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TDG Bourbon Bracket: Rye Region

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The final set of first round matchups and we finally get to the ryes.  So technically we have left the world of bourbon for this bourbon bracket, but ryes a very close American brother of bourbon.  Everything is the same with the exception of having more rye grain in the mashbill than corn.  There is a clear difference between a rye and  a bourbon.  At a high level, the best way I've heard it explained is that it is like the difference between rye bread and white/wheat bread.

Rye whiskey almost always initially comes across as more spicey than a bourbon at first.  But it is also going to be a bit more grainy and earthy and has a unique sweetness to it that you don't find as much in bourbon (you find sweetness in bourbon but this is a different kind of sweetness).  At first I wasn't really a "rye-guy" but I've certainly come around and appreciate a few good ryes.  Some of the higher end and limited edition ryes are incredible, but I've chosen not to include them here.  This region is more like the value ryes.

1 - Sazerac

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 88
Distilled by: Buffalo Trace
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : Youthful and very lively. Bold, crisp, spices (mint, cinnamon, vanilla) are softened by soothing, sweeter notes (candied fruit, coconut, caramel, and rum notes), becoming dry, flinty, and spicy on the finish. It is very clean and polished, and it is superior to other rye whiskeys in this age range. Nicely done!

This rye is one of the best ryes you can actually find on a shelf.  It isn't easy to find but you can find it on shelves around town.  I originally bought a bottle as this was the primary rye to buy if you wanted to make a sazerac drink, the official cocktail of New Orleans. But I've come to appreciate and drink this one straight on nights when I feel like a rye.

2 - Rendezvous Rye

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 95
Distilled by: High West
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : Thanks to the high rye content, this whiskey is very spicy, with cinnamon, crisp mint, and fennel.  Underlying sweet notes of caramel, molasses, vanilla, macaroon, cocoa, and candied fruit provide a calming effect and enhance the whiskey's complexity.  But in the end, the rye is the victor, emerging with a vengeance and giving the whisky a bold, warming, spice finish.

A blend of two different ryes.  High West takes a younger rye that is 95% rye and blends it with a much older rye that is 80%.  Both of these are very high in their rye content, remember it only has to be 51% to be classified as a rye.  I have not had a lot of experience with this particular bottle.  South Lyndale Liquors has a single barrel Rendezous Rye that is a special blend for them, I have tasted this and it was very good.  This is a good bottle to own, though it doesn't exactly fall into the value criteria.

High West is a distillery based out of Park City, UT.  They source most of their rye from MGP in Indiana but are making their own and will eventually be releasing their own whiskey.  They are a well-regarded micro-distillery and you really can't go wrong with anything they have produced or bottled.

3 - Bulleit

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 85
Distilled by: Bulleit
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : No age statement, but it includes 4 to 7 year old whiskeys. The mashbill is 95% rye — much higher than most standard rye whiskeys out there. It’s brisk, vibrant, and loaded with spice (crisp mint, warming cinnamon, cocoa, hint of anise). Fruit — ripe nectarine, apricot, golden raisin — drizzled with maple syrup. Dry oak rounds out the finish. Bold enough for cocktails. Mature enough to drink neat (or on the rocks).

I am not a huge Bulleit fan but people love this rye, in fact you may get some comments from other TDG writers proclaiming the virtues of this rye.  This, like just about every other rye on the market, is actually made in Indiana and then bottled for various labels.  High West does this, Bulleit does this, Templeton does this and others.  This isn't really a problem, just worth noting and I tend to appreciate the bottlers who are up front about the source of their whiskey.

This really is one of those whiskeys that acts as a very good mixer as well as a good sipper.  The tasting notes are true that this has more oak and raisin to it than others.  Nothing wrong with this rye and of the bottles in this region it might be the easiest to find.

4 - Templeton

Whiskey Advocate Rating: 79
Distilled by: Templeton
Tasting Notes (hijacked from here) : The labeling is a little confusing. Small batch implies a marriage of multiple barrels, not just a bottling from a single barrel; the label seems to imply both. Plus, there’s no indication of the source of this whiskey, or its age. Regardless, this is one of the sweetest and mellowest rye whiskeys I’ve tasted. Spicy fresh mint, cinnamon, white pepper, and subtle clove are tamed by sweet notes of toasted marshmallow, cotton candy, creamy vanilla, candied fruit, and red licorice. Soft finish. Rather gentle for a rye whiskey.

Not one of my favorites again, there is a pretty passionate following of this rye.  Probably the additional sweetness is what draws people in.  Smooth and sweet and the notes above about it being mellow is spot on.

For me...this is from Iowa so I've stopped drinking it.  I might not let it advance to the 2nd round regardless of how the votes shake out :).

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Have fun.  Get out and try some of these!

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