Monday, February 27, 2012

Rittenhouse Rye 100: a rich sweet salty slice of rye goodness at a dirtcheap price.

Rittenhouse rye 100 proof $22/750ml in NYC. Rittenhouse rye is a "Pennsylvania style" rye (according to the back label) made in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. Recently Sku's Eats has had a couple of posts on the Old Monongahela rye style: robust and full flavored. I imagine this is what they are talking about.

Color: rich amber with olive tints

Nose: rich sweet grassy herbal bourbony nose with some turpentine, honey, salt,

Entry is sweet with treacle sugars. There's a broad creamy expansion at mid-palate where the sweetness turns spicy all around the periphery of your tongue. There's an abundance of cereal and baked goods flavors in the mid-palate: Irish soda bread, rye crackers, johnny cake, all mingled with the warm honeyed treacle of the opening. There are also some vinous sherry or madeira-like notes... Harvey's Bristol Cream? The usual description of this flavor aspect is "cherry", but that doesn't capture the the elegant spirit nature of the fruit. Those cherry or grape spirit notes are underneath the cereal flavors. The transition to the finish starts with herbal and meaty flavors like ivy and prosciutto (or just old fashioned salt pork) and ends with a salty aftertaste like you had been eating too many pretzels or too much bacon. The salty finish demands a palate clearing sip... maybe water... or the glass of rye in hand. It's a self suggesting finish - like cocaine or crack. I found the finish a thirsty feeling; readily remedied by a re-ignition of treacle heat by another sip... and another. Suck in air a few minutes after a sip dies away and you get that sweet rye crisp, ivy herb, and salt flavor. This isn't one of those shy ryes. It's a big robust fully flavored rye that will please you - if you don't mind the very salty finish.

I've had a salty peanut of a tot recently: Wild Turkey 101. It, too, was an inexpensive Kentucky whiskey that felt like it was knocking on the door of the high end in terms of quality. Both are almost the same proof too (nice and high). Rittenhouse is a bit more impressive in my book - a tad more yummy, a tad more unique and unusual (maybe just because it's a rye).

Rittenhouse is quite different from the other two ryes I have open at the moment: Old Potrero, and Russel's Reserve 6. Old Potrero is much more herbal with a much stronger peppery effervescence. Russel's Reserve 6 is very creamy and floral and also has that effervescence. Rittenhouse lacks the effervescence and just has peppery heat instead. It's less herbal than Potrero and not really floral. It has some creaminess, however. Indeed, all the ryes seem to share some version of herbal note, peppery heat, and creaminess to some extent. But, only the Rittenhouse has the meaty salty finish, though.

Rittenhouse rye is a nice robust slice of rye whiskey flavor at a price that lets you use it heedlessly. Bless Heaven Hill for that. Unlike cheap blended Scotch or Vodka there is zero distilled grain spirit taste. Every drop of Rittenhouse tastes real - no fillers. This is a monster of a value at the price.



  1. Yeah it's good stuff and at around $23.00 a 750ml, I'll keep it on hand.

    1. Amen, brother. Makes a wicked Manhattan, killer sour, but it's best just neat...

    2. Great review and I can't argue with you there. My favorite Manhattans are always made with the Ritt BiB, but it's hard to beat drank neat.

  2. Josh, once again I gotta commend you on your tasting notes. I'm writing this comment with a glass of Rittenhouse in hand, and your tasting notes are just spot-on. That said, it's interesting that those same notes aren't necessarily the ones that jump out at me. The sweetness and the pepper are obvious, but I get dark chocolate jumping out also. The saltiness is there, by the way. I think I remember you commenting to me once that no one else picks out the saltiness. You're just light years ahead of the rest of the crowd, dude ;-)

    If I were to actually disagree with this review in any way, it might be the score. I might have gone for 5 stars. And at $23, that's a crackin' good deal. I'm totally impressed with Rittenhouse.

    1. Wow, Ryan, you just totally made my day. I work hard on the flavor notes. That being said - I hear you about the dark chocolate. I taste it clearly - but just missed it when I wrote it up before.

      As for the stars, I don't factor value in (most of the time). It's borderline between 4 and 5 for me - which means I give 4. With value for the money added in, however, this is a total grand slam. Tonight Whiskey Writer just tweeted “@whiskeywriter: what is the best value in whisk(e)y?” I replied "Elijah Craig 12 bourbon Rittenhouse rye 40 Creek CN Redbreast 12 Ir. Laphroaig 10 Sc." Of two responses (so far) both of us put Rittenhouse on that list.

      Another tidbit - both Elijah Craig 12 and Rittenhouse are Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill has other amazing bargains. Fighting Cock, Old Fitzgerald, Evan Williams. They also have high end products too - such as Parker's Heritage collection, sporting a cognac finished bourbon this year, and EC18. Still, even among that list, Rittenhouse is special. It is just the biggest flavor bomb for the money available in the spirit world. Period.

    2. Best Values:
      EC12 - agreed
      Rittenhouse - agreed
      40 Creek - ... agreed I guess, but I'll pass on Canadians
      Redbreast 12 - Disagree: at over $50 I don't see any value
      Laphroaig 10 - Disagree with PA prices; $48 for 10yo and $53 for QC... I'd always go for the QC. I'd agree if you get 10yo for $35 as some people seem to do.

      Heaven Hill is great. I don't know how they do it! I'd like to try Old Fitz but it's not available here. I've also yet to try any of their premium releases, but I'll get to EC18 eventually.

    3. Well, Ryan - I agree with you. Redbreast 12 is over $50 and Connemara Peated is $42. I change my stance on that one. In Scotch, Laphroaig has the greatest density of flavor for the price - but the price has, indeed gone up. It's $51 for me now (my last bottle was $40). Bruichladdich Rocks at $35 currently is the best Scotch value as of today at my local store (Shopper's Vineyard).

      Heaven Hill has the value equation nailed, indeed. EC18 is a real treat - as you'll find out.

    4. I'll agree with that: Connemara is the best value in Irish! I'll take Connemara over Redbreast 9 times out of 10, and it's also cheaper!

    5. Oh, and I still disagree with you on Rocks. It's OK but I think it's priced at what it's worth, not below. I definitely wouldn't pay more money for it.

    6. Certainly Rocks has a little bit of a divisive flavor profile. As an unpeated Islay it has both some of the weird Islay flavors and at the same time not enough. I personally love it - it's just one of those things. I've stocked up bottles of it and put them in storage.

      One thing absolutely everyone, however, agrees on is that Rittenhouse Rye 100 is the best value in Rye - and perhaps in all of American spirits. It's lovely neat, and also makes the best Manhattans, sours, and Old Fashioneds because of its clear and assertive flavor profile.

      I just got a bottle of Wild Turkey Rye 101 and some Antica Vermouth. I'll put the WT Rye 101 against the Rittenhouse 100 and see what's what. I'll also be making some Manhattans with that vermouth. I'll report back...

    7. With Rocks, there are two things I don't care for:
      1) the wine-cask finish, and
      2) it's just a little young. Needs time to develop the flavor a bit more.

      However, I do like the Bruichladdich flavor profile in general. Laddie Ten is a big improvement on Rocks (fixes those two problems). And I LOVED the 12 yr. 1st Edition that I tried. It was amazing - it just popped with lemon tart and sea air.

      I'll be interested if you get a post up about Manhattans. I'd like to try it at some point - I've only ever really had them at bars. Please let us know "the scoop" on Vermouth - I don't really know what it's about and what's good.

  3. Lovely review!
    Have you tried Bulleit Rye, and if so, how does it compare to Rittenhouse? It seems to me that most affordable rye whiskeys are actually a very good value. They strike me as more flavorful than Bourbons of the same price, but perhaps I just enjoy rye more than Bourbon.

    1. Hi! Thanks so much. I need to follow this review up. Half a decade ago this was dsp-ky-354 (Brown-Forman) juice. Now it's dsp-ky-1 (Heaven Hill). It's much lighter. As demand for rye has spiked, it has become lighter and less strongly flavored yet. I suspect because it has become younger. I miss the richness, but it's still a fine whisky. Bulleit rye is a sourced product from Midwest Grain Products International (MGPI), formerly known as Lawrenceburgh Distillers International (LDI). The tip-off is the State of Indiana on the label. MGP rye whiskey is very good - and it ends up in a ton of different rye offerings including Dickel Rye, Templeton Rye, and about half the craft distillery rye offerings on the market. There are differences but they are generally worth drinking. I agree 100% that ryes are more fully flavored that bourbons at a given proof level. Herbal stuff - with notes of licorice and ivy, and sometimes cloves and molasses. Bourbon is wonderful stuff too - different strokes.