The biggest hit of our Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t the turkey or the sides, it was the whiskey.
Specifically, it was Hudson Whiskey The X Series Cider Cask Rye, a limited release from the upstate New York distillery that subjected their signature rye to secondary maturation in apple cider casks.
The result? “It tastes like fall,” as one guest noted. The apple, cinnamon and caramel notes captured the season perfectly, but the underlying rye kick was not lost.
Cider Cask is one of several other uniquely matured rye in Hudson’s portfolio including Short Stack (rye finished in maple syrup casks) and Back Room Deal (rye matured in ex-peaty Scottish casks) . The mashbill for each version is 95% rye, 5% malted barley, and uses all local grains – and the secondary matures, while very different, are all incredibly worthwhile.
“As an alcohol, rye stands on its own,” explains Brendan O’Rourke, the master distiller of Hudson’s whiskey. “He has an attitude and a backbone. It can resist other flavors. Our rye, I get a lot of black pepper, a little mint and apricot. So it’s not one-dimensional either; it can add and accentuate different notes.
And more than some other types of whiskey. “When you do something with bourbon and a secondary ripening that has something to do with sugar, the result can be too sweet or syrupy,” adds O’Rourke. “Rye has that punch and spice that can tame that sweet note.”
(This process also works in reverse. Sometimes the barrels used in this secondary maturation can temper the spice of the rye, as you will see below.)
Hudson began his side experiments in 2013. At first, the marriage of rye with single casks did not work out. “We tried rye with maple syrup as a first filling, and it didn’t go at all good,” says O’Rourke. “But we just tried with the finish instead, and it was phenomenal. Now this version, Short Stack, is part of our baseline.
This additional finishing process can fluctuate, at least when it comes to timing. The Cider Cask and Short Stack expressions will take Hudson’s base rye and undergo secondary aging in single casks for about three to six months, but their recent experience involving a peaty scotch cask finish took an additional three years.
The extra time, however, was well worth it, and a nice showcase for a wider trend in the whiskey world where rye is undergoing a wonderful further maturation. Below, some recent favorites …
“I’ve always had an affinity for rye and cider,” says O’Rourke of Hudson. “I made Fall Manhattans by replacing the sweet vermouth with cider.” If your palate is heading for the apple side, this is a wonderful blender in anything from the aforementioned Manhattan to a simple highball.
For a slightly different take on rye, talk to Jefferson co-founder Trey Zoeller. “I think the Cognac cask finish works so well because the rye can be kind of one-dimensional,” he told us earlier this year. “There is often a burst of spiciness up front, but it closes quickly and sort of dries up in the back. The finish here bevels the edges and adds weight for a full-bodied mouth feel, resulting in a wonderful whiskey to sip on. The result is a delicately shaped rye into something fruity (peach and orange), sweet and drinkable.
We praised him last year, a 2020 double gold winner at SFWSC; it is a mixture of Pure rye finished in Calvados barrels (or French apple brandy barrels) for over 11 months. It is then aged for an additional nine months in low-rye American oak barrels. Maryland’s Sagamore Spirit has also had great success finishing its original rye in barrels that once held everything from tequila to barley wine to port. “When we first started doing this, we talked to the bartending community; they seem to have gone by default for rye because it is more versatile than bourbon, ”says Brian Treacy, president of Sagamore Spirit. “And rye spice with, say, a fortified wine, which will have some sweet or stone fruit notes that go well together.” With an old tequila cask, the tasting notes can be similar to rye, and it was like, will the pepper and vanilla notes collide or be complementary? ”
The latest version of Redemption is, yes, a bourbon, but a high-rye bourbon that uses additional maturation in old cognac casks as “leaf for the rye,” as master blender Dave told us. Carpenter earlier this year. Here, the whiskey transforms into a smooth, fruity and luxurious drink, with hints of buttered pecan and stone fruit.
A pure rye whiskey aged for almost 18 years in new American oak, followed by a double finish in high temperature casks that previously contained Philippine rum aged in small batches, on a single island, 7 and 10 years old. . There is a fair amount of baking spice on the nose and brown sugar on the palate, as well as vanilla, oak and toffee.
This unique blend won a double gold medal at SFWSA 2021 – it combines American and Canadian rye finished in casks of Martinique rum, Madeira, and apricot brandy (118.4 proof). Sweet on the nose, it is a luminous, fruity, resolutely tangy and multi-layered version of rye; it would do wonders as a (very expensive) replacement for rum in tiki cocktails.
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