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Which Rye to Try?


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In my neck of the woods in AZ, I can't find any Sazerac Rye or Van Winkle Rye. The only Rye whiskeys that I can find are:

Jim Beam

Wild Turkey

Rittenhouse

Rittenhouse 100

Old Potrero 18th Cent.

Old Potrero 19th Cent.

Which should I get to try a straight Rye?

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Most likely I'd go for either the Ritt 100 or the WT, though I do enjoy Potrero, I don't think it could be considered representative of rye in general.

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From that list, I'd choose the Wild Turkey and Rittenhouse BIB (100 proof). Good values, good ryes, divurgent styles.

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CrispyCritter

I'd add another vote for WT and Rittenhouse BIB, and the Rittenhouse is an amazing value.

The Old Potrero whiskeys have a very different character due to their 100% malted rye mash. I've only had the Old Potrero 19th Century (the one labeled "single malt straight rye"), and while I certainly liked it, the impression I got was that it was what single malt Scotch would be like if it were made from rye instead of barley.

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Wild Turkey Rye and Rittenhouse 100 are my two go-to Ryes. They are quite different to each other. WT is brighter and sweeter whereas the Rittenhouse has a kind of allspice taste to me. Both are yummy.

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I have had the WT Rye and Saz Jr, and i am about to get some Rittenhouse BIB. I love both of th eprevious mentioned, and the Saz JR especially. My bottle was from Binnys hand picked SB selection, so I cant wait to try the Thomas Handy Rye.

Scott

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I really like the Rittenhouse 100. Price is right and it's tasty.

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From that list, I'd choose the Wild Turkey and Rittenhouse BIB (100 proof). Good values, good ryes, divurgent styles.
I'd add another vote for WT and Rittenhouse BIB, and the Rittenhouse is an amazing value.

Wild Turkey Rye and Rittenhouse 100 are my two go-to Ryes. They are quite different to each other. WT is brighter and sweeter whereas the Rittenhouse has a kind of allspice taste to me. Both are yummy.

I agree with the trend I am seeing...great whiskeys.

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  • 1 month later...

Old Potrero is the only rye known to be 100% rye. Straight rye whiskey was never, so far as we know, routinely 100% rye. American distillers, it seems, have always used a mixed grain mash, which is unusual compared to other whiskey-making traditions. It was probably necessity at first, the distiller using whatever grain was available, which may have been a little bit of everything. Subsequently it became deliberate, so while bourbon is mostly corn it's very rarely all corn and while rye is mostly rye, it's very rarely all rye.

In fact, whisle bourbon mash bills typically call for 70-75% corn, rye mash bills are usually less than 60% rye and often are "barely legal" at exactly 51%.

Basically, this is because rye is very flavorful and a little bit of rye goes a long way.

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Thanks. I've had Old P once, but I couldn't get my hands on it today. I've bought the 90-proof Sazerac Rye - that's the one SB.com's been calling the "Sazerac, Jr.", right? It's like the Eagle 10yr, yet lacks a sharp aftertaste. Not like Old P at all, really.

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ILLfarmboy
...

In fact, whisle bourbon mash bills typically call for 70-75% corn, rye mash bills are usually less than 60% rye and often are "barely legal" at exactly 51%.

Basically, this is because rye is very flavorful and a little bit of rye goes a long way.

Chuck,

What's the mash bill for Lot40. I know where two bottles are but I passed 'em up in favor of other purchases. Plus, as I understand it, it is pretty rye heavy. And as you said "a little rye goes a long way". I didn't want to buy something useful only to a skilled blender.

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Someone else will have to give you the scoop on Lot 40. I'm not that familiar with it. But I do know it's a Canadian whiskey and they walk a different road. It's hard to compare any Canadian to any American straight, because the approach is so different.

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My understanding, gleaned from various sources including whiskey mavens Lew Bryson and John Lipman, is that it is made from both malted and unmalted rye and is essentially what is used as the flavoring whisky for the Corby brands, i.e., it is a "batch whisky" (as termed here) distilled probably at a low proof to have a lot of flavor. It may be made in a pot still and I think the etching on the bottle suggests it is.

It is at some point - I would think after maturation but maybe before a "marrying" stage - added to a spirit distilled out at a high proof so that most of the taste comes from the flavoring whisky (or a good part of it anyway).

Lot 40 is very rye-intense in flavor, I understand too it is aged about 8 years, but it doesn't taste like it is aged in new charred wood (or not all of it), and therefore doesn't really resemble a U.S. straight. It resembles the Old Potrero ryes to a degree, so you have to enjoy the ungilded flavor of a low-proof rye spirit to like Lot 40.

I used to add it in small quantities to Corby whiskies I have (although you can use any Canadian whisky) to make a more intense blended Canadian whisky. I don't know what proportion of Lot 40 is used in, say the Royal Reserve brand, I'd add another 10-20% and get great results. I think it would do well added to any Seagram or other Canadian whisky too (they all seem to share a rye-oriented dryish reused barrel character).

In the end for me, it helped make excellent whisky blends and cocktails (e.g., 1/3rds Lot 40, 2/3rds bourbon for a Manhattan) but on its own I found it austere and not usually what I would want to take neat.

Gary

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  • 1 month later...

It is an unusually cool (and muggy) evening in Dallas. We've been hammered by rain for the last 10 weeks. I thought I would try some Wild Turkey Rye that I bought several months ago. This is my first taste of the stuff. This is really good. Dry and slightly smokey. Some warm tingling to the tongue. Spicy. A long finish of cinnamon and then butterscotch. I will be buying more bottles of this. I think I will have some on the 4th of July. Thanks SB.com for introducing me to this excellent whiskey.

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mgilbertva

I completely agree with the consensus that WT and Ritt are the way to go.

Just to reiterate what's been said, Old Potrero is something of an outlier. As a "rye malt whiskey" it's definitely worth trying, but it's in its own category. Here's what I've been able to find out about rye malt whiskey:

First of all, U.S. regulations (although I could only find this on the Texas ABC site) recognize the following categories of whiskey by grain type:

  • Bourbon whiskey
  • rye whiskey
  • wheat whiskey (e.g., Bernheim Wheat Whiskey)
  • malt whiskey (i.e., barley malt)
  • rye malt whiskey, and
  • corn whiskey

"Rye malt whiskey" is it's own category distinct from "rye whiskey" as far as the government is concerned.

Second, traditional American ryes, like bourbon, use malted barley in small quantities (malt creates an enzyme that assists in the conversion of starch into sugar that yeast can eat). In other words, it's the same ingredients, just different proportions. Potrero, on the other hand, uniquely uses malted rye. Scotch, Irish, Japanese and Indian whiskeys all use barley to make their malt.

As for rye malt, I'm not familiar with Canadians "ryes," but I seem to recall they use both malted rye and malted barley. Lot 40 uses rye malt. I'm sure someone here knows more about this than I. Hayner Distilling Co. produced a Rye Malt Whiskey in the late 1800s/early 1900s. And of course rye malt is used on occasion for some specialty beers like rye ales (which are quite good, btw).

Third, Potrero is 100% malt, whereas for traditional American whiskeys 15% malt is high. This is more like single malt scotches who are also 100% malt, except that like typical American whiskeys scotches use malted barley too.

There ya go, a really long-winded explanation of why Hotaling's, 18th Century and 19th Century Style Old Potrero are different than rye whiskey:they are all rye malt whiskeys.

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I've had two Old Potreros, the 18th century and the plain OB, which doesn't seem to be around anymore, and I really enjoyed both, very nice rye spice. I'm more of a scotch than bourbon drinker, so maybe that explains my preference, though I really think it tastes a lot more like a straight rye than a single malt scotch.

By the way, are there any whiskies made from 100% corn? (I assume that would be corn whiskey as opposed to Bourbon).

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mgilbertva

Not sure about 100%, but "straight corn whiskey" requires 80% corn. I seem to recall the mashbill for Elmer T. Lee is 80% corn, which is why it is so sweet. That also means it can call itself either a Bourbon or a corn whiskey.

The problem with 100% corn whiskey is it's pretty dull and lifeless. It needs "flavor grains" like rye or wheat to give it character. That being said I think there's moonshine-like knock-offs available in the stores that are 100% corn (although unaged in wood).

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Not sure about 100%, but "straight corn whiskey" requires 80% corn. I seem to recall the mashbill for Elmer T. Lee is 80% corn, which is why it is so sweet. That also means it can call itself either a Bourbon or a corn whiskey.

No, it can't call itself corn whiskey....corn whiskey can only be aged in used or uncharred barrels...I think ETL has a good bit less corn than that though, anyway.

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mgilbertva
No, it can't call itself corn whiskey....corn whiskey can only be aged in used or uncharred barrels...I think ETL has a good bit less corn than that though, anyway.

On one point, you're right. I should know better than to spout off without checking. I mixed up Old Charter and ETL. I was remembering a passage in Chuck Cowdery's Bourbon, Straight:

Old Charter bourbon, which is more than 80 percent corn, can call itself either straight bourbon or straight corn (p. 17).

However, later on Chuck corrected himself:

Well, it turns out, I was wrong, and I mention it because it is kind of interesting. Straight Corn Whiskey must, indeed, be "not less than 80 percent corn," but Old Charter cannot be called corn whiskey because it, as a bourbon, is aged in new, charred oak barrels. A close reading of the regulations reveals that straight corn whiskey may be aged in "used or uncharred new oak barrels" but it cannot be "subjected in any manner to treatment with charred wood."

So I guess I was doubly wrong, although I can blame Chuck for half of it. :rolleyes: To continue,

No, it can't call itself corn whiskey....corn whiskey can only be aged in used or uncharred barrels

Here's another twist. According to U.S. regulations, corn whiskey is the only liquor that can call itself whiskey yet not be aged in wood. Check this out:

"Whiskey" is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190 proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whiskey, stored in oak containers (except that corn whiskey need not be so stored)

So corn whiskey does not need to be aged in wood at all (although it can be if it's uncharred wood). One of those weird exceptions that are hard to make sense of.

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I would add to this discussion the fact that US and European Union rules differ on this. In the EU, to be called whiskey the spirit has to be aged for at least three years. Our unaged corn spirits cannot be marketed as whiskey there, nor can American blends.

The errata page for the book is here.

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As for the JB Rye, go for Old Overholt instead. The comparison is somewhat analogous to JBW vs JBB. JB Rye is a bit young and harsh compared to the OO (as is JBW vs JBB).

But OO was not mentioned as being available, so I would then go for the Rittenhouse BIB for sure. WT Rye is very good, but it is also very similar to WT 101 and it might be difficult to discern the impact of Rye.

After a thorough familiarization with Ryes, one might later conclude that the WT rye is a happy medium between the two (bourbon and rye).

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  • 9 months later...

A point I might clarify is that just as WT 101 is heavy on the char flavors (from burning the aging barrels to a greater extent) the WT rye is also heavy on the char flavors.

This tends to mask the "ryeness" a little bit as compared to others such as old overholt.

WT rye is a fine spirit, but it might not be the "exemplar" of ryeness to those who wish to seek it.

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A point I might clarify is that just as WT 101 is heavy on the char flavors (from burning the aging barrels to a greater extent) the WT rye is also heavy on the char flavors.

This tends to mask the "ryeness" a little bit as compared to others such as old overholt.

WT rye is a fine spirit, but it might not be the "exemplar" of ryeness to those who wish to seek it.

Whew! I'm glad you pointed that out. I've been waiting for 10 months for you to clarify that! ;)

Sorry, just being a smart a@#. I noticed you'd been absent for awhile. Good to see you back. :)

Cheers!

JOE

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As I sit here reading this post I am sipping WT Rye 101. and I would also tell you that Ritt BIB is worth a purchase. Start with those two bottles and work around to the rest. BTW I haven't bought the Saz Jr yet myself. I did find in it in resturant bar and it tasted very good with a steak but other bottlings have gotten in the way of a purchase. I do however have some Saz18 and I like it.

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