Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bourbon Vs. Rye Tasting - The Sugar House

Photo from The Sugar House facebook page
On August 6th, my husband and I attended The Sugar House's Bourbon vs. Rye tasting. The point was not to showcase the most expensive bourbons and ryes out there, but to learn the differences in taste between the two.

First I have to clarify, I am not much of a straight liquor drinker. I am more of rum and sour mix drinker, if I drink something other than wine. I have even been known to enjoy the Corktown Sours from Sugar House, which are a mix of Jameson and sour, but this summer my favorite hands down has been the Havana Sour.

So when I signed Billy and I up for this tasting, it was with trepidation on my part, but I was still curious and really did want to know the differences, and to learn about it from the people who know it best.

When we arrived about 20 minutes before it was scheduled to start, we found our seats along the end of the bar, which had been sectioned off for the tasting. We were surrounded by people who worked in the industry, which was cool because we learned a lot more by talking to them in between sips.  Our host for the event set handouts out in front of each of us, one a fact sheet about bourbon and rye and what makes them bourbon and rye, and another with four circles, big enough for a shot glass, with the name of a particular bourbon or rye next to a circle. We then received four one.five ounces of those specific liquors, and were instructed to sip, not shoot, the liquid inside.

The four we were tasting were Temptation Bourbon, Redemption High Rye Bourbon, Old Overholt Rye, and Redemption Rye, in that order. We started off with the Temptation, which is a mash of 75% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley. This is important because a difference between bourbon and rye, which I should have guessed, is that bourbon is mainly corn, while rye is mainly, well, rye. The flavor notes that were suggested for this one were caramel, sweet and sour corn, with a nose of honeysuckle, and citrus. 

Next down the list was Redemption High Rye Bourbon which is a mash of 60% corn, 38.2% rye, and 1.8% malted barley. It has notes of caramel, soft floral and nuttiness, while the taste is said to be more woody with a slightly sweet finish. Let the record show I was not able to get past the alcohol of these drinks to get these nuances, but Billy did say this one was nutty. 

After having tasted the two bourbons, we moved on to the ryes.  We began with the Old Overholt Rye, whose mash bill is 53% rye, 32% corn, and 15% malted barley. I believe they also told us that this particular rye has been around a long time. The nose was listed as pine with residual sweet corn, mint, citrus, and pepper, while the taste was listed as wood spices,, menthol with a dry finish.  Neither of us cared for this one at all. Billy did not like the menthol taste, which he said he could clearly pick up. 

The last on our list was the Redemption Rye. The mash bill is 95% rye, and 5% malted barley. The nose was listed with such things as grapefruit and buttered popcorn, with the taste being spice and pine, with a dash of nuttiness. I have to admit, I could see what they meant about the buttered popcorn! This was my second favorite of the night.

I didn't finish my glasses. Mine looked like they were barely drunk at all, but I tried! My favorites were the Temptation Bourbon and the Redemption Rye, the two most different of the night. Billy really liked the Redemption High Rye Bourbon.  We both felt it was worth the $20 each we paid for the lesson and the tasting, in fact, it was one of our least expensive nights there! 

Everyone we spoke to was happy to share their knowledge. We even got off subject and started talking about Scottish whisky. We learned that there is one out there called Ocotomore that is extremely expensive, so of course Billy wants to try it. It is $67 for one shot at the Sugar House, and they have fair pricing for what you are getting and for their extensive knowledge of what they do. I can actually go to bars in other areas and order lesser drinks which are the same price as what I would get for a much better drink at the Sugar House, so they are not fair and not overpriced, in my opinion.

I am definitely going to be watching their schedule of events now that we have attended one and loved it. I wonder if they will ever do a rum night? 

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