At the moment in front of me are four glasses. Each started with only whiskey in it. After I'd sniffed each, then sampled each neat, I placed some ice into each to see how the product changed. I do this since I always taste neat but drink on the rocks. The four products are VanWinkle Family Reserve Rye (which I managed to acquire about 60 miles from my home yesterday at John's Liquors; Julian, Big Red does not now carry it), Old Overholt Rye, Old Grand Dad 86 (rye based bourbon) and Old Rip VanWinkle 10-yr-old (wheat based bourbon).
The two Van Winkle products are closest in age (12 & 10 respectively) while the two other products should be reasonably close with no age declared. The color of the VW Family Reserve Rye was a nice deep amber. The Old Rip had the next deepest color. OO and OGD were a rather similar golden. I'm not going to do full tasting notes on the four. I simply want to make a comment or two. The Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye has a mash bill that nearly mirrors bourbon but reverses the rye and the corn. When people tell me they get a rye kick I can see it in this fine product. The Old Rip with wheat has a very different flavor from the other three. I refuse to say one is absolutely better between the VW FR Rye and the Old Rip. I enjoy the variety. I'm glad to have both in my collection. In addition, when I want a bourbon with a rye mashbill I enjoy the OGD.
Among these four products, the Old Overholt takes a back seat for me. Yet, we must consider the price difference. The VW Family Reserve needs to be three times as good as the Old Overholt for the price. I believe it is. With ice the Old Overholt gets a bit thin more rapidly.
I believe through this tasting I've further enhanced my ability to detect a wheat product from a rye product. In addition, it has helped me to be confident about my choice of the VW Family Reserve as the superior rye. To be fair, I need to include Wild Turkey Rye in some future tasting. For those of you who don't do side-by-side tastings I'd encourage you. Just about 3/4 ounce of each is enough to start. Where you go from there is up to you.
If I may show my age for just a moment this caused me to reflect on the fact that the first tastings I ever did were part of my job responsibility and were of food products nearly 25 years ago. This tasting tonight was more fun.