A demise of rye and its rebirth

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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Feb 23, 2007 7:03 pm

Sam,
Have you ever researched early distilling in Pennsylvania? I am talking farmer distillers now, not the bigger commercial distillers of the mid to late 19th century. I want to know if youn have ever found references to charring barrels. The oldest I have found in Kentucky is mid 1820's and by the content of the letter it makes it clear that charring barrels is a new process in the state. I would like to know if any earlier materials exist in Pennsylvania. Or, as I suspect, the process came back up river so the evidence may be later in the 1830's.
Mike Veach
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Unread postby cowdery » Sat Feb 24, 2007 2:37 pm

One factor in the demise of rye and the rise of bourbon after Prohibition is that rye's heartland was the Northeast while bourbon's was the South. People in the Northeast were receptive to "new ideas" from Europe and other places, whereas people in the South tend to be more set in their ways and less susceptible to outside influences.
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Unread postby Mike » Sat Feb 24, 2007 3:03 pm

cowdery wrote: people in the South tend to be more set in their ways and less susceptible to outside influences.


Well, I ain't sot in my ways ..........and I ain't changing that neither!
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Unread postby cowdery » Sun Feb 25, 2007 12:33 am

Mike wrote:
cowdery wrote: people in the South tend to be more set in their ways and less susceptible to outside influences.


Well, I ain't sot in my ways ..........and I ain't changing that neither!


Spoken like a true Son of the South.
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Re:

Unread postby p_elliott » Sun Oct 04, 2009 4:53 am

bourbonv wrote:.

1) Rye is more expensive to make and more difficult to make than bourbon, but does not have a radically different flavor, so companies had little reason to push the whiskey as a style..


Mike

Why is Rye more expensive and more difficult to make than bourbon?
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby cowdery » Sun Oct 04, 2009 10:03 pm

Rye costs about twice per bushel what corn costs. Rye also costs more to make because there is so little market for it so it is made in very small quantities.

Rye doesn't dissolve as easily as barley or corn. Rye is also so flavorful that it can be too flavorful.
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby Leopold » Sun Oct 04, 2009 10:56 pm

As Mr. Cowdery says, it's twice the price of corn on the spot market. Rye also foams like crazy, and can be a bit of a pain as a result.
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby tmckenzie » Mon Oct 05, 2009 8:05 am

Actually, our corn cost us more, rye is readily availible up here, we do not have foaming problems, but it does make doughballs if you are not careful. I would rather make it than bourbon.
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby Leopold » Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:12 am

That's great that you can get good rye at a good price.

Here's a link that has a nice roundtable discussion of, among other subjects, rye production and foam.
http://www.maltadvocate.com/docs/magazine/article.aspx?id=7890d8b1-9782-43e9-902d-3fbd6323a05c
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby cowdery » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:28 am

Every grain has its peculiarities. I'm sure Tom and Leopold would agree that anyone who calls themself a distiller should be able to make any type of mash without undue difficulty. In any profession, some activities are more difficult than others. Any distillery that can make bourbon can make rye. No one doesn't make rye because it's too difficult. They don't make rye because there (still) isn't much of a market for it.
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby p_elliott » Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:49 am

cowdery wrote:Every grain has its peculiarities. I'm sure Tom and Leopold would agree that anyone who calls themself a distiller should be able to make any type of mash without undue difficulty. In any profession, some activities are more difficult than others. Any distillery that can make bourbon can make rye. No one doesn't make rye because it's too difficult. They don't make rye because there (still) isn't much of a market for it.


But it's getting new devotees every day I guy I work with just tried rye whiskey for the first time the other night and just loved it. Before that he had always been a Kessler's drinker.
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:01 pm

I was discussing this with Larry Kass the other day and he said they are adding to their rye production time and that Beam and Wild Turkey are pretty much doubling their rye production time to two weeks instead of one. Rye is growing, but it still is not nowhere near its potential. I will be impressed with the growth in rye whiskey sales when I see the big companies start looking for an old distillery in Pennsylvania or Maryland to re-open. I do think that could happen - especially if these states see how big of a success the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is for drawing tourist to the state. If Jim Beam wanted to do a Woodford Reserve type project in Pennsylvania with Old Overholt, they would have visitors banging at the door before they even began remodeling a site.
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby cowdery » Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:06 pm

The ratio of bourbon production to rye production is about 58:1.
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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Oct 06, 2009 1:34 pm

What has been forgotten, including by part of the industry, is that rye and bourbon are flip sides of the same thing. Hence you get peculiarities (in my opinion) as KBF not offering rye at its events - as if rye is essentially different from bourbon.

The profile of straight rye whiskey is just that of a more intense bourbon, since rye has more flavour than corn. You can find 1800's references to "bourbon" which state that the best of it is made from rye. Let's set aside today whether they meant a majority rye mashbill or one with some rye as opposed to none. The point is, bourbon and rye were all about the new charred barrel and sour mashing.

After Prohibition and the closing of the rye plants in the northeast, and given that this happened when "rye" was often taken to mean a blended whisky which bore little relation to real rye whiskey, the memory of what rye really was was lost, or almost so. To their credit, some distillers (notably HH, WT, Beam) kept making rye whiskey. This helped matters along until the revival could start.

In my opinion, there would be no revival but for the efforts of one man: Michael Jackson. When you read his elegy to the past glories of the American rye whiskey tradition in his 1987 World Guide To Whisky, and his nuanced and appreciative estimations of its vestigial examples, it makes a big impression. Michael's rye chapter slowly started to reignite rye interest amongst consumers and mixologists. Later, other writers developed the topic and the groundswell grew. Developments such as Julian Van Winkle finding well-aged rye for the Japanese market helped sustain and grow the interest (because without interesting products there ain't much to talk about). But I think the Japanese and other specialty markets directly or indirectly were influenced by what Michael had written. I lived through that period.

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Re: A demise of rye and its rebirth

Unread postby p_elliott » Wed Oct 07, 2009 9:51 am

Gary may not have meant it the way he wrote it but rye is not sour mashed. As a matter of fact some of the distilleries start up in the fall making rye to get the new back set for the bourbon.
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