square.

    - chuck


  10. #10
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    Re: Hello and Old Overholt

    Right you are, Chuck, and a damn nice hotel it is.

    Lew Bryson
    Hirsch Reserve 16 YO: Real Pennsylvania Bourbon

 

 

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