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Cocktails & Spirits

Rye Whiskey Report - A Time of Transition

sku | Mar 15, 201207:48 AM     23

The popularity of rye whiskey keeps growing. This is good and bad for the rye lovers. Good because it means more options, but bad because the stocks of aged rye (which is a really tiny market compared to bourbon) are shrinking. Many rye fans have noticed that some of their favorite ryes are becoming harder to find. Rittenhouse 100 and Sazerac go through seasonal shortages and can be hard to find.

Wild Turkey 101 was, IMHO, one of the best budget rye choices, but they recently announced that they will be releasing a lower proof rye, Wild Turkey 81 Rye, and (at least for now) discontinuing the 101 rye.

On the plus side, Bulleit Rye, which Diageo released last year, seems to be available in huge quantity. It is distilled at the LDI distillery in Indiana (that distillery was just sold to an industrial distillery company so there may be some insecurity there, but hopefully they will keep producing). Jim Beam announced that it will introduce a new 100 proof Knob Creek Rye which should be hitting shelves soon.

On the higher end side, Buffalo Trace is still sitting on at least some 18 year old rye that they use for Sazerac 18 (this whiskey was distilled many years ago and has been sitting in steel tanks; they release a bit of it every fall but eventually it will run out). The question is whether there will be enough to keep them going until they have more 18 year old rye that they distilled. They will also need 13 year old rye to replace the rye stocks currently being used in Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, which is made up of old rye stocks from a couple of closed distilleries. Heaven Hill also had been sitting on some aged rye which they released as Rittenhouse 21, 23 and then 25 year old, but from what I've heard, those have all been released. High West seems to have plenty of rye stocks for its small releases and they have now made some of their own rye which is aging (and is quite promising).

So, in the next few years your rye is likely to get younger (as old stocks decline), weaker (as distilleries lower proofs to stretch stocks) and probably more expensive as well (natch).

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