On a very serious business-related trip, for business, my wife and I dragged ourselves (complaining all the way) up to picturesque Sonoma County, California, to trudge through a tour of Sonoma County Distilling Company’s facility and reluctantly down a bunch of samples. For business.
Sonoma County Distilling, located in Rohnert Park, CA and opened in 2010, uses direct-fired copper alembic pot stills for its whiskies, which are twice-distilled (like most single-malt scotches, which are also distilled in pot stills). The 100% rye in the mashbill is a combination of unmalted Canadian rye and malted rye from the UK.
In a refreshing departure from mainstream bourbon brands releasing LDI/MGP rye under their own labels and then claiming some kind of “heritage” of rye distillation, Brown Forman’s Woodford Reserve actually went out and – gasp! – made themselves a rye! … made from a combination of pot-still rye whiskey from the historic Woodford Reserve distillery and column-still rye whiskey from the Brown Forman distillery in Shively, KY.
Owned and distilled by the Jim Beam company, Old Grand-Dad is named after famed distiller Basil Hayden. … Old Grand-Dad 114 is named, appropriately, for its 114 proof (57% ABV). This is not quite cask-strength, as they must water the whiskey down to hit a consistent 57% ABV, but it’s close. … Old Grand-Dad bourbons are purportedly from a “high rye” mash bill, despite a total lack of definitive information on the subject.
Basil Hayden is named after the famed distiller by that name who established a farm distillery in Kentucky in 1796. … In 1992 the Jim Beam distillery (which now owns the brand and produces Old Grand-Dad whiskey) produced a small-batch product named after Basil Hayden and using a high-rye mash bill. The whisky is bottled at 40% ABV and claimed an 8 year age-statement until 2014, when the age-statement disappeared from bottles.
Canadian Club 100% rye is distilled by Alberta Distillers … although the Canadian Club brand is owned by Beam-Suntory. The 100% rye whisky is aged in a combination of casks: brand new American white oak barrels, previously-used bourbon barrels, and barrels that previously held Canadian whisky. The resulting batches are bottled at 40% ABV.
James E. Pepper, an historic brand established (purportedly) in 1780 but mothballed in 1958 was distilled at several sites in Kentucky, including the now-abandoned James E. Pepper distillery in Lexington, KY. In 2008 the rights to the brand were purchased by the Georgetown Trading Co., and re-launched using sourced whisky from various distilleries.
The first in the new Select Casks line, Rye Cask Finish is a blended scotch with a heart of Cardhu single malt, aged in first-fill American oak casks for at least 10 years, and then finished in ex-rye whiskey casks. The result is bottled at 46% ABV. Striking a triumphant balance between massive-scale industrial whisky and small-scale craft mentality, Rye Cask Finish is available for only $45 retail.
We have something unique here, people. Everyone knows that some scotch is aged in sherry barrels (some of which are “wet” with residual liquid sherry), but who puts actually sherry in the vat with the whisky? Who’s actually allowed to do that? Canadian distillers, that’s who.
Talk about taking a shtick and running with it, Dutch distiller Zuidam’s Millstone 100 rye is made from 100% rye grain (49% malted, 51% unmalted) distilled in small copper pot stills, and then is aged for 100 months (8 years, 4 months) in new American oak barrels, and then bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV). The marketing slogans almost write themselves.