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Rye – how to protect and grow the spirit category

Maverick Drinks hosted a panel discussion on working with rye to create spirits, its perception in the UK on-trade and how to protect and grow this particular category

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Maverick Drinks hosted a panel discussion dedicated to rye spirits. Rye is emerging as one of the popular trends in the drinks world among aficionados, but is this enthusiasm being translated into consumer interest? We look at the key points from the panel discussion and learn more. 

Chaired by Sam Simmons, head of whisky at Atom Brands, the panel was made up of Miika Lipiäinen, CEO and founder of Kyrö Distillery Company, Allen Katz, distiller and founder of New York Distilling Company and Michael Vachon, co-founder of Maverick Drinks. They discussed the science behind working with rye to create spirits, how it is perceived in the UK on-trade and what needs to be done to protect and grow the category.

Key points

  • Rye can be a complicated grain to distil until you know what you’re doing — a grain that takes trial and error to perfect. Yet, once you know what you’re doing, it can make some of the most flavoursome and versatile whisky expressions going
  • The science behind choosing, or creating, the right rye variety is something that distilleries are still perfecting
  • Terroir may exist in the grain, but too much happens between harvest and bottling to talk about terroir once whisky reaches the glass
  • Rye is high in flavour so is an excellent blending ingredient, but that doesn’t stop it from making excellent single grain spirits
  • The US vs. European heritage and modern markets for rye are very different, but both regions are working towards a rye renaissance
  • How rye is served in bars needs to depend entirely on the rye you’re working with and the audience you’re working for. It’s an entirely versatile spirit that can be sipped neat or enjoyed in a highball, but also stands up to powerful ingredients in classic cocktails
  • Rye distilleries in New York are joining together to create a Rye DOC — Empire Rye
  • To conclude, there’s a renaissance of rye that’s looking backward and forward at the same time at the moment to take into account the history of the grain while taking it to a modern audience. 

8 October 2019