Rye whiskey has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to the sharper, more complex flavors it has over bourbon. If bourbon is a domesticated dog, rye whiskey is part wolf. It's gamier, spicier and a touch more full-bodied than bourbon. It was one of the first whiskeys made in the U.S. and is traditionally the spirit of choice for many classic cocktails such as the Old-Fashioned, Manhattan and Sazerac.
While bourbon is one of the best-selling whiskeys in the world and available from dozens of distilleries, rye is less common. Because of the challenge of working with the grain, many distilleries use a great deal of barley or corn along with rye in their whiskeys. Beginning tomorrow however, a new rye whiskey will be available. Woodinville Whiskey Company is releasing its rye whiskey on Saturday April 14--and it's 100% rye.
Brett Carlile and Orlin Sorensen at WWC have been mentored by master Distiller Dave Pickerell, who's made Maker's Mark one of the most popular bourbons on the market. And fans of rye whiskey know that Pickerell has also had his hand in the making of Whistle Pig rye, another 100% rye whiskey that is one of the most complex and flavorful rye whiskeys available.
Like bourbon and Scotch, rye whiskey has regulations about how it's made and what it's made from. It must be at least 51% rye, distilled to no more than 80% ABV (160 proof) and aged in charred new oak barrels. Rye mash is notorious for foaming and frothing when cooked. It's said that Booker Noe, the late Master Distiller at Jim Beam, would sprinkle bacon grease over the bubbling fermenter to reduce foaming.
"I've arrived at the distillery in the morning, only to turn on the lights and find that the rye mash has crawled out of the fermenter and spilled onto the floor," says Carlile. At Woodinville Whiskey Co., they now use a vegetable oil based anti-foaming agent. "I've used more four-letter words working with rye than I have with anything else," he admitted. How does the finished product taste? "Sugar, spice, and everything nice best describes the characteristics of rye whiskey, and our 100% rye mash bill accentuates these characteristics even more," WWC said in a release.
Beginning April 14, you can sample the rye, and Woodinville Whiskey's other products, at the distillery's tasting room and store. The distillery will open at 7 a.m. Saturday and offer fans donuts, coffee and sips of rye before you buy. Bottles are limited to two per person and cost $49.95 for a 750 mL bottle.