Saturday, September 29, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

I have previously mentioned that Austin Nichols is coming out with a new rye whiskey, Russel's Reserve Rye. Jimmy Russel is the distiller emeritus of the Austin Nichols Distillery, producer of Wild Turkey Bourbon and rye. The Russel's Reserve is intended to compete with Buffalo Trace's Sazerac Rye and is a couple of years older, 5.5% less alcohol, and supposedly smoother than Wild Turkey Rye. The release date for it was supposedly the middle of September, and I have been regularly visiting the liquor store looking for it. Alas, it hasn't reached Houston yet. Last night, I was forced to settle for Wild Turkey Rye instead of the Russel's Reserve. I have written about Wild Turkey Rye before, and there's nothing new to report: it's racy and spicy and full of character. It's the kind of whiskey I imagine that men (and women) in the old west would have drunk, only good.

Rye has been making something of a comeback recently -- one reads about it all the time in specialty whiskey magazines, trendy bars are emphasizing it more (not that I go to trendy bars -- I just see mention of them in the newspaper from time to time), and, most importantly, there have been lots more rye bottlings available recently, of which Russel's Reserve is the most recent. But it's necessary to put this rye revival in perspective. Heaven Hill, which produces Pikesville and Rittenhouse ryes, used to distill all they needed for a year in half a day. With the rye revival, they now have to spend a whole day distilling it. The situation is similar at Austin Nichols: the number of days per year spent producing rye whiskey can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Just so long as they make it, though.

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