My excellent friend Nathan brought be three bottles of rye whiskey from the US yesterday – Wild Turkey, Old Overholt and Rittenhouse. I haven’t had too much of a chance to play around with them yet, but the Wild Turkey is excellent stuff, and while the Old Overholt and Rittenhouse are a little lacking in aftertaste they are still nice mixers that are distinctly different to bourbon.
The Wild Turkey makes an excellent Manhattan – dry and spicy with good depth of flavor. It really does taste totally different to a Manhattan made with a quality bourbon, though I must admit a Woodford Reserve Manhattan is also very good. The Old Overholt and Rittenhouse are nice enough in a Manhattan but they don’t have the backbone of the Wild Turkey. Old Overholt and Rittenhouse don’t taste too bad in an Old Fashioned, but would probably be best in drinks with juices and other ingredients – i.e. drinks where the whiskey isn’t doing all the work. Comparing them with Blantons Bourbon, Blantons still makes a far superior Old Fashioned and I’m not a big Blanton’s fan.
Right now I’m trying the Rittenhouse in a Capetown Cocktail (1 1/2 oz rye, 1 oz Dubonnet, 2 dashes Orange Curacao, 1 dash Angostura Bitters, stirred over ice and garnished with a lemon twist). The Rittenhouse works nicely in a drink like this. It is drier than bourbon would be, just a little spicy, and the bitter and herbal flavors of the Dubonnet help make up for its lack of finish.
I need to hurry up and make some more drinks with these rye whiskeys while my bar here in Shanghai is still intact. I’m planning to leave China soon which will mean saying good bye to my bar.
One interesting thing to note though is this. . . I remember seeing a recommendation to use Jameson Irish whiskey as a substitute for rye in a Manhattan. Since tasting some real rye I can see some logic behind this suggestion. I think I’d recommend Jameson over the usual Canadian whiskey substitution. Jameson is more astringent than sweet, but it does have a little of the spiciness of a true rye. It certainly has more character than the Canadian Club that bartenders tend to use for Manhattans.
P.S. I also tried a Wright Brothers Cocktail (1 oz rye, 1 oz port, 1/2 oz lemon juice, sugar syrup to taste, an egg white – shaken over ice). The rye taste didn’t really come through but it was not a bad refreshing drink.