Category Archives: Rye

Remember the Maine (Variation)

A friend of mine sent me this recipe for a cocktail called Remember the Maine. The linked article gives some background, so I suggest clicking through, but here’s the recipe:

Remember the Maine

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (Reitz uses Bulleit Rye)
3/4 oz. Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Cherry Heering
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has been “rinsed” in absinthe.

It sounded fantastic, but the problem was that I’ve never had any Carpano Antica nor any Cherry Heering handy with which to make it. So after doing some quick research into these ingredients, I came up with some more common-place replacements that I figured would do the trick. While the end result is a quite different drink, I must say that it’s quite tasty. Here it is:

1 1/2 oz. rye
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth (a very common brand in my case)
1/4 oz. creme de cassis (a not-too-sweet variety, mine comes from a small winemaker in Burgundy)
1/4–1/2 tsp. Fernet Branca
1/4–1/2 tsp. orange liqueur (I used a homemade version, again, not too sweet, but Grand Marnier might be nice here)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

The Fernet Branca and orange liqueur are meant to beef up the profile of the every-day sweet vermouth to bring it closer to the alleged complexity of Carpano Antica, while the creme de cassis stands in for the Cherry Heering. The rest of the preparation (stirred over ice, absinthe) is the same.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for Carpano Antica and Cherry Heering for sure, but in the mean time, this variation is doing just fine.


On Wine vs. Whiskey & Russell’s Reserve Rye

russellsreserveryeIf you missed me last week, that’s because I was traveling about France, doing very little in the way of tasting American liquors – bourbon especially.  In fact, I managed only one type of liquor over there: a single Calvados whose name I don’t even recall.  Instead, I did what I could to get a taste of the wine world, and in particular, I delved into the world of Burgundies.  Thanks, in large part to David and Lynne.

Naturally, there is quite a bit different between the philosophies of distillers and vintners, but at times I was surprised at the gap between the two.  For instance, the concept of a “single barrel” wine is simply not in the picture for vintners – and this really points to the larger issue at hand: everything that occurs after the harvest of the grapes is important to do correctly, but largely inconsequential to the end product.  With whiskeys on the other hand, where and how the grain is grown bears little importance in the final product and the artistry lies in the post-harvest crafting.  Very interesting to think about, and one would imagine the two worlds might have a bit to learn from each other.

Now that I’m back in my dear States United, however, I’m good and ready to dive back into the good stuff – built from grain, aged in oak.

And what better welcome back into the country than a bit of Russell’s Reserve Rye?  I met Jimmy Russell himself at a tasting at the Brandy Library a few months ago, where he poured me a few of the “Russell” branded Wild Turkey offerings including this very one – though the drink’s subtleties were probably lost in Jimmy’s charming conversation.

So with that, I’m going to give this one a proper American Hooch eye and see what it has to offer.

Stats:

- $30-35

- 90 proof

- Mady by Austin, Nichols (Wild Turkey)

Presentation:

Russell’s Reserve Rye comes in what can only be described as a straight-forward bottle.  Everywhere you look it has clean edges, straight lines, and bold lettering.  The label is an aporximately one-inch thick, four-inch high, vertical strip at the bottom of the bottle declaring the basic information that what you have before you is “Small Batch 6 Year Old Kentuck Straight Rye Whiskey,” with a small monochrome photo of a barrel beneath a window.  Above that, printed on the bottle is the product name and a raised glass signature, and the bottle is topped off with a pale wooden cap that is adorned only in its modest height and simplicity.

The text on the back does bring a bit of out-of-place adornment, praising Jimmy and his son Eddie as “America’s premier whiskey makers” and awarding their own product as “the perfect 6 year old rye.”  There’s nothing wrong with pride in many circumstances, but here it belies the classy no-nonsense approach to the design of the rest of the bottle.

Tasting:

RRR has a very attractive and surprisingly deep scent to it.  It starts with fresh-baked bread and moves into a fruit-sweet, fresh-cut grass tainted by charcoal note.  This very much reminds me of warmer weather and Sunday afternoons.

It is not nearly as smooth on the tongue however, with all the elements of rye (and its high proof) bursting through right away.  Along with the initial brightness though, there’s a creamy, almond flavor to it.  As this fades into the fairly sweet finish, the almond aspect develop into a dominant note with touches of the rye-driven bitterness creeping in on the sides.

There’s a lot going on here.

Over all:

This is a very well crafted whiskey.  It hits all the points that I usually enjoy, especially the sweet/bitter contrast that plays so nicely.  I could also see this making an excellent Old Fashioned – as long as you kept the recipe as simple as possible so as to take advantage of the bright almond notes in Russell’s Reserve Rye.

Very well done.


Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey

fgbI met Ralph Erenzo – co-founder of Tuthilltown Spirits – at a tasting at Fermented Grapes this weekend. I’ve tasted TS’s barley Single Malt before and I’ve been curious about their Four Grain Bourbon more or less since.  So, after tasting some of TS’s apple vodka and Baby Bourbon (as well as a pleasant conversation with Ralph) I took home a bottle.

Stats:

- $35-40
- 92 proof
- Made by Tuthilltown Spirits

Presentation:

As I’m sure I wrote before with the Single Malt, Tuthilltown Spirits squat little bottle with wax-dipped top is attractive for its lack of affect and medicine-bottle look, while avoiding the kitch and nostalgia of other American whiskies.  My only complaint is the wordiness of the paragraph on the back, which belies the rest of the packaging’s simplicity.

Tasting:
On the nose FGB is very muted.  There’s a bit of spicy, pepperiness from the rye as well as a sweet maple syrup scent.

The first sip enters smoothly and sweet, then develops a full-mouth grainy, grassy taste.  It’s here where it reveals some youth though (it’s aged less than a year in small barrels) and a little tartness, but it slowly moves into a medium-length peppery finish.

Over all:
Tuthilltown’s Four Grain Bourbon is pleasantly full.  If I didn’t know it had been aged less than a year (Mr. Erenzo let that out) I probably wouldn’t have been able to guess.  I’m looking forward to what they produce in the future.


Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof

rittenhouseryeThis is the first rye I’ve tasted for American Hooch.  Why Rittenhouse?  It’s a brand I’ve seen in many bars – a brand that’s constructed some of the finer mixed drinks I’ve tasted – so it seemed like a good place to start.

Stats:

- $15-20

- Made by Heaven Hill

- 100 proof

Presentation:

Rittenhouse Rye’s 100 proof line comes in the standard cheap-liquor bottle with the plastic cap, but its black label and well-known name makes it stand out from the crowd.  The label consists of familiar American whiskey motifs: the barrel, the flowing script, and the proud declaration of its bonded status to name a few.  There is no mistaking RR for anything else but a classic American rye.

Tasting:

Rittenhouse provides a nose full of lemon and mashmallow.  It is very sweet through all of this.  There are points when the alcohol sneaks through, but that’s probably because your nose is too close.

To the palate, RR displays the lemon certainly, but the dominant flavors are black pepper and licorice.  All this is front-loaded and dissipates quickly after the initial sensation, leaving a mild peppery finish.  That first wave of flavors, however, is suitably complex and pleasantly angular.

Over all:

I enjoyed the angularity and peppery beginning to Rittenhouse, but was let down by its quick dissipation and lacking finish.  So, I’m not sure where I come down on this one – it would make a fine mixed drink, but a lackluster sipping selection.  Though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pour myself a second helping.


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