5 Ryes to Try
Straight rye whisky is making a comeback as more cocktail fans in Asia reach for the original punch behind their favourite classic libations.
So you’re looking to add some new flavour profiles to your drinking repertoire? Cudos. Rye whiskey is a great direction to travel in. Sometimes called American rye, and sometimes called Canadian whisky, mainly because of that pesky prohibition America tinkered with, rye whiskey must be made with at least 51 percent rye, a grass crop from the wheat family that closely resembles barley and wheat. The resulting whiskey tends to be spicier or fruitier than your average bourbon, which in turn tends to be sweeter. Many of the great classic whiskey cocktails were first made with rye so it’s only fitting that you step back to tradition next time you order an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Here’s what you should be reaching for.
Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey is a great expression of the unapologetically robust straight rye style. First produced in Maryland in the 1890s, the brand, along with the rest of the once-booming Maryland Rye industry, was shuttered by prohibition, an era that gave birth to many of the greatest classic concoctions. Now produced in Kentucky by Heaven Hill, using extra-aged barrels stored in prime warehouse locations, this six-year-old rye features cherry syrup, red liquorice and cinnamon on the nose, followed by cherry cola, rye spice and vanilla on the tongue, making it a great drop for a classic Manhattan.
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey complements and emphasises the spice characteristics found in the original Woodford Reserve by using a base that’s 53 percent rye, resulting in a liquid that’s both more balanced and refreshingly subtle. Because of the consistency of the mash, rye is notoriously more difficult to craft than a traditional bourbon, requiring more attention to detail throughout production, leaving the bulk of production to only the most experienced Master Distillers. With a rich honey hue, the new rye whisky boasts a spicy aroma with notes of cedar and black pepper, followed by hints of apple and pear, a flavour profile that includes clove, mint and apple malt, and a long sweetly spiced finish.
Named as a play on the whisky parlance “angel’s share”, which explains away the portion of spirit that is lost to evaporation (the whisky is so good the angels will want more than ever) and crafted by the late Lincoln Henderson, small-batch Angel’s Envy is corn and rye spirit that’s aged in American white oak barrels for four to six years, and then finished in ruby port casks for an additional three to six months to give it a gold-copper mellow hue. The ideal bourbon for sipping on cooler evenings, expect caramel, fruit, chocolate and hints of vanilla on the first sip, followed by a long, seductive finish with touches of orange zest and spice in a silky, angelic expression of the craft spirit art.
For a spirit that begs to be sipped, Michter’s 25 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye continues the legacy of America’s first whiskey variety (rye) from America’s first whiskey company, Michter’s, originally known as Shenk’s. This exceptionally rare whiskey is the ideal gift for any connoisseur looking to savour a rich American heritage. The single barrel, small batch rye is made in Kentucky and bottled at 58.7% after being aged in charred American white oak. Look out for rich vanilla notes, as well as coffee and a hint of orange, with a spicy pepper finish.
Produced by Lawrenceburg Distillers in Indiana, and carefully selected and bottled by Bardstown Barrel Selections in Kentucky, the Redemption range of rye whiskies are aged in new charred oak barrels and bottled in small batches, allowing the spirit to mature and develop fuller flavour and colour. Look out for the Redemption Riverboat Rye, a spicy rye spirit that’s a little twist on traditional American spirits; skipping the chill-filtering stage ensures more fatty acids in the whiskey, delivering plenty of freshly crushed grain backed by herbs, spice, and fruit with a long finish of mint and anise.