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Rye vs. Bourbon

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Rye vs. Bourbon

Postby Jobi » Fri Mar 30, 2007 7:10 pm

Can anyone offer any general comments comparing rye and bourbon? I tried a Sazerac 18 the other night (my first rye) and found it a little too winey for my taste. Does this sound like something I could expect from other ryes as well?
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Postby Elagabalus » Sat Mar 31, 2007 6:22 pm

Isn't Rye just Canadian Whiskey?
I know bourbon has to be made with at least 51% corn by law. Tasted like wine you say? How horrible!!
However I have seen a bottle of Canadian Club Sherry Cask that I have to try!! :o
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Postby sku » Sat Mar 31, 2007 11:14 pm

Bourbon is required to be made with a mash of between 51% and 80% corn. Rye is required to be made with a mash that is at least 51% rye. Bourbon, because of its corn, has a sweet, sometimes almost syrupy taste often with distinct notes of caramel and toffee.

Rye has a strong, spicy flavor in which I've noticed things like clove, pepper and nutmeg. I've never noticed a wine-like flavor myself.

Some ryes and bourbons have very similar flavor profiles because they are close in composition. For instance, a bourbon that is 51% corn and 49% rye and a rye that is 51% rye and 49% corn would be hard to distinguish. Most high quality bourbons have a higher corn content than 51%, but many also use rye in the mix.

To get a full-on rye flavor, try Old Potrero single malt rye, which is 100% rye. Compare it to Buffalo Trace's standard bottling, a bourbon with a significant and noticeable amount of rye. Compare these to a bourbon like Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek, which lack the strong rye flavor, and you will taste the difference.


Elagabalus, Canadian Whiskey, whatever its grain profile, is often referred to as rye, but that is a misnomer that, I believe, comes from a time when most Canadian Whiskey was made with rye (although there still are some actual Canadian rye whiskies). I'm sure someone with more knowledge about Canadian can chime in with more info.
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Postby Admiral » Sat Mar 31, 2007 11:20 pm

Isn't Rye just Canadian Whiskey?


No. No, no, no, no, no. Although that is a common misconception, due that for a period in the middle of the 20th century, most rye whiskies did come out of Canada.

Below are some excerpts from an article written by Gary Regan for The Chronicle, but first, to answer Jobi's original question:

The best way to compare bourbon and rye is to do a taste comparison between two similarly-classed examples. There is no point comparing a cheap & nasty bourbon with an expensive & classy rye - they aren't competing on a level playing field. Also, you have to consider the grains and the mashbill. A 100% malted rye is going to taste very different to a "straight rye" which - by law - need only contain a minimum of 51% rye.

So...in order to do a fair comparison, simply compare Jim Beam White Label with Jim Beam Yellow Label. THe White Label is a standard bourbon (the biggest selling bourbon in the world, so I believe), and the Yellow (or Gold) Label is their rye whisky, but it's not a 100% rye.

Below are some excerpts from Gary Regan's article....

Prior to Prohibition, straight rye was said to be even more popular than bourbon. And in the two decades that preceded the great drought, it was whiskey -- not gin, not rum, not Tequila and certainly not vodka -- that was the King of the American Barroom. Rye was a very popular dram indeed.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, American whiskey distilleries fired up their stills, but concentrated their efforts on making bourbon, and more or less ignored rye.

Why no rye? Nobody's telling. It was probably because corn is less expensive than rye. The whiskey men had been out of business for quite some time, remember, and because whiskey isn't worth drinking until it's been aged a minimum of two years in oak, it would be at least that long until the newly made whiskey was deemed salable.

While American distillers were waiting patiently for their bourbon to mellow in charred oak barrels, Canadian rye whisky was being poured in the United States. Its popularity stuck, even though many Canadian whiskies are now made with no rye whatsoever. Until recently, many American bartenders automatically reached for a bottle of the Canadian impostor when their guests ordered rye.


(I added the underline)

Cheers,
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Postby Elagabalus » Sun Apr 01, 2007 12:05 am

Oh thanks guys I did not know that!!
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Postby Di Blasi » Sun Apr 01, 2007 2:44 am

The ryes I have tasted have a very dried almost candied fruit, very concentrated and flavorful characteristic, not very subtle at all. Maybe a little nutty too, but almost like a powerful fruitcake.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:24 am

sku wrote:Bourbon is required to be made with a mash of between 51% and 80% corn...


No. Bourbon can be 80% or more corn (as Old Charter famously is), or even 100% corn. However, bourbon is aged in NEW, charred oak barrels, while corn whiskey -- which MUST be 80% or more corn -- must be aged in used and/or uncharred oak.

...Some ryes and bourbons have very similar flavor profiles because they are close in composition. For instance, a bourbon that is 51% corn and 49% rye and a rye that is 51% rye and 49% corn would be hard to distinguish...


You've forgotten to include malted barley, which almost always is used to produce the enzymes required to accomplish fermentation. Malted barley usually makes up from 6%-12% of the bill. The other 'small grain' -- rye or wheat -- is commonly 18%-25% of the recipe, with corn approaching 70% in almost all bourbon mashbills.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:28 am

Slainte! This will be my last post on WhiskyMag's forums. For various reasons personal, petty and/or private I will restrict my internet forum participation to bourbon-related ventures, and even there will likely seek to restrict future posting.
Enjoy your whisk(e)y -- it's been my experience that it's both hard to be full of good spirit and yourself at the same time. And that's a good thing.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:59 am

It's been a pleasure learning from your posts about bourbon TNbourbon. Good luck and welcome back :)

Cheers!
Christian
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 02, 2007 7:40 am

Sorry to see you go, TN. We're pretty heavily Scotch-oriented here, as you well know, but it's nice to have someone around who can answer the bourbon questions that do crop up. We'll miss you.
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Postby Di Blasi » Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:35 am

All the best to you TNbourbon! It's been great getting your experienced posts.
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Postby killerwhale » Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:44 am

TNbourbon
that is unfortunate( for me and others)... I enjoyed your views and your knowledge,
anyway.... thanks for sharing opins, and good luck to you!! (perhaps someday I shall read your informative posts somewhere ....)
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Mon Apr 02, 2007 12:52 pm

A fond farewell from me too TN... I too have enjoyed your knowledge and was delighted that you could set us strasight on all matters Bourbon/American Whiskey. Good luck to you in the future and you never know we may see you back in the future if you get bored :wink:
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Postby Elagabalus » Mon Apr 02, 2007 11:44 pm

Oddly enough even I will miss ole TNBourbon.
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