Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

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Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Mike » Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:24 pm

THE CONTENDERS:

Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof 21 YO (freshly opened single barrel - barrel No. 26, bottle No. 82), Black Maple Hill 95 proof 18 YO (bottle from cask No. R70), and High West 92 proof 21 YO (batch 3, bottle 611).
RR Nose is leather and oak, rye opens slowly as does a bit of citrus fruit.........very subdued
BMH Nose is nuts, leather, oak, hints of ripe fruit, and light spice
HW Nose is corn, light fruit, spice, and oak
RR Taste is spicy, softly sweet, drying toward the back of the mouth.......all the while almost cognac like in its approach, the alcohol is quiet.
BMH is sweeter, a bit less spicy than the RR, not quite as dry...........but just as delicate.
HW is sweeter still, spice is softer than RR and BMH, and it seems even more delicate and cognac-like than either of the others.

CONCLUSION:
These are three first rate whiskies to my palate. They exhibit that sublety that comes with well done aging. The rye spice has been reduced greatly from its long association with the wood. But none of these whiskies is too woody or too tannic to my palate.............the wood owns none of them. For those times when a Rye Whiskey that is barely a rye whiskey and when it plays footsie with ultra aged bourbon (and with cognac) either of these is superb.

Do not come here if you are prone to consider value first (nothing wrong with that whatsoever) or expect a rye to pull your pants down.........won't happen with these fellows. If slow sipping and subtle whiskey impress you as they do me..............these fellows won't disappoint. I have well over $300 in these boys and have no regrets that I spent it...........even knowing full well how much excellent whiskey I could have bought with that money.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby DeanSheen » Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:34 pm

I had the Ritt 25 last weekend. I liked it, but not for the price.
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Mike » Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:58 pm

DeanSheen wrote:I had the Ritt 25 last weekend. I liked it, but not for the price.



A completely reasonable response...........maybe more than reasonable, given the price of that stuff. If my (and others) willingness to pay exhorbitant prices for some of these whiskies is driving the prices up on ultra aged (and other) whiskies, I truly regret that and have nothing other than a selfish reason for doing so.

Even so, that regret is unlikely to change my behavior.............selfish human that I am!
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Rughi » Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:18 pm

mozilla wrote:The Rittenhouse and BMH come from the same distillate, right?


Possibly not.

When some of us enthusiasts got to taste what later became the first Rittenhouse, I remember Parker Beam clearly making it a point that this was whiskey made at HH (the BMH, presumably would be Bernheim), not bought in. He explained it as having been a small yearly production for a private label that had not been claimed and just stockpiled in the HH rickhouses. At some point, HH re-acquired rights to the whiskey back from its intended purchaser. It was part of a lengthy discussion in the room about a lower still proof being used in Earl Beam's time than later into Parker's leadership (I don't know if that whiskey was during Earl's time, but it was presented as indicative of a lower proof style).

That tasting was a pivotal moment for many of us. It was the best whiskey I had ever tasted, and Doug, some others, and I tried to start organizing a barrel purchase on the spot, with Larry Kass holding court on the excitement in the room. When HH insisted on only letting it out as their own label and as a watered down product, Doug took the initiative to organize the first bottling using a Willett's label, which was in turn tasted by John Hansell, who 'stopped the presses' at Malt Advocate to do a rye special. Whiskey was never the same for me after that night.

Roger
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Rughi » Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:33 pm

mozilla wrote:
How old was that first Rittenhouse...and what year was it supposedly distilled?


It was called a 21 yo.
2005-21=1984 +/-
Which so very coincidentally aligns with the age of the Bernheim...
Must have been a good year for rye to pull a 20 year Rip Van Winkle act (not THAT Van Winkle!)

Are you trying to say something, Jeff?
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Rughi » Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:02 pm

The Redhook Rye came from the same source as the Willetts, and I'd be very, very surprised if it wasn't Bernheim whiskey (stocks originally intended for a Cream of Kentucky rye launch that didn't happen). They were stored in racks just a few down from each other at KBD. Some Medley rye was blended into later stocks of VW rye and Saz rye (the BTAC stuff), but some of the stocks you are thinking of are probably Bernheim.

IIRC, KBD took possession of Bernheim juice that Julian had either owned or had a first option on, but thought it was getting over the hill, to his later chagrin. My understanding of the Medley is that it was brought in to BT and vatted with the remaining stocks that Julian had for his rye and also vatted with the stocks BT had for their Saz 18yo. I'm sure both the Bernheim and the Medley juices show up in a lot of other small bottlings as well.

One really interesting rye tasting the East Bay Study Group did a few years ago was 3 different eras of Rittenhouse bottlings: one from Medley, one from HH, and one from Barton. These were bottled at the intended age, not 10-15 years later in the wood, like the Willett's and Sazeracs.

Roger
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Rughi » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:26 pm

There are two good posts from another site that summarize most of the Bernheim story and how it got into VW, Willett/Redhook and other labels . These are Chuck's synopsis of a long string of discussions and Steve's chart for VW Rye.

I don't know what to say about a Medley rye at HH -it's a story I've never heard before. A need for aged bourbon makes total sense, but what label of old rye would they have been hurting to fill? At that time, the only rye I know of that they made was the Rittenhouse/Pikeville's which didn't need to be from extra-aged stocks.

The Rittenhouses we sampled in that post were all Bonds, and the DSPs's told the story. If my memory is correct, we felt pretty good that the HH sample was pre-fire and not DSP 354, as is the current product.

mozilla wrote:From my knowledge(and taste buds)...the Redhook was Medley rye. Medley sold a bunch of barrels to Julian and HH in the mid 90's. That was the distillate that Julian then sold to Drew...because he didn't think it had much life left.

I don't know what HH did with their part of the barrel sale from Medley??? Mr Medley said he sold a bunch of barrels to HH after their fire...when they needed much distillate.

When did Bernheim sell off a bunch of barrels of rye to Drew? Were they also distilled in the mid 80's before Bernheim shut down for the remodel?

I had heard that there was Bernheim rye blended in with the Medley to help fill bottles for the VW label...but, did not hear that BT used it for Saz, as well. Why would Julian get rid of rye for BT's labels...when he needed as much as he had for his own labels?

I am really enjoying this rye discussion. Great info.

Lastly, Barton was filling Rittenhouse labels???? When did this happen? How did y'all know it was a Barton product?
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Rughi » Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:36 pm

I checked out John Lipman's site to refresh my memory about Charles Medley and Owensboro. I think Chuck may use Glenmore as a shorthand way to mean the distillate made by Medley.

It's not only HH that "used up labels" of course. I'm pretty sure I could find a post about Ken Weber talking about AA/BTdoing the same, maybe even involving...Stitzel Weller whiskey (da-da-dum!!!).

It's been fun dredging up memories of hunting down this history and trivia on the big rye stories of the last decade. To a large extent, it faded with me when the Willett supply dried up and the VW and BT stocks got to be the academic question of how much if any deterioration was going on in the tanks. But man, when I first was tasting these products as they came on the market (and sometimes before) and learning the story of how the juice from two failed rye labels was suddenly the biggest thing in whiskey - or at least the part of whiskey I cared about - those were exciting times.

Roger
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby cowdery » Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:18 am

When rye sales started to tank in the late 60s, even more dramatically than bourbon did, the big producers all followed a similar path. They tried to stay alive as producers, then stopped producing and contracted with Kentucky distillers to make the product, then in the final stage, they sold the brands to their Kentucky makers. Meanwhile, the rye market was still tanking, so people kept over-producing, even if only slightly. In the mid 80s, the bottom fell out of what little was left of the rye market again, and a bunch of people got out of it. It took the python a long time to digest that pig. It may not even be all through yet.

You could just as well ask why is there so much Stitzel-Weller left from the last year of production? The answer is the same. Because it has only just worked its way through the python.

Rye, of course, didn't stop being produced, but the few companies that continued to produce it never made more than they knew they could sell, based on brands they owned, nothing on the if come, which is why there aren't any big caches from later years in the pipeline. Nothing got rationalized until the producers owned the brands, which happened at about that time (mid to late 80s). In the mid 1980s, the scale of rye production shifted, down, one last time. It had hit bottom. It stayed there for nearly 20 years, then began to grow again a few years ago.
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Re: Three Ultra Aged Rye Whiskies

Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Sat Oct 03, 2009 4:39 am

Gentlemen,
A very interesting discussion of the ryes of yesteryear. Thanks.
Joe
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