Eric Asimov, writing for the New York Times, does an amazingly in-depth story on the scarcity of old rye whiskey and the excellent choices available in the younger whiskeys of the category. With over 1300 distilleries now producing in the US, the panel had plenty to judge.
I'm honored that two of the judges were the esteemed David Wondrich and Robert Simonson. I cannot think of two gentlemen in the industry for whom I have more respect! I've read (and re-read) their books. I've met them at Tales in New Orleans. I fan-boy on these guys, always asking for autographs... So, to have these two judging my spirits, well honestly, it's just humbling.
Notably, all judging was done in a blind panel. There's no way to be influenced by preconceptions of the spirit or where it's produced, nor the beauty of the label. It's just the juice. How good is the juice?
From the story:
Indeed, many of the ryes we tasted didn’t have the assertive rye personality that I’ve come to love. ... The Woodford rye was 53 percent rye, potentially very similar to bourbon. Some of the other ryes in our tasting were 100 percent rye, or very close.
Other ryes reminded us of rum, or tasted overwhelmingly of bananas or were odd in some other way. These tended to come from the craft distillers, who, like craft brewers in the early days of the beer revolution, have yet to achieve precision and reliability in their work.
“It’s like catching this category in the 10th grade,” David [Wondrich] said. “Some have already matured into their adult personas, some are still kids, and others are in transition, not as assured as you want, still hesitant.”
Speaking on the few craft brands in the list, Asimov continues:
Two other craft ryes made our list, the warm, spicy Few from Evanston, Ill., at No. 7 and the fruity, slightly sweet Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye from Purcellville, Va., at No. 9.
You can read the full story, here. I hope you will!