Friday, April 06, 2012

Rye Whiskey in RyeGirl's Hometown!

To be more specific, there is not rye whiskey being made in one of my hometowns.  I had a bit of a nomadic childhood as the daughter of radio broadcaster.  My Dad calls me an Air FARCE Brat.  But from the middle of my high school senior year til the day I packed a suitcase and moved to NYC 17 years ago, I lived in the beautiful blue ridge mountains of Northern Virginia.  While I spent a majority of that time running off to DC, the Mall or an elementary school parking lot to make out with my very cool (younger!) boyfriend,  always enjoyed the history and beauty of this historic part of the country.

Frank the Distillery Dog

I was not alone.  After a nomadic childhood as well, Scott Harris and his wife Becky decided to settle in Purcelville and start a distillery.  With a nod to a historic Virginia crop, they distilled 100% rye.  Thomas Jefferson planted it, George Washington planted and distilled it himself at Mount Vernon a few miles away.  Farmers still rotate a rye planting in their crops, though most just plow it under these days.  Scott and Becky get their organic rye from the midwest, but are looking to start getting local organic farmers involved.

Scott doing his tour
Local and sustainable is a theme at this small distillery.  The high alcohol "heads" are used to clean the equipment and the tails are recycled into the next batch, as most distillers do.  Becky and Scott do much of the work themselves (Becky fired up the forklift to take in a 4 ton rye flour delivery while I was there) and they count on volunteers when bottling time comes around.  Their love and dedication comes through as the product is quite delicious.

The first small batch product we tried was Mosby's Spirit.  This is an unaged rye not distilled enough times to be a vodka.  It also lacks the white lightening bite to be a rye "moonshine".  Despite being diluted down to 80 proof, it has a hot flash of ethanol that hides the grainy rye taste I look for in white lightening. When the burn in my pallet fades though is had that pleasant rye chewy mouth feel.  Nice for breakfast (when I am doing this second tasting...)

The Mosbey spirit is also aged in new charred white oak from Minnesota to produce Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye.  The nose has that classic toasted oak with a hint of sweetness that bursts through when it hits the tongue.  Again there is a hotness that belies its 40% alcohol.  It mixes well and I made both a Manhattan and Vieux Carre to great success.  I used 1/2 Capano, 1/2 sweet vermouth to balance and bring out the beautiful vanilla notes in this rye.

The Still
Triple distilled form both rye and wheat, Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin is my favorite of the bunch.  Here the proof is pumped up to 100 and the creamy notes of the rye is tempered with dryness of the wheat.  Like many American style gins, it is citrus forward with a nice bite of juniper.  I have to experiment with it more, but I imagine it would make an excellent Corpse Reviver no 2.  Again, the creamy vanilla make it a perfect match for Carpano and a handsome Martinez.

Perhaps Catoctin should barrel age some of their Watershed Gin ala my boys in Brooklyn.  Or perhaps I should barrel age that Martinez?  Yes!  That is the ticket!

Perhaps I need to go back to Loudoun Valley and get a custom filled barrel.  I would not mind another road trip up and down route 81 and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  That has got to be some of the most beautiful driving in this here United States.  I am so lucky I spent a great deal of my late teenage years rambling up and down these hills.
US Route 81 in Virginia

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