Cheap, not nasty.

I’ve got a little secret.

I adore a great cocktail; the effort, the taste, the balance, the finish, I find it all intoxicating.

I love the craft of a great spirit, super premium, made with care. A new distillation method, a twist on the original.

I repeat a great story. Spirits steeped in history, made by a precious few who still care about the way things ought to be done.

Often, I find my simple manifesto of intoxicology leads me to the expensive end of town. Here; aging, effort, ingredients, packaging and marketing scale up to an often hefty price tag. It is with a welcome heaviness of wallet that I want to talk about Jim Beam Straight Rye Whiskey. This yellowfaced  little gem is the brother of the eponymous white labeled bottle that defines the class Bourbon, pretty much all over the world.

This cheery bottle has fast become the stalwart of my cabinet. A good measure, over ice with a twisted orange skin, perhaps with a piddling dash of bitters. I’ve found orange, peach and mint all have their place. It’s a fantastic $32 at duty free in Sydney, making it one of the best value for money spirits on the Australian market. Aged 4 years, again like its brother and bottled at 40% abv. It’s a mite sharper than the Bourbon, more pronounced spicy notes, with peppers and nutmegs.

For those of you who are unaware of the ways Rye Whiskey differs from a Bourbon, I’ll give it to you in the simplest terms I can.  Both Whiskies start with a mash, which is a whole mess of grains soaked in water and left to ferment. It is then distilled and aged in casks to add colour and flavour.

Bourbon by US Law (The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5.22) must contain at least 51% corn in the mash, the rest is made up of barley, wheat, rye and what ever is cheap. Bourbon straight from the still tastes a bit like fresh popcorn high proof liquor and is like all distillates, completely clear on leaving the still. (correct me if i’m wrong, i’d love to hear it.)

Rye Whiskey is also protected by Congress, and it must have been great to be alive in 1964, when politicians were looking after your booze, as opposed to sneaking in a cheeky pay-rise on the back on the urban wilderness act. Rye must have at least 51% rye in its mash, which kind of makes me wonder why Bourbon isn’t called Corn Whiskey, but that’s a whole another post, involving clowns and Colonel Sanders. Rye whiskey is a spicy romp, bright as the sun when it’s first poured, smoothing out as the ice melts and your palate submits to the sweet, sweet liquor. Beware of Canadian Rye (apart from the stuff from Alberta). Those sneaky Canucks don’t have a congress and their rye doesn’t have to have any rye in it. Just so long as it tastes like it it, eh?

mmmm, guess what I’m having when I get home?


3 thoughts on “Cheap, not nasty.

  1. I have also found Jim Beam 4 year Rye to be a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, our local government liquor store system (Utah, USA) doesn’t stock Beam Rye on a dependable basis, but when they do have it, it’s only $15 US for 750ml, so I guess being closer to the source has it’s advantages. Since the next cheapest Rye they do stock costs twice as much, and isn’t really twice as good, I buy it whenever I can.

  2. Pingback: MixMarch #11: The Boulevardier « Everyday Drinking

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