Monday, July 05, 2010

Happy 4th of Ju-Rye!

For a long time I have been thinking about doing a comprehensive thoughtful post about Rye Whiskey...I mean, this IS RyeGirl after all! But I guess I am lazy (or poor) and I thought if I waited long enough, someone will do it for me. Well that day has arrived. My dear twitter friend and new Daddy Tony Sachs has written a great article on Rye just in time for the 4th of July.

He takes us through four main styles of Rye on the market today, Starter Rye, The Classics, Notable Newbies and Serious Sippers. The range of Rye he tried is impressive and it shows how the cocktail movement has really brought some fine whiskey producers out of the literal woodwork.

I was actually invited to take part in this whiskey tasting, but crazy scheduling and the arrival of the new little one in the Sach's home thwarted that. I just hope he has enough left over so RyeGirl can sip on some while admiring the new baby! Heck..there might be enough left over so that when teething starts in a few months, Retrobaby will have some fine American Whiskey to cut her teeth on!

Here are my emotional picks and the stories behind my favorite Rye Whiskeys.

Best Rye To Drink when Channeling Janis Joplin. Yes...I know Janis was a Southern Comfort Girl...but I can't stand that sweet stuff. And while I relate to her heartache, I think I am stronger than my heartache needs something even stronger. Almost a decade ago I went to a killer Halloween party hosted my my friends at Ice Matters where the theme was to dress as a Rock Star. I think I chose Janis Joplin just so I could accessorize my outfit with a bottle of yellow label Jim Beam Rye. 10 years ago it was easy to find and it sure would hold up to the tastes of Big Brother and the Holding Company. It did really well on the Ice sculpture Shot Luge we had at the party too. Rock ON!

Best Expressions to Try Out in a Classic Manhattan

One of the first tasting I went to at Louis 649 was from the Anchor Distillery in San Francisco. Sitting in my favorite corner of the bar, we got to try their famous beer, Gin, Genever and then their three rye Whiskeys. Anchor Distillery is a small artisan group dedicated to its craft. The 18th Century style of rye is lighter in color because they use toasted, not charred, barrels. This is closer to the original style of early American Rye, hence the name. The light toasting creates wonderful light crisp rye notes that retain a lot of the grain. Union Hall had a bottle of this and clearly did not know what they had. Some girlfriends of mine drained it one night and suddenly they were up in stage with the band singing Alanis Morressete's You Outta Know. Inspiring whiskey indeed.

The 19th century style incorporates a fully charred barrel, an innovation that began later (think Andrew Jackson later) and created a darker richer color with more oaky caramelized char. It is clean and strong. Please add some water to avoid the scene up above.

Their final expression is Hotaling's. This whiskey was created to commemorate the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (here we are in the 20th century now). When much of this great city was destroyed in the earthquake and subsequent fire, a lot of misguided so-called "Religious men" openly claimed that San Francisco's debauchery and un-holy ways were to blame for that destruction (sound familiar?). But tell me this, wise guys? If God was punishing the City and people of San Francisco for their hard partying ways, how do you explain the miraculous survival of the A. P. Hotaling Jackson Street Whiskey Warehouse?
Thanks in part to the pluck and ingenuity of its staff, however, A. P. Hotaling & Co.'s Jackson Street whiskey warehouse survived. And so, "while millions of dollars worth of normally non-inflammable material was reduced to ashes," the Argonaut observed, thousands of "barrels of highly inflammable whisky were preserved intact in the heart of the tremendous holocaust."

After the fire, UC Berkeley professor Jerome B. Landfield bumped into Stanford grad Charles K. Field. "He accompanied me to Berkeley," Landfield recalled, "and I put him up at the Faculty Club for the night. As we walked down to the station on our way back to San Francisco, Field asked me for a blank piece of paper on which to write. I handed him a used envelope. On the back he penned these lines:

'If, as they say, God spanked the town For being over frisky,
Why did He burn the churches down
And save Hotaling’s whiskey?'"

Indeed! This expression is aged in charred barrels that have been used once. The taste is rich and a touch sweet. And in my book it makes a most ideal Manhattan. And I know, because the most lovely bar Keep, Eryn Reece made all three into Manhattans so we could do a taste test. A most delicious and debauchery taste test. Take that Satan!

Best Bourbon for Rye Drinkers/Best Rye for Bourbon Drinkers

I love this Bird...and this Man!
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Jimmy Russell at a glorious whiskey tasting last year. I have been a Wild Turkey drinker since Thelma order that first fateful shot in a roadhouse in Thelma and Louise. For a long time I wondered why Wild Turkey continued to me my favorite after my palate matured. Its all in the mix, baby. And while Mr. Russell refused to give away any state secrets, he did admit that the Wild Turkey Bourbon mash contains a fair about of Rye. He also mentioned that nobody in Kentucky even calls it Wild Turkey! They just ask for a glass of the 101 (referring to the proof). He said you don't even see the weaker 80 proof Wild Turkey Bourbon in Kentucky. And I think that brought up a pure truth about the proof of Rye. The stronger it is, the better the flavor. Rye can get washed out in the proof is lowered too much. The flavor is more complex and delicate than corn. It taste that strong 90 proof or more to fully appreciate a good rye. Thankfully, Wild Turkey Rye always comes in the strong 101 proof. And the clear golden child in this family of whiskeys are the special Russell's Reserve. LeNell and I have a standing date with Mr. Russell in Kentucky. I hope we can go together soon!

"The Spirit of America: Rye Whiskeys for the 4th of July, and every other day"

[Huffington Post]

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