Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Rye-sis

When I decided a little while back to have a rye tasting with friends, I did not realize that there was a rye shortage. Even though I read about it nations_bartenders_battle, I did not take things seriously. That is, until I realized I had one week until our scheduled rye tasting and none in the house. K and I ventured forth the day after Thanksgiving in an attempt to buy a few bottles. Suffice it to say, 5 stores in, she coined "rye-sis," to describe the look on my face as we repeatedly came up empty or were presented with less than appealing choices.

Regardless, I persevered as did my invited guests on Friday night we had ten ryes to taste. In the tradition of many a wine tasting, we not only used a spit bucket, but tasted from lowest to highest proof. I took my typically mediocre notes. After tasting them straight, there were several Manhattan variations tried. I will admit to giving up on the note taking by that point. Tasting notes below, in tasting order, not in order of preference. if you've tried any of them, let me know in the comments below.

Pikesville: The cheapest rye and it tasted that way. $13.95 Thin and bitter.

Old Overholt: Stronger flavors, more rounded with some fruit notes. At $15, a good bet for cocktails.

Michter's: A real disappointment. Deeper color, a minimum of 36 months in oak. A good rye, but at $45 it should have been a lot better.

*Redemption: Not only had I never had this rye before, but I would not have even purchased it if I had not been stressed out about a need for more variety. Also, it had a nice label. This was lovely and fruity and quite different from any of the others in the tasting. Made into a Manhattan with a mild vermouth, it was almost a different drink than the expected Manhattan. At around $30 a very good deal.

*Sazerac: Deeper color, less burn with wood spice. $26.99 Very smooth and rounded. Makes a very good Manhattan.

*High West: My favorite from my last mini-Manhattan tasting. $47.99 Less sweet, lots of spice, some vegetal flavors. Combined with Antica vermouth, it made for an almost perfect Manhattan.

ri1 (Rye One) $42.99 Nice fruity nose, but a bit of a medicinal aftertaste.

Old Portero $55 Very woody. Others liked it a lot more, but my notes read: Everything I don't like to find in a red wine.

*Rittenhouse 100: To be fair, this bottle arrived with only about a 1/3 left and had been open for a while so who knows what it tastes like when fresh. But, I sure did like it. Very smooth, rounded. $20. This would be my regular rye, if I could find it anywhere.

Wild Turkey: $18.99  Did this one suffer from being the last tasted? Probably. But the strongest notes were of burnt plastic. I wonder if I can cook with it?

Now, anyone want to join me for some rye?


  1. Regarding Rittenhouse 100, it has always been sort of spottily available on the West Coast. They hog it up at the NY bars.

    It was gone for a while, but should be back again at retail and bars now-ish. At least until it runs out again.

    It is a very smooth and rounded Rye, one of my favorites, especially for mixing.

  2. Erik
    We looked at multiple stores and had no luck. I'd love to find it somewhere.

  3. Check with K&L, I've heard through their Whiskey Club that they will have some coming in, but don't expect it to last long.