Does Rye have its own sweetness?

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Does Rye have its own sweetness?

Unread postby Mike » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:20 pm

I have said on several occasions that Rye imparts its own sweetness to whiskey. It is not a corn sweetness or a malt sweetness but even through its bite, lying just behind the heat and spice, is a sweetness. I find this even in straight ryes or malted rye whiskies (all rye).

Anyone else notice this or am I a plurality of one?
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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: Does Rye have its own sweetness?

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:16 pm

Rye whiskey is going to have sweetness from the same source as bourbon - the new charred barrel. The barrel has carmalized sugars and vanilla flavors so the longer the rye stays in the barrel, the more sweetness it gains. In fact it is hard to tell a 20yo rye whiskey from a 20 yo bourbon in a blind tasting. Ain't that right Linn?
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Re: Does Rye have its own sweetness?

Unread postby Mike » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:18 pm

bourbonv wrote:Rye whiskey is going to have sweetness from the same source as bourbon - the new charred barrel. The barrel has carmalized sugars and vanilla flavors so the longer the rye stays in the barrel, the more sweetness it gains. In fact it is hard to tell a 20yo rye whiskey from a 20 yo bourbon in a blind tasting. Ain't that right Linn?


Mike, in spite of my utmost respect for you and your knowledge, I must disagree. I may well be wrong about rye sweetness (it may be imaginary on my part), but malt whiskey sweetness is different from corn whiskey sweetness (I am quite confident I can detect that difference) and the older whiskey gets the LESS sweetness it has. Excellent 4 to 6 year old whiskies are often sweetner than old whiskies (in my experience). That 20 YO ryes and bourbons are similiar is not (my opinion) due to their similiar sweetness content but to other slower acting and more subtle barrel components.

That is not to say that MOST of the sweetness does not come from the barrel............like you, I believe it is unmistakenly from the barrel when it is a rich deep sweetness that has vanilla and carmel..........but there is still some corn sweetness, some malt sweetness (think Canadian or Irish whiskey) that is, in my opinion, different from charred barrel sweetness.

I deliberately searched out rye grain only bread to see if I could find any of that mysterious sweetness...............and was pretty much as baffled by the bread as by the whiskey..........although the bread did have a more robust character than wheat bread by far...........and as I looked for it, the mysterious rye sweetness, I think I found it (the John Lipman effect?..........finding what you are looking for, there or not).

For me, rye has a subtle sweetness that is added to bourbon or rye..........for you, it is not there. Is one of us right? Probably. How would we find out.........a vote among whiskey experts? It is unlikely that would really settle it. Does it really matter who is right about this?..........of course not, I don't NEED to be right about this and neither do you..................Does it really matter who is right about this?............of course it does.

Your post seems to discount other sources of sweetness than the barrel in bourbon (I may be putting unwanted words in your mouth, if so, correct me) and mine says that rye (like malt and wheat) adds a distinct sweetness to whiskey apart from what the charred barrel adds............that I am full of shit occurs to me and may be the case...........but I stick by my belief, not out of obstinance or the need to be right, but simply because I think it is there.

We have a gentleman's disagreement...........as much as it may bore many of our members, I think it is worthwhile and can ony serve to make bourbon (rye) drinking more interesting.
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: Does Rye have its own sweetness?

Unread postby bunghole » Fri Jun 25, 2010 1:49 pm

bourbonv wrote:Rye whiskey is going to have sweetness from the same source as bourbon - the new charred barrel. The barrel has carmalized sugars and vanilla flavors so the longer the rye stays in the barrel, the more sweetness it gains. In fact it is hard to tell a 20yo rye whiskey from a 20 yo bourbon in a blind tasting. Ain't that right Linn?


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Re: Does Rye have its own sweetness?

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jun 25, 2010 3:09 pm

It's all from the barrel, Mike. Young rye can be very astringent from the rye congeners.

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Re: Does Rye have its own sweetness?

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:00 pm

However, rye-recipe bourbon ages differently from wheat-recipe bourbon (as we all know), and aged rye attains a specific sweet character different from wheat-recipe bourbon, more estery (often), more complex certainly.

So actually you are right, Mike.

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