The Tasting Panel magazine

Nov 09

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Page 70 of 92

b efore there was bourbon, there was rye. And there is no better month than November to give thanks for this uniquely American spirit. In fact, George Washington started distilling rye whiskey in 1797 and found it was one of his most profitable ventures. With a recipe of 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley, Washington sold his double-distilled rye for 60 cents a gallon, and charged 40 cents more for a quadruple-distilled version. Those prices have escalated dramatically, for in 2006 two of the first com- memorative bottlings produced in Washington's re-created distillery were auctioned off by Christie's for $100,000, with proceeds going to the George Washington Orientation and Education Center at Historic Mount Vernon, which includes a proposed national whiskey museum in the distillery itself. (As an aside, if you can source out one of the scarce bottles of Michter's 25- Year Old single barrel rye, you can serve a spirit made by the same distillery that allegedly supplied rye whiskey to Washington's Continental Army.) The fields of rye wheat planted within the colonies expanded—along with the rest of the country—and soon made rye whiskey the most ubiquitous spirit in the nation. In fact, a popular cowboy ballad offered the refrain: Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I cry, If I don't get rye whiskey, I surely will die. Catching Up with Rye A round-up of these classic all-American whiskeys story and photos by Richard Carleton Hacker A Posse Full of Rye: Six ver- sions of America's classic spirit (l. to r.): Old Overholt, Sazerac 18 Year Old, Hirsch 22 Year Old, Rittenhouse 23 Year Old (the 25 is being introduced this month), Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 Year Old and Wild Turkey. At the well-stocked Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky, bartender Josh Steffin showcases his Old Overholt Manhattan, while an original bronze sculpture, "Randy (Satyr)" by Larry Shank, entertains customers. 70 / the tasting panel / november 2009 What We're Drinking

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