Finally. How many rye whiskies can you name off of the top of your head? If you really try, after the obvious Wild Turkey and Jim Beam, you probably would start at the Pikesville, the Old Overholt and maybe the Rittenhouse. Those are the easy picks, each bottle below $25 and the 100-proof varieties making great mixing whiskies when attainable.

After that, perhaps you’d think about the tasty Russel’s or Templeton rye.  Perhaps Buffalo Trace’s ‘baby’, 6yr Sazerac rye. If you are really excited about rye and was in the habit of going out of your way for a good bottle, you’d mention the simply outstanding Van Winkle Family Reserve 13yr, the Michter’s 10yr, a number of great Vintage labels and the Black Maple Hill options.  What about the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection?  There’s the 132 proof Thomas Handy and the 90proof Sazerac Ryes. Heck, if one really has a fetish they will read this and look over at their stocks at the Rittenhouse 21, maybe even the 23yr or Lenell’s Redhook 23yr rye prominently displayed.

But, look at that gulf between the two classes. While there’s only about $10 between the ceiling of the former group and the basement of the latter – there’s really a world between them. Heck, the Van Winkle Rye goes for only around $40, the ‘baby’ Saz just a little under that in most cases. But, the gulf is deep and wide, like the best college football team playing against a reasonably good professional team or a drunken bar brawler and a professional boxer. The comparison is just that distinctive.

Then – this December……something odd and interesting happens. While there’s been more ‘super-premium’ bourbon available in our country that one could find if one even wanted (someone please send me an I.W. Harper or special Blanton’s Japanese/British bottle if you come across them), where are the premium ryes?

Well, apparently the good folks at Beam thought it was time.


Here’s what they call a “super premium rye” – the “(rī)1”, pronounced ‘rye one’, and as I started this post – Finally.  Finally, a premium rye for the masses.  One does not have to go to Lenell’s to get this bottle.  One does not need to search around the internet.  No – this spirit is made by none other than Jim Beam, and they are producing enough for all of us.

The specifics?  Well, (rī)1 comes in at a respectable 92proof, costs around $50 for each of the neo-spirit bottles, and if this design does not cause you to think twice about picking up the bottle, this rye can easily be sipped straight.  Or, with a $50 price point, one can feel good about making a fine Classic Manhattan or Sazerac worthy of Thomas Handy or Murray Stenson.

If this blog had a magic 8-ball feature, I’d spin it while asking, ‘Will we see more premium rye whiskies coming out in the next few years because of the sure success of this label?’  The answer?  “It is decidedly so” or more likely, “Without a doubt”.


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