May 2016: American Straight Rye Whiskey

by Stephen Netherton

Prior to Prohibition, rye was the most popular grain American farmers distilled with regularity (including George Washington). Prohibition, however, ushered in bootlegged Canadian whiskies. While these still featured a majority rye-based mash bill, Canadian rye is much softer. The American palate adapted, and after Prohibition was repealed, rye took a back seat to sweater, smoother grains, such as corn. Bourbon, thus, took over as America’s most popular whiskey.

But, times are changing. Rye is surging back (riding the building tidal wave of all whiskey, really) and is reacquainting itself as the primary grain. In Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible, the top two overall world whiskies were rye whiskies – Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye and Pikesville Straight Rye.

What distinguishes a simple rye whiskey from “straight” rye? Any rye whiskey must contain a mash bill of at least 51% rye. Straight rye is distilled at no more than 160 proof and stored at no more than 125 proof in charred new oak barrels. Finally, it must be aged at least 2 years and contain no added flavor, color, or additional spirit or blend. 27 CFR § 5.22(b)(1)(iii).

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Gentlemen devoted to the finest.

January 2016: Irish Single Malt Whiskey

by Dr. Stephen Benson

Often overlooked due to its Scottish neighbors, Irish Single Malt whiskey is rich in variety and quite delicious. The art of distilling in Ireland goes back more than 1,500 years. It is thought that Irish monks traveling back from the Far East brought the art of distilling back with them. The general rules for Irish whiskey are that it has to be distilled in Ireland, distilled to less than 94.8%, and aged for at least three years in wooden casks. There is a burgeoning microdistillery movement in Ireland that only serves to raise the bar in the years to come. Slainte!

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Gentlemen devoted to the finest.