Let’s Shrei Over Rye

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Whiskey — one of the most complex spirits on the shelf — evokes a passion from connoisseurs and novices alike. Frankly, the dispute over spelling alone (Whiskey — American/Irish; Whisky — Scotch/Canadian) is enough to drive one to drink. Then there’s the perennial debate between those who add a bit of water versus those who consider it sacrilege, which inevitably leads to someone getting called a little girl and tears starting to flow. Now, all of a sudden, a delicious glass of whiskey contains hints of salt and sadness.

Prior to Prohibition, or Volstead’s Folly as we call it, rye whiskey was one of the most popular alcohols in the United States. It faded from memory shortly after full American liberty was restored on Dec. 5, 1933.

Whereas bourbon is sweet — and scotch is smoky — rye is spicy; and like any booze, the prices range from “I’m not sure humans should consume that” to “Man, I wish I was rich.” Thus is the mandate of our club: Give the consumer the facts to make an informed decision.

JIM BEAM RYE                    $22
JB, America’s No. 1-selling rye, is the one-night stand of rye whiskeys. There’s a reason for that: It’s easy to drink. There’s a bit of burn, but the sensation lasts only as long as this mash is in your maw.

While some whiskeys have an aftertaste that lingers in your throat, JB’s is here one second and gone the next. That could be because it doesn’t have a powerful flavor like some others, or it might be because, well — we don’t really know everything.

In any case, Jim Beam is not a rye we find ourselves wanting to sip, so this by-the-hour lover makes a great choice for cocktails — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Next time you feel like spending a night putting back Jack and Cokes, give this rye a shot instead.

BULLIET RYE WHISKEY                $28
Last March, one of our favorite Kentucky distillers decided to expand its offerings and produce a rye that is, as the kids say, “full on.” Bulleit Rye is 95 percent Rye mash, which makes it among the highest ryes available. It’s 90 proof and is produced in Indiana.

It’s not too spicy and thus perfect for those who don’t want the feeling of their throat being whitewashed. With a well-rounded sweet-spice taste, this baby is a sipper, straight or on ice.

RUSSELL’S RESERVE RYE             $33
A member of the Wild Turkey family, the reaction you will likely have after tasting RRR is, “Wow, this is smooth.” No need for ice or chilling the glass — just pour and enjoy. Try and sit back to savor it, and — if you’re like us — the lingering spiciness will cause you to want another sip to start all over again.

There’s a little bit of burn as it goes down but not in the cheap liquor sort of way. It’s just enough to remind you that you’re a man, you drink whiskey straight and you make no apologies for it. (Unless you’re a woman, in which case we’d like your number!)

(rī)1 KENTUCKY STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY     $48
Pronounced “rye one,” (rī)1 is a Kentucky straight rye whiskey that is the rye for those who want to have the best of both worlds. It’s lighter and sweeter than other ryes but still has that spicy snap. The name is seemingly an element from the periodical table, and the packaging is sleek, hip and modern. It definitely has the high-end look — and a price tag to boot.

TEMPLETON RYE WHISKEY             $50
With a deep yellow-orange color, its shade akin to that of Mearth — Mork and Mindy’s geriatric-aged toddler son on the 1970s ABC show — Templeton has not been rushed out of the cask. The fresh rye spice has some distinct woody notes, which smell like a mix of cedar, pencil shavings and cardboard.

Templeton, made from a classic pre-Prohibition recipe, is aged a full five years before coming to market. You can practically taste the barrel when it hits your lips. We don’t know if this is one is a sipper, but drinking too much may contribute to you getting caught by your zipper!

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