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Fleischmann's Straight Rye / Mash Rye Whiskey


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This weekend I was up in northeast Wisconsin, which among its other distinctive characteristics is the only place in the country (AFAIK) where you can buy Fleischmann's Rye. For many years Fleischmann's Rye was made by Barton, and although it was apparently discontinued for a while it's now being sold again by Sazerac, which bought Barton a few years back.

This thread goes into the recent history of Fleischmann's Rye. The key point: for a long time, it was a straight rye, but the current version says "Mash Rye Whiskey" on the label. On a previous trip north I picked up a bottle of the old version; this time I grabbed one of the new ones.

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I'm posting mainly to respond to a couple issues raised in that previous thread. First, there was much speculation about what it meant that the label had been changed from straight to "mash". If the whiskey were aged in used barrels, it would be "whiskey distilled from rye mash," but apparently just saying "rye mash whiskey" or "mash rye whiskey" doesn't mean the same thing, so the consensus was that it still met the requirements to call itself "rye whiskey," i.e., it was still aged in new charred barrels. The consensus was that it was done to avoid an age statement if it was bottled at less than four years.

However, my new bottle DOES have an age statement:

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My bottle of the old straight rye does not, which means it was aged at least four years. But apparently the label change wasn't to avoid owning up to younger whiskey.

There was a lot of indignation in the other thread and people expressing disappointment about not getting the old straight whiskey. However, having side-by-sided the two, I actually think the new version tastes better. (They are easily distinguishable.) Even though it's a least a year younger than the old version, it's less harsh and sweeter.

Fleischmann's was historically made at Barton, but now that Sazerac owns the brand, I suppose it's quite possible that they are using distillate from Buffalo Trace for it. It would not surprise me at all. At present I don't have a bottle of Saz Jr. to compare it to, but I could believe that the whiskeys in these two bottles came from different stills.

Whatever its provenance, I just wanted to go on record with a positive review of the new Fleischmann's Rye. It's a bottom-shelf whiskey so don't expect too much, but within that category I think it's quite nice. Don't write it off just because it no longer says "straight" on the label. Next time I'm up in Wisconsin I'm going to grab some more of it to keep around. Oh, if you are up that way, until the end of August, Sazerac is offering a rebate of $3 on one handle or $7 on two, and since a handle is under $20 to start with, that makes it a hell of a bargain!

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Edited by chasking
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That's good to hear Chuck. I have a handle of the straight rye that I bought a couple of years ago for $18.99 in Rhinelander and think it's a pretty decent whiskey. Nothing earth shattering but certainly enjoyable. My wife and I are heading up to Eagle River, Wi. in a couple of weeks so I'll have to make sure and pickup one of the current bottles. (or maybe 2 since there's that sweet rebate :))

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Thanks for the report chasking, at least we have an update. For a bottom shelfer Fleishmann's has gotten a fair amount of attention over the years. Mostly I suspect, or speaking for myself, because the rest of us couldn't get any.

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BigBoldBully

I wonder when the age statement was added. Just ran downstairs to be sure I hadn't missed it (on a bottle bought just before that earlier thread was started). Mine has no age statement anywhere.

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I suppose the change in the label could indicate additional flavoring had been added, but I don't taste anything unexpected. The new version is visibly lighter than the old straight version, so it doesn't look like they're adding coloring. Anyway, adulterations like that seem like a lot of trouble to go to for a cheap whiskey like this.

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I recently came across this thread, which adds some new info regarding the composition and perhaps changes to Fleischmann's Rye. Apparenly, a few years back, Ken Pierce, chief chemist for Barton, gave a tasting which included some unusual and experimental whiskeys aging in their warehouses. The tasting included "a seven year old straight rye. Pierce described this as a 'pure rye' --- no corn and just enough malted barley added to facilitate distillation. This was deliciously spicy with subtle but noticable wood notes. Again, very easy to drink at barrel proof. Pierce reported that this is the same product as their Fleischmanns's Rye --- but with additional aging."

I am pretty sure that, back in the day, Fleischmann's was a just-over-50%-rye mashbill, like Jim Beam, Old Overholt, and Rittenhouse, which used to define straight rye whiskey, as some of you will recall. I wonder if at some point they went to a no-corn mashbill, and if so, if that could explain the difference in character and flavor between the old version (which I bought back in the mid-2000s) and the new version that I just got.

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