Tag Archives: Rye

Cigar Spirits: Rittenhouse 100 Rye Whisky

14 Jan 2014

These days there are plenty of bourbons and ryes that appeal to their esteemed heritage to justify a premium price point. It usually goes something like this: In 18XX, Captain John so-and-so was the first to create this amazing American whiskey, which was renowned for its special distilling techniques and smooth, complex flavor. Today, his great-great-grandson has re-created that recipe to introduce this special whiskey, which sells for $50-80.

RittenhouseRye100Usually such stories are stretching the truth at best. This is particularly true of new whiskeys that tend to rely heavily on marketing hype to justify a higher price because they don’t make their own whiskey, but buy wholesale and need to sell it for more because they’re a glorified middle-man.

Rittenhouse isn’t such a whiskey. It’s a bottled-in-bond, 100-proof rye made by Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, that sells for $25. (Heaven Hill also makes Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Larceny, Parker’s Heritage, and a number of other bourbons.)

The burnt umber-colored spirit features a fairly standard nose with vanilla, oak, and a hint of citrus. But it’s on the palate that the Rittenhouse gets interesting with fudge and marshmallow, orange marmalade, and hints of pine. Spice comes through on the finish, with wood and ginger zing.

This is an incredibly rich rye for just $25, with a lot more than just the woody spice you’d expect from a non-age statement rye. It’s perfect for a Manhattan (which, although it will likely be made with bourbon, traditionally rye was used) or other rye-based cocktails. I enjoy it straight.

Pair it with an earthy cigar like the Cuban Cohiba Maduro, Liga Privada No. 9, or Tatuaje Noella Reserva.

No matter what you choose, I highly recommend Rittenhouse as an American whiskey that provides tremendous value for an incredibly reasonable price. People seem to have caught on to how good Rittenhouse is, which is why it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find. It’s well worth seeking out.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirit: Angel’s Envy Rye

25 Apr 2013

I wrote about Angel’s Envy Bourbon when it was first introduced. The bourbon, created by Lincoln Henderson who previously wielded his talents to produce Woodford Reserve, is unique in that it is finished in port barrels after its traditional aging in new charred oak barrels.

AngelsEnvyRyeThe result was delicious, with just the right amount of traditional, rich bourbon flavor and added complexity due to finishing in port barrels. Now Angel’s Envy is adding a rye to its lineup with a similar twist: This time they finish their traditional rye in Caribbean rum casks.

It’s worth pointing out that while Angel’s Envy and its parent, Louisville Distilling Company, said they had plans to build their own distillery, none of their products are distilled by the company. In fact, according to bourbon writer Chuck Cowdery, any plans for a Louisvile Distilling Company distillery have been put on the back-burner. Of course, that doesn’t mean the whiskey in the bottles isn’t tasty, and clearly Angel’s Envy’s finishing process makes it a unique spirit.

As for the rye, the company wouldn’t reveal the source of the whiskey, but there are some strong hints. The rye uses a mash bill recipe that is 95% rye and, as far as I know, only one company (Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana) makes such a bill, and they happen to make it all for sale to other companies. So it’s fair to say I have a strong suspicion that this is the source of the rye which Angel’s Envy then takes and “finishes” in rum casks.

Whatever the source, the result is a 100-proof rye that will sell for $70 per bottle when it comes out next month in a limited number of states. Even though the rye doesn’t carry a formal age statement, the company reports the it is aged for around 6 years before being transferred to the rum casks for up to 18 months.

The color is a deep golden like well-aged Sauternes. On the nose, Angel’s Envy rye shows a fresh combination of pineapple, pear, pine, vanilla, and rum. A sip reveals plenty of alcohol heat but also sherry, oak, and maple candy. The finish shows soft woodiness, rum, and oak.

It’s a very interesting, unique rye that is dominated by maple sweetness and tropical fruit with hints of characteristic rye spice. Frankly, if you didn’t know what was in your glass, you might find it difficult to identify it as a rye. Still, it’s enjoyable straight with a cigar.

What it calls for is a flavorful cigar cigar with clean balance. I smoked two cigars with this rye that fit the bill: the Paul Garmirian Gourmet Series (well-aged if you can find it), and the Asylum, made by Christian Eiroa, formerly of Camacho. If I had more rye to sample with some other cigars, I’d be looking for other medium-bodied cigars with excellent balance.

Ultimately, this is a far different rye than most (for example Bulleit, which is also made at LDI, the likely source of Angel’s Envy). But it’s uniquely enjoyable. If a rye that will change your opinion of what a rye can be sounds up your alley, then pick up a bottle of Angel’s Envy Rye finished in Caribbean rum casks in May when it arrives on store shelves. I will.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Hooker’s House Rye

29 Jan 2013

I enjoyed Hooker’s House Bourbon—bottled by Prohibition Spirits—when I tried it last summer. Enough so that when I saw they were adding a rye, I felt it was well worth a try.

Hooker's House RyeI’ve become skeptical of bourbon (or rye) bottled by companies that don’t distill their own whiskey, many of which just seem to slap their label on spirit they had no role in making. Hooker’s House, on the other hand, doesn’t hide the fact that they didn’t make the whiskey, but they do finish it in wine barrels that create a distinct spirit.

Plus, I have a strong suspicion that I know who makes the rye that Prohibition Spirits finishes in used California Zinfandel barrels. The number of places that make rye is limited, and the places that sell aged stock is even smaller. Between the lack of Kentucky in the marketing material and the extremely high rye content of 95%, it all points to the Indiana-based Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), the former Seagrams distillery that provides 95% rye for Bulleit, George Dickel, Templeton, High West, and others.

Each of those ryes is its own twist on LDI’s recipe (againg, barrels, filtration, etc…) and Hooker’s House is a “Sonoma-style American rye” because it places the rye in used Sonoma Zinfandel barrels. They don’t give a specific age statement for this 94-proof spirit, but the fact that it is described as “straight rye whiskey” means all the rye has at least 4 years of time in new charred oak barrels.

The result is a rye with a deep copper color and a spicy, woody nose with citrus and cassis. The taste has lots of rye spice—wood and pepper—plenty of heat, and hints of cherry, mint, and vanilla. The finish is long and hot, with more oak and mint.

While the Hooker’s House rye is pleasant enough, it has a rough and unbalanced edge, especially compared to their bourbon. It does, however, make a great Manhattan.

Straight up, or in a cocktail, Hooker’s House Rye calls for a full-bodied cigar. Either an earthy Nicaraguan smoke (like the Fausto) or a woody, spicy Dominican (like the Opus X).

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: George Dickel Rye

17 Jan 2013

There have been plenty of exciting new ryes introducdc in recent years. (I’ve written about Bulleit, Knob Creek, Michter’s, and Breuckelen, and I’m not the only one noticing a resurgence of the classic American spirit.) With the introduction of their own new rye, Tennessee whisky maker George Dickel is putting its own spin on this spirit.

dickel-ryeGeorge Dickel’s parent company, Diageo, is the same as Bulleit’s, and the similarities between the ryes don’t end there. Both are distilled at Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI) using the same rye-heavy recipe (95% rye and 5% malted barley). But of course whisky is far more than just the ingredients that go into it, and the Dickel rye takes its own distinct journey from barrel to bottle.

After five years in new, charred oak barrels (the legally required vessel for aging bourbon and rye whisky) the LDI-made Dickel is sent from Indiana to the bottling facility where it goes through the same charcoal chill-filtering process as Dickel’s original Tennessee whisky (Jack Daniels also uses the “Lincoln County Process“).

The resulting spirit is 90-proof and $25 for a 750 ml. bottle (notably the same price as Bulleit). It is orange-amber in color, with a nose featuring orange peel, oak, ethanol, and spice. The flavor is dominated by the wood (oak and spice) but there’s also a doughy bread flavor and some candied fruit. The finish is very dry and oaky.

I started tasting it straight, but very quickly found that watering down the proof just a bit mellowed the heat and oak, and let some of the complexities come out. Still, it’s not my favorite rye to enjoy straight (I definitely prefer its relative the Bulleit for that) but Dickel makes for an excellent mixing rye, especially in a proper Manhattan (rye, not bourbon, was the original Manhattan ingredient).

Looking for some cigar pairings? The spicy Fuente Opus X is recommended if you’re trying it straight. With a Manhattan, the Ecuadorian Sumatra-wrapped Tatuaje 7th Capa Especial has the balanced sweet and earth notes to complement the best of this new George Dickel Rye.

Patrick S

photo credit: George Dickel

Cigar Spirits: Knob Creek Rye

28 Jun 2012

During my college years, my father explained that there’s bourbon beyond shots of Jim Beam. His favorite bourbon, he told me as he shared a taste, was Knob Creek. The bourbon has been a favorite of mine ever since, even as I’ve tried plenty of other “craft” bourbons.

So when I saw Knob Creek was adding a third line (their second was a Single Barrel that I think very highly of) I knew I’d have to try it. I saw that it was on sale for $35 (normally $38 for a 750 ml. bottle) and quickly picked it up.

Knob Creek’s Rye was released this spring and quickly garnered praise, earning “Best Rye Whiskey” at the 2012 San Francisco Spirits Competition. The rye (which means at least 50& of the mash is made with rye, as opposed to bourbon which must be at least 50% corn) is bottled at 100-proof. According to its label it is “patiently aged” with the whiskies being as old as 9 years.

The result is a hearty rye with a deep amber color. The nose is filled with overwhelming spice and wood. The taste also reveals quintessential rye flavors: oak and pepper, with subtle dried fruit and tobacco. The finish is long, smooth, and savory.

Taken straight it’s spicy and explosive, but one or two ice cubes tames the beast. That makes it very versatile. It’s plenty good enough to drink on its own, but it also has all the makings of an excellent component to a Manhattan (a cocktail which, although regularly made with bourbon, is traditionally made with rye).

The spicy characteristics of this whiskey go great with a cigar. Almost any medium- or full-bodied cigar would work well, but I found the PG 15h Anniversary (pictured) and the Tatuaje Verocu to be particularly ideal pairings.

All in all, the Knob Creek Rye was highly enjoyable. It’s up there with the Bulleit Rye and Michter’s as my favorite rye whiskey, and certainly worth a try for anyone who enjoys or wants to explore rye whiskey.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Spirits: Bulleit Rye Whiskey

5 Jan 2012

Bulleit has been making bourbon since 1999, but its rye is a new and welcome development. Introduced last March, Bulleit Rye is a new twist on that classic American spirit, rye whiskey.

Bulleit is most notable for it’s high rye content. In order to be a rye, a whiskey must use at least 51% rye mash, supplemented by corn, barley, and wheat. Bulleit surpasses that minimum by leaps and bounds with 95% (the highest of any production rye), with just 5% barley.

The result is a whiskey full of character that is quintessentially rye. It has a deep copper color with a nose of fruit, toffee, and oak.

On the palate, the Bulleit Rye Whiskey really begins to shine. It has the spice I’ve come to expect from rye, but not the overwhelming amount that you’d think a spirit made with 95% rye would. Instead, it’s a remarkably balanced, somewhat dry combination of crisp apple, pepper, wood, rock sugar, wood, and toffee. The finish has sweetness, nuts, and woody pepper.

All in all, there’s everything to like about the Bulleit Rye, including the price, which is a most reasonable $25. For that price, the balanced, complex rye is a tremendous value.

The complex spice makes for an excellent accompaniment to a cigar. Spicy Honduran smokes (like the CAO OSA or Humo Jaguar) and earthy Nicaraguans (like the Tatuaje Brown Label or Padrón 1964) go equally well. Spicier Dominican smokes like the Fuente Opus X and La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero also make for a good pairing.

No matter your choice of cigar, whiskey fans—whether bourbon aficionados, Scotch connoisseurs, or rye enthusiasts—should give the Bulleit Rye a try. It’s the rare combination of cheap, tasty, and unique, which has quickly made it a staple in my collection.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Stogie Spirits: Michter’s US 1 Straight Rye

4 Feb 2009

Back in December, I tasted the rare and expensive A.H. Hirsch 16-Year-Old Bourbon. While writing about that stellar spirit, I noted that A.H. Hirsh is the last of the bourbons made at Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. Today, a series of whiskeys are made under the Michter’s name, but none of them come from the original Pennsylvania distillery.

michtersus1ryeThis Stogie Spirit article is of one of those post-Schaefferstown Michter’s whiskeys. It’s called Michter’s US 1 Single Barrel Straight Rye, which is made by an undisclosed Kentucky distillery.

As the name suggests, this is a single barrel straight rye, meaning it’s made with at least 51 percent rye mash (usually mixed with corn or barley) and aged in new charred oak barrels. Each clear bottle is individually numbered (my sample came from 8D-41).

All rye must be 160 proof or less and, like most, Michter’s comes in well below that at 91.4 proof. The color is an impressive shiny copper hue.

After pouring myself a few fingers, I notice an aroma of resin, vanilla, and citrus. The taste consists of  oak, pepper, and cedar that warms the corners of your mouth. The finish is long and smooth with a hint of mint.

This is a favorite rye of mine and, at a cost of $35 per bottle, it isn’t going to break the bank. In fact, that makes it about a quarter of the price of the Hirsh and nearly half of what Michter’s ultra-premium 10-Year Single Barrel Rye costs. The reasonable price also makes it a great candidate for a classic Manhattan.

As for cigar pairings, I’d pick a cigar with a little spice of it’s own to stand up to Michter’s classic peppery flavors. The CAO LX2, Don Pepin Blue Label, or even the Opus X seem well-suited for the task.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys