Smoky Beast/ Steven Zeller
Given its current resurgence in popularity, it seems kind of unlikely that rye would have such a contentious past. But throughout history, it has been in favor, then out of favor, then in favor again, kind of like Mickey Rourke. Or cargo pants (assuming you feel like they were ever actually in style). Back in the day — we're talking the 1700s — rye used to be the booze of choice in the U.S. Knowledge of fermentation and distillation was brought over by European settlers who tended toward rum and beer. When they glimpsed the abundance of rye in the fertile plains of the U.S., they quickly set their sites on whiskey. As a matter of fact, when George W. (that’s Washington) bought supplies for his troops at Valley Forge, it is rumored that he purchased ample supplies of rye to keep them warm through the long winter. And it's a well-known fact that when he retired from the presidency, he created his own distillery at his place in Mount Vernon, where rye is still made to this day. Martha Washington, that clever gal, was famous for her boozy punch. And why not?
But Prohibition took everything good in life off the market, and at that point, people just turned to whatever they could get their hands on — bootleg alcohol, bad rum, and yes, even Canadian whiskey. By the 1930s, people were more interested in their martinis and Tom Collins to care about an antiquated drink like rye. But everything old is new again, and rye is again as hip as a pair of skinny jeans. We couldn't be happier. It's an excellent sipping beverage, as well as a terrific alternative to whiskey in cocktails like manhattans and old-fashioned's. And there are some fantastic beasts to explore in the rye family.
The government is pretty strict about what we consider rye. It has to be:
Made from a grain mixture that’s at least 51 percent rye
Aged in new charred-oak barrels
Distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)
Put in said barrels at not more than 125 proof (62.5 percent ABV)
If it’s aged for at least 2 years, it can also be further designated as "straight rye whiskey"
US*1 Single Barrel Rye
Which leads us to our review: Michter’s Straight Rye Whiskey. Michter's represents all things cool about the history of rye. It’s got the "straight rye" designation. It was established in 1753, and was the first commercial whiskey distillery in America. Short of an outright claim, their website strongly implies that it was in fact Michter's that The Father of Our Country used to fortify his soldiers, hence the tagline "The Whiskey That Warmed The American Revolution." Hey, what’s good enough for GW is good enough for us.