Rye whiskey and its production has a signifiant role in the history of American spirits and production. As Irish and Scottish immigrants settled in Pennsylvania and Maryland, they brought with them their recipes for distilling the grains that they farmed. After the British blockade of American ports, rum, the popular choice among colonists dried up.
As rye grew in popularity, Pittsburgh became the epicenter of rye production in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In fact, by 1808 Pittsburgh area farmers were selling a half barrel for “each man, woman, and child” in the country.
Unfortunately Prohibition caused most of the original distilleries to close and, while rye had become the dominant spirit, it was virtually extinct by the 1960s.
Thanks to the resurgence in pre-Prohibition spirits, liqueurs, and cocktails since the turn of the 21st century, rye has made a huge comeback.
Third generation distiller Robert Cooper, who became a dominant force in the spirits world with the elderflower liqueur St. Germain, has followed the successes of it and his Slow & Low Rock and Rye, with a new entry in the rye category with Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey.
Hochstadter's is a bit of a legend on Reddit. Jim Murray is the author of an annual list of what he believes to be the best offerings in the whiskey world. His Whiskey Bible is an untouchable force, and a whiskey listed by him can go from obscure or ignored to thousands of dollars on the secondary market. However, his choices in recent years have divided the whiskey community and some have called into question the authenticity of the list. Because of this, Reddit user DaveHK sponsored a community blind-tasting between Murray's #2 pick for 2015 the $50 Pikesville Rye, and the recently released $30 Hochstadter's. He shipped out both in unmarked bottles to 10 volunteers. The result? 8 out of 10 picked Sample A: Hochstadter's.
Vatting is traditionally a scotch distilling method where multiple single malt whiskies are blended without the addition of grain spirit. The ryes in Hochstadter's blend range in age from 4 to 15 years and are selected from distilleries across North America including Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Alberta. It is a heavy 100 proof rye, perfect for shining through in cocktails.
Taste Sweet for a rye; vanilla at first with the spice you'd expect on the back end.
Compared to Bulleit Rye Bulleit has a lot more punch in the beginning, and a lot of woodiness that Hochstadter's doesn't.
In an Old Fashioned The vanilla and spice adds to the bottom notes quite nicely.
Available for $30, check for local availability.