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Issue 65 - On the rebound

Whisky Magazine Issue 65
July 2007


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On the rebound

Rye is on the rise again,William M.Dowd looks at what's hot out there at the moment

“I'd just helped Ed Hickey into a taxi. Ed had been mixing his whiskey with his rye, and I felt he needed conveying. I started to walk down the street when I heard a voice saying: ‘Good evening, Mr. Dowd.' “I turned, and there was this big white rabbit leaning against a lamp post. Well, I thought nothing of that, because when you've lived in a town as long as I've lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name.” Therein began my curiosity about rye, which in the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1944 stage play Harvey seemed to be differentiated from all other whiskies – at least in the mind of main character Elwood P. Dowd, with whom I share both a surname and a fascination with the offbeat.

Back in the dark ages of my occasionally misspent youth, when the legal drinking age in my home state of New York was 18 and minimum wage was less than a dollar an hour, 30 cents would buy you a nice highball. Really.

Highball. Then a common term for a simple mixed cocktail, now a quaint, anachronistic word. The highball of choice for my untrained young palate was rye and ginger. Four ounces of ginger ale and a shot of whatever rye the bartender poured into it. I wasn't into labels in those days. Even for the ginger ale.

Rye went the way of my youth, for the most part, until the past few years when it has become increasingly bandied about and new versions of it have been released by adventurous distillers.

Rye still is well down the list of brown whiskies, ...

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