Deep Creek Distilling swings for the fences with it's Royall Double Oaked Virginia Rye Whiskey and scores BIG! In the 2023 East Coast Craft Spirits Awards they took home Best in Class Rye, Gold, and People's Choice Best Rye. Congratulations!
This homegrown drink recipe is simply refreshing, and leaves you with a taste of summer any time of the year. Have a "Virginia Peach" or two.
• 2 oz. of Virginia Rye Whiskey
(Peg Hatcher's Straight Rye from Twin Creeks Distillery in Rocky Mount, VA)
• 1 oz. of Peach Simple Syrup
(Peach Hibiscus from Crescent Simples in Richmond, VA)
• Fresh Mint
• Large Pinch of Sugar
• A Dash of Orange Bitters
• Crushed Ice
- Chill a martini glass and crush some ice
- Muddle mint sprigs with a generous pinch of sugar in a shaker, save a sprig to garnish
- Add 2 oz. of rye whiskey, 1 oz. of peach simple syrup, and a generous dash or two of orange bitters to shaker
- Add crushed ice to shaker, shake vigorously, strain into the chilled martini glass
- Rub reserved sprig of mint around the glass rim, place on drink
- Sip and enjoy!
In the early 1800's the term "Kentucky Bourbon" began appearing in advertisements. This was just a few years after George Washington opened the nation's largest commercial whiskey distillery at Mt. Vernon, Virginia (producing Rye).
The "Virginia Rye" designation started to reappear after decades of absence when in the early 2000's Virginia distillers like Copper Fox, Reservoir, and Catoctin Creek began producing and promoting it.
In 2007 George's original distillery was reconstructed at Mt. Vernon, and group of master distillers that included Dave Pickerell, Jimmy Russel, Joe Dangler, and others began production of the original 1797 recipe created by Washington's farm manager James Anderson. 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley.
Over the past five years the number of Virginia Rye Whiskey producers has grown from a half-dozen to twenty-six. In just the past decade five brands have been awarded the prestigious Double-Gold in San Francisco.
Do you think "Virginia Rye" will be well recognized 200 years from now?
This 90 proof small batch double-oaked Rye is made by co-master distillers Royall Ferguson and David Emmons in Chesapeake, Virginia at Deep Creek Distilling.
Learn what gives the folks at Reservoir Distillery in Richmond, VA that little something extra on their journey to producing great American whiskies.
From Megan & Bill, the co-founders of Crescent Simples in Richmond, Virginia comes this Virginia take on the American Trilogy cocktail.
1.5 oz. of Reservoir Virginia Rye Whiskey
0.5 oz. of Laird's Virginia Apple Brandy
0.5 oz. of Crescent Simples Apple Spice simple syrup
3 dashes of your favorites bitters (maybe even those from Virginia's own Red Root & Company)
Each one of Crescent Simples syrups is made and bottled by hand using only real, fresh fruit and herbs, raw sugar and no preservatives.
RY3 Virginia Rye Whiskey takes home Best of Show in the Rye category at the 2023 New Orleans Bourbon Festival. Also wins Silver overall. Congratulations!
Article from Food and Beverage magazine:
Phenomenal Spirits is proud to announce its RY3 Whiskey Cask Strength Toasted Barrel expression, was awarded several impressive awards at the 2023 New Orleans Bourbon Festival. RY3 Toasted Barrel took home second place, Silver in the “BEST IN FEST” category, first place Gold in the “RYE WHISKEY” category, and second place, Silver in the “BEST CASK STRENGTH” category. The festival held March 22 – 25, celebrates the city’s historic relationship to Bourbon and culture and included many of the country’s finest distillers.
In addition, RY3 Toasted Barrel was awarded an impressive 90 points at the 2023 IWSC International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) held in London. Karthik Sudhir, Founder & CEO of Phenomenal Spirits commented, “Ry3 Whiskey is known for product innovation, stunning packaging and exceptional quality liquid. We are thrilled to be acknowledged and awarded by the industry’s prestigious New Orleans Bourbon Festival and IWSC.”
Rye Whiskey Toasted Barrel is an exquisite blend of hand-selected whiskies which is further finished in toasted barrels. The finishing period in the toasted barrels accentuates the complexity of the whiskey by adding notes of vanilla, cocoa and brown sugar that soothe the spice.
Sudhir added, “Craft whiskey consumers are embracing rye whiskey. America’s original iconic spirit volumes are skyrocketing. With the resurgence of the category, product innovation has reached new heights, spurring consumer’s curiosity. We developed RY3 Whiskey Toasted Barrel with these curious and passionate consumers in mind. RY3 Toasted Barrel is an exceptional Rye whisky finished in toasted casks, offering drinkers layers of intense spice and complexity for an exceptional and exciting, new Rye drinking experience.”
Phenomenal Spirits is on a steadfast mission to create exceptionally high-quality brands that fill untapped opportunities in the spirits category. To help guide this mission, Sudhir is partnering with Matt Witzig, Master Distiller and Co-founder of Joseph Magnus Bourbon. An icon in spirits distillation, Witzig is working in concert with Sudhir and his team to build a portfolio of unparalleled brands for the curious spirits consumer and aficionado alike.
From Imbibe magazine, by Paul Clarke
When Scott and Becky Harris were scoping out plans for their Virginia distillery, Catoctin Creek, prior to its 2009 debut, they turned to the history books to help determine what spirits they planned to make. “If you look at Colonial times, rye was the partner crop to tobacco, which was something that was very prevalent here. Rye was the cover crop that would replenish the soil,” says Becky Harris. “And [rye whiskey] was mostly made by women, because the men were in the fields tending tobacco. We liked the story, and we really just liked the flavor.” Scott Harris agrees. “We loved that history. Rye was Virginia’s native spirit since we started calling this place Virginia, and it all sort of fit together. We love the flavor, we love the history, and that’s why we developed our rye.”
Roundstone Rye became the flagship spirit for Catoctin Creek, but in 2009, rye’s modern story was still taking shape. Although rye was the dominant style of American whiskey in the 18th and 19th centuries, Prohibition and its aftershocks in the liquor industry nearly doomed American rye to extinction. The craft-cocktail renaissance boosted rye’s outlook starting around the beginning of the new millennium. But by that point, most rye whiskies available in the U.S. were produced in a style and with a recipe almost identical to bourbon.
But around the same time that Scott and Becky Harris were beginning their rye production at Catoctin Creek, similar stories were starting to unfold at distilleries across the country. While the tally of whiskey producers in the U.S. hovered at fewer than 20 distilleries (mostly enormous, and mostly in Kentucky and Tennessee) at the beginning of the millennium, the first years of the 21st century saw states changing their laws to open the doors to craft distilling. As the numbers of producers grew, and their geographic range spread, many started reconsidering the notion of what rye whiskey was supposed to be.
“I used to tell people in 2012 and 2013, ‘When y’all start getting whiskeys that are grain-to-glass from different parts of the country, you’re gonna find that they taste different—and that rye is just as interesting as bourbon and single malt,’“says Becky Harris. “It was so monolithic for so long, where everything was coming from, that people just started to say, ‘This is what rye tastes like.’ But you taste some of the stuff that [craft distillers] are making today, it’s all different, and that’s what’s exciting. I think rye was underappreciated for its diversity of flavor and interest.”
There are many elements that go into making whiskey, and into making different whiskies taste—well, different. And while all of these elements have come into play in rye’s modern age, with producers using different mash bill recipes and approaches to fermentation, distillation, and aging, another intriguing variable has increasingly come into play.
Rye, as a grain, has existed as a cereal crop for millennia and has been grown as a food crop and a cover crop in a variety of climates. Over time, different varietals of the grain were prized and cultivated. But as agriculture became industrialized and concentrated in the 20th century, the genetic diversity of all types of grains and produce frequently withered. And heirloom varieties were replaced by styles that may have offered less flavor, but that functioned better under mechanized production and in the global market.
As with many small farmers and food producers today, craft distillers have a skeptical perspective of this approach. “Rye is such an expressive plant,” says Todd Leopold, distiller and co-founder of Leopold Bros. Distillery in Denver. “Having worked with both modern and heirloom varieties of rye, they’re night and day—they’re completely different with the aromas and flavors you get out of it.”
When selecting a rye for his whiskey, Leopold turned to an heirloom Roman varietal called Abruzzi. “It was bragged about in the 1800s, in particular by Maryland distillers,” Leopold says. “I found some old Maryland agricultural records discussing it, and how the Maryland distillers preferred it, while the Pennsylvania distillers back then used Rosen rye, another variety that was kind of distinctive.”
“If you look back more than 100 years ago, Rosen rye was something that people put forward in their [whiskey] marketing,” says Clay Risen, a whiskey writer and author of American Rye. Risen notes that today, distillers such as Dad’s Hat and Wigle Distilling in Pennsylvania are turning their attention again to Rosen rye, and the flavorful qualities it can contribute to whiskey.
There’s a similar story unfolding in Michigan, where Mammoth Distilling worked with the National Park Service and Michigan State University to plant Rosen rye on South Manitou Island in 2020. This effort helped revive a varietal once prominent in Michigan, but that had faded from use by the 1970s. “It’s cool to think that there’s this identification of varietal, and this sort of zeroing in on terroir, and it’s something that we think of as a modern thing. But at least with this rye, people were talking in these terms 100 years ago.”
These explorations are taking place at distilleries around the country. In South Carolina, High Wire Distilling is moving in a similar direction to Leopold, making a boldly flavored and elegantly aromatic whiskey using Abruzzi rye. Far North Spirits, in Hallock, Minnesota, received a crop research grant in 2015 from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for a multiyear study to evaluate winter rye for distilling, and went on to cultivate and distill 15 varieties of rye. New Riff Distilling, in Newport, Kentucky, worked with Indiana farmer Charles Fogg to start distilling spirits from Balboa rye, a hybrid of Abruzzi that produces an expressively flavorful whiskey.
Brooklyn-based New York Distilling worked with Cornell University’s School of Agriculture and organic farmer Rick Pedersen to identify a historical hybrid called Horton (which, ironically, traces its origins to the region near the Westchester County town of Rye). Starting with only a spoonful of seeds, Pedersen began planting Horton rye and saving the seeds for the following season. After eventually expanding plantings to 40 to 50 acres, there was finally enough grain to begin distilling. This fall, New York Distilling plans to introduce its first bottling of Horton rye whiskey.
At Catoctin Creek, Scott and Becky Harris work with several farmers in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Most of their rye comes from a grower in Rappahannock County who’ll plant test plots of different varieties to see what grows best. At the distillery, Becky Harris will then take the different grains, see how they work when distilled in a test run, and balance out the mash bills to keep the overall profile consistent. “It’s a nice partnership, you know,” says Scott Harris. “If something works for him, and it tastes good for us and adds to the flavor profile we’re looking for, then he’ll grow it and we’ll use it.”
With rye’s revival still taking shape, it’s premature to predict how these experiments will play out in the long run. But with distillers, farmers, and agricultural scientists working together to explore rye’s history, it seems certain that its future will take shape in interesting ways. “This all gives historical weight to this kind of experimentation that you don’t really find with bourbon,” Risen says. “I think there are ways to talk about varietals and maybe terroir with bourbon, and there are people doing it. But I think rye just lends itself to this in a way. In a very short time, there’s been an explosion of diversity in so many ways. It’s just been fascinating.”
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