Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

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Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby angelshare » Fri Jul 16, 2010 7:38 pm

I (Dave here - Tina is not a rye drinker) was reading the Straight Bourbon bottle of the month thread about Rittenhouse BIB. This is probably applicable to any whiskey, but since a rye prompted the thought, I posted here.

Rittenhouse BIB recently won an award for Best American Whiskey. (This honor was recently covered in an issue of Whisky magazine which also included a provocative article by Chuck about blends, BTW). This might sound cynical, but I have to wonder: to what degree are the entries in whiskey competitions marketing based?

Rittenhouse BIB is (was?) a diamond in the rough. We don't have it in VA, but when traveling through WV, I could pick it up for $12 or so. Is it a better rye than similarly priced Beam or Overholt in VA? No contest! WT or baby Saz which cost $10-15 more? Probably. But is it better than Van Winkle rye? I've never tasted them blinded side-by-side, but VW rye is one of my all time favorite American whiskeys, period. Could R BIB have won against it? To me, that just seems crazy.

I don't know the competitors, so I'm genuinely asking: does a R BIB go up against a Saz 18 or a VW rye in these contests? As well as Booker's, ER 10/17 yo, Elmer T. Lee, Stagg, Blanton's and KY Spirit? Mind you, it's not hard for me to imagine a panel choosing it over one or two of those - but ALL of them? Or is the contest more about testing the marketing waters by rolling the dice on long shot bottom/middle shelf brands for a change in price point and/or heaping medals on sure-thing premium priced brands?

On the bourbon front, I think EW 1783 or AAA 10 yo could have easily won some similar competitions in years past. Once again, genuinely asking: were they ever entered, and, if so, did they?
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby p_elliott » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:40 am

To Start with Ritt BIB is a very good whiskey IMO. But to answer your real question these competitions are a joke. If you enter you win a metal. You pay a fee and you get some advertisement mileage. Now if this was picked by a a book writer it might have a bit more credence to it. All opinions are suspect including mine.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby PaulO » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:05 pm

These are more questions than answers. When comparisons are made for awards, how does one take into account things like availability and price. The amount of Van Winkle Rye out in the world must be small compared to some of the other brands. I only know it exists because of the internet, and have never seen one in person. Is it even still being bottled? I'd like to give it a try one day. Rittenhouse is sometimes available, and competitive with anything in the same price range IMHO.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:05 pm

Perhaps Chuck and Mike V. are willing to discuss a little about how such tastings are conducted. afaik, price and availability are not part of the equation.

The people involved in the tasting are not always whiskey aficionados. They might be knowledgeable about spirits in general.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby cowdery » Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:52 pm

Not all competitions are the same. It's the festivals that seem to have an award for every exhibitor.

I'm one of the judges for the competitions put on by WHISKY Magazine. Everything is tasted blind. They're usally in categories, based on age. But then at the end they take all of the winning, American whiskeys for example, and pick one from among them. That judging is done at the event in London though not by me. I'm a judge in the preliminary rounds.

Even though I think WHISKY's methodology is as good as such a thing can be, my problem with it is a little different. An averaging of multiple subjective determinations does not transform into an objective outcome. It's still personal taste.

I will say this about Rittenhouse, though. When ryes get judged with bourbons they tend to stand out, which makes it easy to vote for them. It tasted good and it didn't taste like everything else, ergo it's the best.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby p_elliott » Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:37 pm

PaulO wrote:These are more questions than answers. When comparisons are made for awards, how does one take into account things like availability and price. The amount of Van Winkle Rye out in the world must be small compared to some of the other brands. I only know it exists because of the internet, and have never seen one in person. Is it even still being bottled? I'd like to give it a try one day. Rittenhouse is sometimes available, and competitive with anything in the same price range IMHO.


I can swear the VWFRR still being bottled I have seen it being bottled. I just read that it just get produced at 290 cases a year til 2017. Then it becomes BT rye juice. Edit: I should have used the word bottled instead of produced as like Mike said this is all tanked and is not being distilled.
Last edited by p_elliott on Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:54 pm

If I remember my history right, the first Van Winkle rye was some Medley rye purchased from what is now Diageo. Julian went back for the rest of it and they had sold about half of what they had so they offered him some Cream of Kentucky rye stored at Bernheim [stored there, but chance are it was made either at lawrenceburg Indiana or the ancient Age distillery since Bernheim was in in a state of disrepair when it was made.] He took the the two ryes amnd mingled them for the next bottling and believe he did this mingling right up to the point where he tanked the whiskey to keep it from being over aged. The 13yo rye is really about 17 or 18 years old. Julian simply never changed the label after the first year. It is now tanked and he knows exactly how many cases he can release before the Buffalo Trace rye is available. Don't expect an increase in the availability anytime soon.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:14 pm

I thought they were still distilling intermittently at Bernheim in 1987. In 1987, Lawrenceburg would have been Seagram's and Buffalo Trace would have been Falk, et. al., right? It was in 1987 that Guinness bought Schenley, but until then Bernheim was Schenley's only Kentucky distillery, having sold BT in, what was it, 82? It's possible they contracted with BT for some production if Bernheim was that bad. I can't see them contracting with Seagram's at that point. So either it was made at Bernheim or by BT(AA) under contract. Either way it was obviously aged at Bernheim because those were the only Kentucky warehouses Schenley still owned in 1987.

I never realized it was a mixture. I thought it was a switchover. I will say I preferred the Medley, but not by much.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:30 pm

Schenley had a distillery in Lawrenceburg, indiana right next to the Seagrams distillery. Both are in view of the arial photographs taken in the 1960's in the U. D. Archive. Bernheim did some distilling in the 1980's but since rye was such a low priority, I doubt they did the rye at Bernheim, but it is possible. Ancient Age continued to make some whiskey for Schenley after the plant was sold.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby cowdery » Tue Jul 20, 2010 12:57 am

Any idea when Schenley stopped distilling at Lawrenceburg?
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:11 am

When United Distillers bought Schenley they closed the Lawrenceburg, Indiana (Old Quaker) distillery in favor of keeping Stitzel-Weller open. They brought most of the Indiana people to Shively and they are the ones that decided to get their revenge by hauling dump trucks full of old Stitzel-Weller material off to the landfill. That was about 1988-89. The plant was later sold to John Allison, who was the United Distiller V.P. in charge of Stitzel-Weller in the early 1990s. He ran a bottling operation there for a while. I am not sure if he is still do that, but I don't think so.
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Re: Rittenhouse BIB and whiskey competitions

Unread postby Drambo » Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:21 pm

I absolutely love R BIB. I may be a simple man, but I love that it is different than bourbon with it being dry, spicy and woodsy. It may lack complexity compared to middle shelf and up, but it's a staple on my wall. As far as the award, I believe it's more marketing than anything.
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