Rye is arguably North America’s oldest and most native spirit. IT is a whiskey made from the rye seed. The same rye seeds that you might have in your bread while eating pastrami or corned beef. Its a flat seed, oval and about the size of a watermelon or sunflower seed, except it is black, and very spicy, and that flavor translates into the whisky even after its been fermented and turned out at around 120 Proof. If it was fermented from corn it would be more sweet, if from grain more full bodied but less spicy, however, when from rye, you can always count on bold and slightly more spicy.
Back in the days before the American Revolution in 1776, their was a heavy tax on coffee which had to be imported. Americans tried to simulate this beverage with an abundant supply of what they produced here, which was rye. It had great flavor, but not the buzz of caffeine. So, it was mostly used for flavorings in breads, cakes, and of course, to make whiskey.
George Washington is generally known as a military mastermind and and the first president of the United States. However, when he retired he became very rich off of distilling rye whiskey. His was actually the largest distilleries in the United States. You might have heard of sealed bottles of whiskey from before prohibition being auctioned off at thousands of dollars. I’d be curious to know if they ever found a bottle from Washington’s batch that was found in an old barn or warehouse. That would be like tasting a piece of history.
Rye is probably the most rare and neglected of all American whiskey. No one pays much attention to it, and for that reason, its not just hard to find in most common liquor stores, but its also more expensive because its not as mass produced and its harder for distilleries to continue producing it without suffering a loss. Its no wonder they call it the “black sheep” of whiskey.
Thankfully, there are a few good rye whiskies on the market at a fairly reasonable price. And, yes, also a few over $75/bottle which you might want to try if you find you really love it.
Here they are, this is the order in my favorites, no scientific data, simply what I prefer, and the price you see, is the price I paid, not the suggested, sale or retail or wholesale value:
- Lock, Stock & Barrel – Kentucky, 13 Year old 101 Proof ($100/750ml)
- Whistle Pig – Vermont, 100 Proof ($60/750ml)
- Whistle Pig Boss Hog – Vermont, 123 Proof ($176/750ml)
- Sazerac – New Orleans, 90 Proof ($35/750ml)
- Hudson Manhattan Rye – New York, 92 Proof ($45/375ml)
- Ri 1 – Kentucky, 92 Proof ($45/750ml)
- Redemption Barrel Proof – Kentucky, 121 Proof ($60/750ml)
- High West Double Rye – Colorado – ($40/750ml)
- Templeton Rye – Idaho, 90 Proof, this is the Al Capone’s Favorite ($45/750ml)
- Michter’s Rye – Kentucky, 85 Proof ($45/75oml)
- Knob Creek Rye – Kentucky, 100 Proof ($36/750ml)
- Bulleit Rye – Kentucky, 90 Proof ($32/750ml)
- Redemption Rye – Kentucky, 90 Proof ($27/750ml)
- Wild Turkey – Kentucky, 81 Proof ($19/750ml)
- Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye – 99 Proof
- Jim Beam Rye – Kentucky, 80 Proof ($25/750ml)
- James E. Pepper – Kentucky, 100 Proof ($20/75oml)
- J.P. Wiser – Canada, 80 Proof ($20/75oml)
- Rittenhouse – Kentucky, 100 Proof ($30/750ml)
- Old Overholt – Kentucky, 80 Proof ($20/Liter)
- Dad’s Hat – Pennsylvania, 90 Proof ($55/750ml)
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