Where better to start a tour of the American Whiskey Trail than at Mount Vernon? George Washington often has been called the father of our grand nation — the prototype of this new man, the American.
Appropriately, he owned a distillery that made whiskey. Washington got into the business at the end of his presidency. In 1797 he gave the thumbs-up to Scotsman James Anderson to build a distillery at his beloved Virginia home to produce high-quality hooch.
And what a distilling operation it was. The mill powdered grain with millstones imported from Europe and marvelous wooden machinery that marvels the eye today. The distillery was 75 feet long by 30 feet wide, with five stills. Within a couple years, George’s booze barn was belching 10,500 gallons of rye whiskey and other spirits, and it was profitable.
Say “whiskey” in America and the first state that comes to mind is Kentucky. This is not surprising, seeing as Kentucky has become synonymous with Bourbon, which has expertly advertised itself as “the spirit of America.”
The assumption that if it is whiskey then it is made in Kentucky is a fairly recent phenomenon. As we pointed out in Whiskey: A Global History, a century ago Kentucky lagged behind other states, including Indiana. And let us not forget that Bourbon can be made outside of Kentucky and it is.
And Indiana, believe it or not, is the state where Templeton Rye is distilled. Now that might confuse you, seeing as the Inter-Tubes is aflood with talk of Templeton, Iowa being the whiskey’s namesake. Which it is. But Templeton Rye is produced by Lawrenceburg Distillers of Indiana.
Anyhoo, this 80 proof whiskey is aged 4 years in new charred oak barrels. It is a little mild, compared to some of the young, wild ryes out there. Templeton Rye offers caramel, toffee, and light black pepper notes. It is tasty, and we encourage you to enjoy it neat so as to appreciate the full range of flavors. (Rating: Very Good)
Our preferred online retailer is selling it here.
Two months ago, we had the pleasure of talking about whiskey on the radio. For a whole hour we and our two fellow guests fielded questions from the well-prepared host, and some interesting listeners… One of whom told us his mother used to treat his colds and sicknesses by feeding him a mixture of whiskey, honey, hot water, lemon, Marmite and cod liver oil.
Anyhoo, one of our fellow guests was Becky Harris, the distiller at Catoctin Creek. A chemical engineer by training, she aptly described whiskey-making as an art employing science. She also shared with us samples—the most tasty of which was Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye.
This 100% rye is USDA certified organic. And it is a unique spirit. At a whiskey tasting party we attended a year ago, three ryes were set out and this one was preferred by most tipplers. That is because most ryes tend to be peppery, which makes them a bit intense for many drinkers. Roundstone Rye (80 proof), meanwhile, is oily of body, and slightly sour. It offers up notes of caramel, butterscotch, and barrel. With a little water this whiskey takes on a creamy texture. We are glad to have the acquaintance of this spirit, and its maker. (Rating ****)
To learn more about it or acquire a bottle, surf to http://CatoctinCreekDistilling.com/.
But, of course, what’s in the bottle is what counts, and we are pleased with both of these Indiana whiskeys.
When we threw a little party to celebrate the publication of Whiskey: A Global History, we served Redemption Rye. Many of the attendees had never tried rye, so we poured it on the rocks. Folks loved it–and they were delighted to learn they could get a bottle for about $25. This 92 proof young rye is aged at least two years and shows its spirit—the herbal rye flavor is intense, and its definitely a little warm on the throat. Mmmm… (Rating ****)
Most Bourbons tend to be made with a great deal of corn—up to 80%, which is the maximum allowed by law. Not this one. Redemption High Rye Bourbon is 60% corn, 38.2% rye, and 1.8% barley. This makes this 92 proof whiskey less sweet than many Bourbons—the corn is there, but the rye adds a minty taste. Well done. (Rating ****)
You can read a little more about Redemption whiskeys at http://www.RedemptionRye.com/
Readers of this blog may recall that Copper Fox is the same outfit that makes this incredibly fun age-it-yourself whiskey set.
Anyhoo, this blog post does a good job of describing —complete with photographs!— the old-fashioned way that Copper Fox makes its whiskey. Enjoy.