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Rye’s glorious empire came crashing down in the Prohibition era and during both of the World Wars. Besides the inconvenience of the fiery Spirit becoming illegal, Rye also became too expensive to produce – but corn, on the other hand, was subsidized. That was great news for Bourbon, and the juice swooped in, slowly taking over Rye’s throne.
Suddenly, Rye’s rep was a far cry from its former glory days, and everybody was drinking Bourbon now. Add to the mix the bad PR it got from all the drunkards in old Hollywood movies sipping (or rather, chugging down) cheap Rye and the once highly esteemed Spirit quickly ended up on the bottom shelves – the rare bottles that were left of it, anyway.
Fast forward to the 21st century. People began to realize that Rye might have been treated a tad unfairly and that perhaps it doesn’t belong on the bottom shelves. Bartenders were starting to miss the unparalleled depth Rye’s unique balance of spicy, sweet, and dry brought to their cocktails.
Innovative craft distillers all over America have been picking up on the zeitgeist and carving a new path for great Rye Whiskeys. Just take a look at Ragtime Rye from New York Distilling Company, a robust and nuanced Rye of the new era, crafted from New York State-grown rye and aged in full-size barrels. Or, Frey Ranch Bottled-in-Bond, a powerful explosion of color and Rye flavors from Nevada. Or this Laws San Luis Valley Straight Rye Whiskey that puts the spice in Rye without the burn.
Rye is back, and it tastes greater than ever.
Mix your favorite Whiskey cocktail the way it was originally made and ride the wave of new great Ryes, led by innovative craft distillers.
1) The literary great Melville was familiar with the spicy tipple, too, describing the blood of the injured whale in Moby Dick to be as “red as some Old Monongahela”.
2) At the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century, George Washington was one of the biggest Rye producers in America, distilling as much as 11,000 gallons per year.
3) Revolutionary soldiers were given ratios of Rye for courage; a bit like Royal Navy soldiers were given ratios of Navy Rum.
4) The U.S. law states that Rye Whiskey must be made from at least 51% rye with other ingredients usually being corn and malted barley. It’s distilled to no more than 160 proof and aged in charred, new oak barrels. It must be put in the barrels at no more than 125 proof.
5) The early history of American Rye is usually associated with Maryland and Pennsylvania because that's where the Scotch-Irish immigrants settled and opened huge distilling operations. At first, they were mostly using barley but since it didn't adapt well to the North American climate, they switched to rye.
6) Pennsylvania’s typical style of Rye was called Monongahela Rye, named after the Monongahela River.
7) At the time, George Washington ran his own distilling operation, producing 11,000 gallons with his five stills, which might not seem like that much today, but back in the day, it made him a real Whiskey tycoon.