Interview with Whiskey Lore

Episode 1– When Pennsylvania Ruled American Whiskey Drew and I discuss Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey tradition and history. Episode 2– Breaking Pennsylvania Through Kentucky Bourbon’s Hold on American Whiskey History The conslusion of our long, but info-packed conversation about PA rye whiskey. We get into why PA rye whiskey is no longer around and why the history of rye whiskey is so limited in scope....

What is Rye Whiskey & Why Is It So Different Today?

Rye whiskey is very popular these days. We can clearly see the growth in market share. People talk about how unique it is, but then the occasional article surfaces that talks about how blind tastings show that no one can tell the difference between rye and bourbon. If it’s supposed to be so unique and different, why then is it so similar? What is rye whiskey anyway? This seems like an easy enough question to answer, right? There are plenty of articles out there telling us what rye whiskey is. They explain what the US defines as rye whiskey, what it’s made from, what it tastes like, why it’s what you should buying right now…but I’m here to tell you…you’re not getting the full story. What rye whiskey is today is a far cry from what pure rye whiskey used to...

Why Was the Taft Decision Necessary?

(Hint: It’s Not Necessarily Why You’d Think…) Rectifiers VS. Straight Whiskey Interests To understand why the Taft Decision was so important to the whiskey industry, one must first understand why it was necessary to begin with. And NO- it was not to decide the definition of “straight whiskey.” The reason the Taft Decision was necessary at all was because the definition of “whiskey” was being hijacked. This will not be a popular statement, but…the people hijacking the definition were the lobbyists FOR straight bourbon. Since the earliest days of whiskey-making in America, there were rectifiers. Early on, so much of the whiskey being made in pot stills was inconsistent and flawed so many retail establishments began blending and refining the...

Is Rye Whiskey Really that Hard to Make?

After the last blog post, I was reminded by a fellow enthusiast that I should have included that “rye whiskey is hard to make”. It gave me pause so I figured I better address it. I did not include that rye grain mashes can be difficult to work with because I do not believe that it was a contributing factor behind rye whiskey not surviving Prohibition. The first reason among the 8 I provided was that rye was expensive, both to grow and to purchase, but I did not make mention of how difficult it may be to work with in the distillery. After all, these difficulties are not likely something that an experienced distiller in the early 20th century would have been affected by. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you are an experienced Formula One racecar driver,...

Why did rye not survive Prohibition?

Ad from the Daily Republican, August 16, 1889. That is the big question, after all, isn’t it? Rye is America’s oldest style of whiskey. It was the most valuable and the most desirable American-made whiskey on the market before Prohibition, but it clearly does not hold the same place in America’s drinking culture anymore. What happened? The answer is complicated, but worth exploring. The near disappearance of rye whiskey from the American whiskey market was, in a nutshell, due to Prohibition. (The prelude to Prohibition is another discussion entirely.) To be clear, I don’t mean the morally driven quest for temperance that began a hundred years before politicians began using prohibition as a wedge issue to win votes. I mean that the literal act of passing the 18th...