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The Rebirth of Rye Whiskey


LostBottle
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The opinion of those who look down their nose while sniffing their single malt. A blend actually, I poured it in the SM bottle and they can't tell the difference.

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...and another thing there, Chuck. We want more reviews this year, I say, you've got to increase your intake, increase your output and maintain that high quality. That's what I say!

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Back to the Woodford end of the story. The NPR piece suggests that the rye is being made entirely at Versailles. My own good sense suggests that now that Heaven Hill is (presumably) back to running their rye in-house, that B/F is going to continue running the bulk of their rye at Early Times (to their own specs) and will mingle it with whatever "show" barrels they have at Versailles.

But that's just my own barely educated guess.

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It has been impressed on me in no uncertain terms by both the BF and HH folks that BF is not continuing to produce the same rye it made for HH. But it has also been strongly hinted that BF is producing rye and will introduce a rye at some point. I'm also assured that the rye they're making now at Woodford is not the same as the rye they made at Woodford for the Masters Collection, as they are committed to keeping those as one-offs. The idea is that they might learn something from a MC that they'll apply to a later line extension, but it won't be exactly the same. As for whether or not some future Woodford rye will be a mixture of Woodford and BF whiskey, I wouldn't assume one or the other. Just as likely, to my mind, would be a super-premium (i.e., expensive) all-Woodford rye and a more popular-priced BF rye. They might even be different recipes, whereas Woodford and BF's Old Forester are the same recipe.

The standard Woodford wasn't originally intended to evolve as it did. The original intention was to swith from BF-made to Woodford-made when the Woodford-made came of age, but by then the brand was already selling more than Woodford alone could support and since BF was (and still is) operating well below capacity, the system was implemented where Distiller's Select will always be some of each, though not necessarily 50-50. The MC is all Woodford and always has been.

Despite all of the publicity, 3-4 days a year is still about what all the distilleries are devoting to rye production.

Edited by cowdery
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Based on the couple of WR's that were released as all-Versailles whiskey (one was a 4-grain IIRC), I doubt that whiskey would sell well at the age it is currently being bottled as a mingling with Louisville-made bourbon. It is a pretty strong and emphatic taste, and I think the mingling approach suits it well. It may not have been the original intention, but it has worked out for the best IMO. That said, I would enjoy trying the Versailles production on its own at an older age, 8-12 years say. Hopefully one day a LE will be released of such bourbon. In other words I believe an alembic pot still approach can work well on its own but that it likely needs more time.

Gary

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Just wondering. If B-F had it to do over, would they have still installed those pots? Or would they have installed a more traditional yet smaller bourbon production plant with a traditional beer still?

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HighInTheMtns
Just wondering. If B-F had it to do over, would they have still installed those pots? Or would they have installed a more traditional yet smaller bourbon production plant with a traditional beer still?

I would have to say they see it as a success. They sell the bourbon and the distillery is a successful tourist attraction. They haven't captured the hearts of the enthusiast crowd... But then, I don't really think B-F cares too much about that.

But if they do: cask strength, 10 year old OF at a reasonable price, please :)

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They very much consider it a success. I can't think of anything they would have done differently. One of these days they're going to double down on it, installing another identical three-pot system.

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Good question Tom. I think the small production/pot still has gotten them a lot of traction, and good for them. As for the actual taste of the aged make on its own (I've had it in various formats including a bottle produced for Bourbons Bistro in Louisville and the aforesaid Four Grain, plus you can taste it quite clearly in regular WR), I don't consider it an improvement on their regular column still bourbon. To the contrary in fact. However the mingling works well to minimize, and yet showcase as something distinctive, that strong pot still taste. We must remember that they choose to bottle a mingling at 5-6 years old, is my understanding. Even factoring the new-charred barrel and the different climate, that's not very long when compared to the typical age of a good malt in Scotland or Ireland. I believe the waxy-like notes would turn into something more interesting with a few more years in wood. However, clearly what they have done has worked for them.

Gary

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If I missed it here, please forgive me, but does anyone know if the white dog from the Woodford stills have that signature taste profile? I would guess that it would certainly have to, and be quite unique to any other WD.

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If I missed it here, please forgive me, but does anyone know if the white dog from the Woodford stills have that signature taste profile? I would guess that it would certainly have to, and be quite unique to any other WD.
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If I missed it here, please forgive me, but does anyone know if the white dog from the Woodford stills have that signature taste profile? I would guess that it would certainly have to, and be quite unique to any other WD.

I've had the WR white dog on numerous occasions and compared it to the Louisville white dog. The WR is a little nuttier and a little creamier.

Although they'd probably never admit this, one thing WR demonstrates is that there is very little inherent difference between a pot system and a column system in terms of the final product.

Everything I've experienced over the years convinces me that the inherent superiority of pot stills is one of the most unfounded myths in whiskeydom.

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I've never tasted the white dog but IMO the pot still notes are very evident in the matured Versailles make and very different from the Louisville bourbon. This is not just due to numerous direct comparisons between Old Forester (86 and 100 proof) and WR (regular and all-pot-still versions), but I can recognize pot still similarities between pot still bourbon and pot still rum or pot still Irish. Again, it is a mineral, waxy, tallow-like scent and taste. The pot still whiskey is heavier and provides good body in the mingling. If anyone has a bottle of Don Outterson's bourbon(s), compare them with WR (any iteration) side by side: there is a clear similarity in the characteristics noted (slate, oils again). I find similar ones again in Anchor Distilling's ryes, or the recently revived Lot No. 40 Canadian whisky. Obviously these drinks don't taste identical but they present, I believe to one who does a side-by-side, certain similarities attributable to the pot still.

Malts have them too but usually receive much more prolonged aging and therefore there is surely greater modification of this taste. But still the other day in a Highland Park 18 year old I noticed again the rich sheepswool-like taste of a good old-fashioned malt. I get it ditto in some good Cognac despite the different feedstock source for the spirit, and, returning to grains as the source, Irish single pot still (that "copper penny-and-oil" taste).

I believe it is not just distillation proof that does this since I understand Versailles make comes out at just under 160 proof while the Louisville does so at a rather lower number - the difference in character of the aged makes must surely then be the pot still vs. the column still. In turn this means (I believe) that pot still make and column still make at comparable proofs are not identical in composition, that the pot still one is more likely to retain certain congeners.

Based on many tastings over the years of pot-stilled American whiskeys of between 3-6 years aged, I prefer column still whiskey. It seems cleaner and more palatable. However, pot still whiskey can add complexity and interest when mingled with this latter (especially in cocktails), hence the genius of the WR formula whatever again the original intent was in setting up a pot still distillery for bourbon. I would emphasize though that few if any of these products (the pot still) have been tasted at anything comparable to a Scots single malt, even a young one. Perhaps Versailles make on its own at 10-12 years is a stupendous drink, or Don Outterson's bourbon. Hopefully these spirits or ones of their type will in the future be released at older ages so one can see if the further maturation does improve the spirit in a way that column still whiskey cannot attain.

Finally, I do not claim all pot still spirits have the characteristics mentioned above. Some Scots malts are quite light, e.g. the surviving Lowlands malts, and not just those. Much can depend on the size and shape of the stills and retorts.

But I do feel, based on a certain experience, that many pot still spirits have the similarities noted.

Gary

Edited by Gillman
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