Tasting #9 Recap: Rye Whiskey

Last night we tried three rye whiskeys with very different mash bills. Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Rye is close to 51% rye, Few Spirits Rye Whiskey contains 70% rye, and Templeton Rye contains near 100% rye.  

Know Your Whiskey

Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Rye

Michter’s claims to be America’s first distilling company, established under a different name in 1753 by John Shenk in Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain Valley. An abundance of rye on Shenk’s farm led him to open a distillery. It’s said that when the Revolutionary War started, General George Washington purchased the whiskey for his men as they endured a rough winter at Valley Forge. Hence a saying that became popular at the time, Michter’s was “the whiskey that warmed the American Revolution.”

Michter’s closed down during the prohibition and reopened when the 21st Amendment repealed it, but the distillery struggled over the next few decades and eventually declared bankruptcy. In the 1990s, two men joined forces to restart Michter’s and the company has rebuilt the prominent distillery at a new location in Louisville, Kentucky.

Few Spirits Rye

Few Spirits opened in 2011 in Evanston, Illinois, 12 miles north of Chicago. The distiller, Paul Hletko, is a lawyer by trade and wanted to open a brewery for 15 years before deciding that market was too saturated. So he launched a distillery instead. The cool labels are designed to represent scenes for Chicago’s World Fair of 1893.

Getting off to a good start, this particular rye won the craft whiskey of the year from Whisky Advocate Magazine.

Templeton Rye

Templeton Rye was made during the time of prohibition in Templeton, Iowa. It was very popular in the Midwest and is said to be one of Al Capone’s favorite whiskies. It also gained the unofficial slogan “The Good Stuff."

Scott Bush, Templeton President, says he grew up hearing family stories about a rye whiskey that was remarkably good and associated with his great-grandfather. Allegedly, that whiskey was Templeton Rye. In the mid 2000s he decided he wanted to try to bring the recipe back so he went on a search to find the original recipe. He says he found it with Meryl Kherkoff, whose father had helped make the whiskey. Meryl agreed to divulge the recipe to his son, Keith, who partnered with Bush to start producing the legendary whiskey.  

Templeton Rye is distilled and aged by Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI) in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and then shipped back to Templeton where it is bottled and distributed. The company gets a lot of grief for portraying themselves to be made in Iowa when really it’s not.

Our Tasting Notes

Michter’s Rye was smooth and not too spicy. The high corn content made this sweeter, almost like a bourbon (and good for drinking by itself). A long linger presented several dark and citrus fruits on the palate. Nice, but not too complex.

Few Spirits Rye had a strong nose of malt, yeast, and gingerbread. It had much more spice and pepper than the Michter’s. A very unique and interesting rye whiskey that will grow on you.

Templeton Rye was very sweet and mellow due to its low alcohol content. Not reminiscent of what we think of when we picture rye, which is surprising because of its high rye content. We tasted hints of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and a little pepper that persisted with a long finish.

The Collective Favorite

Usually at our monthly meetings one whiskey is a “fan favorite” among the members and guests, so we were very surprised to find the voting between these three ryes was almost exactly even. Thanks to all those that came out. If you’d like to join us at future tastings, sign up on our email list at seattlewhiskeycollective.com.