Thursday, December 3, 2009


I dislike rye whisky. Not only do I dislike it, I thoroughly believe that it is one of the most impure, inconsistent, jejune and unsatisfying distilled grain liquors commonly consumed within North America. I have reasons to back this bold and provocative claim. I don't often resort to rye-bald hyperbole, but I would rather doink a Djibouti Duiker than drink a dram of dull rye whisky. I dislike rye whisky so much that I feel sorry for Holden Caulfield!

1) Rye is difficult to define and, therefore, difficult to appreciate, understand and compare against other whiskies. The term "rye" can refer to American Rye Whiskey (which must be made from a mash consisting of 51% rye) or Canadian Rye Whisky (which has no set percentages for grain usage or industry standards) or Pure Rye Whisky (which is distilled from 100% rye mash). The Canadian Food and Drug Regulators state that a liquor need only "possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky" (B.02.020) to be classified as a Canadian Rye. A vague definition for an indistinct spirit. 

2) Rye is a grass. For c-rye-ing out loud, why would I want to drink weak, fermented grass juice when I could imbibe a delicately distilled malted barley liquor from the Highlands of Scotland? Barley, corn and wheat are all more respectable crops than lowly grass. You husk corn and you sickle wheat and you swath barley, but you just walk on grass. You just walk on it and pick your dog's poop up from it.

3) Rye is immature. Single malt scotch is usually aged for at least eight years, bourbon is usually aged for at least four years, and Irish whiskey is usually aged for at least six years. American rye only needs to be aged for two years and Canadian rye only needs to be aged for three years. Cask characteristics and atmosphere play a major role in the complexity and aging of scotch, bourbon and Irish whiskey. Age and maturity are not emphasized in rye whiskies...Canadian rye doesn't even need to be aged in new Oak (or charred Oak!) barrels.

4) Rye lacks mystique. Many spirits and liquors possess a certain mystique or unique history which contribute to their marketabiliy and allure. Absinthe is associated with the Belle Époque, Drambuie is rumoured to have been based upon a personal and secret recipe of Bonnie Prince Charlie's, and Chartreuse was supposedly first distilled in 1605 by little monks in the east of France. Within the world of whiskies, scotch is known to adopt traits from the areas in which it mellows (such as the Highlands or Hebrides), Irish whiskey is triple distilled, and Tennessee whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal using the Lincoln County Process. Rye whiskey originated in the USA in the mid-1700s, as colonists needed an easy, robust grain to grow and distill in the Northeast. It is a whiskey born of necessity, bumpkins, unrefined palates, boredom and illicit stills. 

As a rotting cherry atop this putrid parfait I call rye, check out the recent ad for Canadian Club above. Talk about distasteful.

Also, I have not been misspelling the word 'whiskey' above: scotch/rye = whisky ... Irish/bourbon = whiskey. Weird, eh?

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