Why Rye is the Best Whiskey
Whiskey-wise, I’ve always been a rye man.
Bourbon is nifty, but too sweet for me. And my preferences roughly match my taste in wine—I favor tarter and spicier profiles.
Technically speaking, the “mash” from which a rye is distilled has to be 51 percent rye grain, as opposed to the majority of corn that goes into bourbon. And generally speaking, the more rye, the better.
And there are two ways I’ve gotten lucky lately with proximity to rye: The first is that I own a house about four miles from Tuthilltown Distillery in Gardiner, New York.
When it opened in 2003, it was the state’s first (official) whiskey distillery since Prohibition. Much praise has been heaped on their products, and all of it is justified as far as I’m concerned. They make two ryes, and I prefer the Hudson Manhattan Rye ($45 for 37 ml), certainly the preferred spirit if you’re making a Manhattan cocktail. It’s quite a fun visit if you can get up there—and don’t forget to try their bitters, which are worth the trip on their own.
The second lucky break was that I am friends with Allen Katz, founder of the New York Distilling Company, headquartered in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This month, he’s releasing his second whiskey, Ragtime Rye ($44 for 750ml), adding it to Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye and a host of other great spirits (his gins are outstanding, too).
The new entry is 72% rye, a high percentage indeed, and the grain is largely organic, all non-GMO, and grown by a family farm in upstate New York. He ages it longer that he has to, for three years, in full size American oak barrels (53 gallons) that have been charred to a T.
And how does it taste? It’s a super complex drink but it does all the work for you, unfolding in a symmetrical way. There are a lot of notes here, from caramel and chocolate to cherry, and it’s all wrapped in cedary, quite savory package. “Oftentimes all you taste is the wood, and this has a lot more than that,” Katz tells me. He speaks truth.
The only accompaniment I required when I enjoyed this one was a couple of ice cubes and a pleasant view of the back garden.