This past week, we sincerely hope some of you out there got over to NY Distilling Co. for the world’s first Rye Week. It was put on by Founder Allen Katz, who himself makes a slew of different delicious rye whiskies, bourbons, and gins, and the week hosted tastings, seminars, and even a grand BBQ soiree on Sunday with smoked pork, live ragtime music and rye-whiskey flavored ice cream.
We sat down with Allen Katz to discuss Rye Week for our latest Thoughts on Taste.
We love a lot of things about this gentleman. First and foremost, he’s always giving back to the community in Brooklyn and to the world-at-large in some capacity. Secondly, he makes incredible spirits and you can find an awesome cocktail at his distillery’s adjoining bar The Shanty any time of day.
Finally, we find Allen to be a human we are always delighted to bump into. Usually clad in a flannel or even a festive bow-tie and always wearing a smile, he reminds us of a professor. The Professor of the Party, you might say.
You’ve just earned your new nickname, Allen, courtesy of Robb Vices. You’re welcome.
When did you begin planning this?
“Winter 2017 is when we really got things going in developing New York Rye Week. It has been a seed in our minds for a few years, ever since the concept of Empire Rye was born in the winter of 2015.”
Talk to us about this category of spirit. Is it growing rapidly? Do we need to be studying it more intensely?
“The rye whiskey category is growing but also needs a spotlight. It is not unusual to see bars and retailers have a selection of 5 or 6 ryes where there might have been only 1 or 2 in the recent past. It is exciting to see differences in rye whiskies by mash-bill (grain recipe), aging, geography and terroir. The spotlight is to get consumers to try it and understand the differences of rye compared to other whiskies. I see rye whiskey as a dynamic part of American gastronomic heritage and a key stalwart of cocktail history and culture.”
You also helped usher back in Rock & Rye, which is something you bottle at NY Distilling Co. too. Can you tell us about that?
“Once upon a time in America, any saloon worth its salt would have had their own house rock and rye. It developed the perception of a medicinal elixir—a cure-all for the common cold, a bad cough, headaches and stomach ailments. The drink faded from public consciousness in the middle of the 20th century,but has begun to reappear on the heels of the rye whiskey resurgence. We make Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, which gets its flavor from rock candy sugar, cinnamon, dried cherries and orange peels.”
Were you surprised by how many people showed up for this inaugural Rye Week event?
“Not necessarily surprised. More so, enthused by the response to all of the interesting and diverse rye whiskies that were available to taste. Over the course of the weekend, there were 40 examples of American rye whiskey.”
Will we see a Rye Week Next Year?
“Yes! We are looking toward the week of October 15 for the second annual New York Rye Week. Stay tuned!”
Here at Robb Vices, we’ve fallen hard for a few brands that we discovered at the first Rye Week.
We will be purchasing some of the Canadian-produced Lot 40. The nose is bright with maple and sugar, but the sip is much deeper, even lightly smoky, with a great earthy quality.
We adore NY Distilling’s own Ragtime Rye. Full, bold, spicy in the best way, and meant to take you back to the true American tradition of distilling rye, this one is perfect for the purist who wants something fresh on the bar.
Finally, we were surprised how much we liked Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye. At 70% rye with 18% corn, it’s the first release of it’s kind for the company in 150 years, and it’s their first foray into the category. You get a strangely intense amount of banana on the nose on this one. And, you could never lose the finish, to be sure. It’s there, and it’s a bit punchy. This one would be our choice for pouring a $50/bottle rye into a cocktail.