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  • Writer's pictureRichard Murff

Turn on the Hi-Rye

Liking something doesn't mean fully understanding it...

There is a perfectly good reason why candy and sweet things are full of high-fructose corn syrup and not rye syrup. Rye isn’t sweet, it’s for the spice. While I think that the boom in bourbon is a swell, I can get picky about the mash bill. By law, to be called bourbon, the whiskey has to fall within a number of perimeters – one of which is a mash bill of at least 51% corn. It can go higher, up to 80% corn, before it legally becomes corn whiskey. I’m sure someone makes coon corn whiskey but, like sasquatch or the yeti, I’ve never happened on one in the wild.

The bourbon heat tends to hide it at first, but those “corny” bourbons always tend to have a lingering sweetness that I’ve never gone in for. I’m fairly certain that this is going to create a smallish mob of likably bearded fellows carrying on about ‘corn likker’ and telling me I’m not a real Southerner. Well… this happens from time to time, and if you poor-mouth corn with a glass of single malt scotch in hand, it gets said a lot louder. But, to each their own.

A heavily wheated bourbon levels some of the corn without losing the sweet. Pappy Van Winkle has become a collector’s item with its high wheat offerings but the ebullience with Pappy is so irrational that it’s hard to tell what the fans are actually buying. I have a bourbon friend who will pay a shameful amount for a bottle, proclaim it the elixir of the gods and, in the same breath, tell me that he doesn’t like wheated bourbons.

Rye, for its part is generally a small component in bourbon generally 8-35%. So, I was excited to try the Old Dominick’s Huling Station Straight Bourbon Whiskey with it’s high-rye mash bill – the 52% corn, 44% rye and 4% barley. No wheat at all. Barley is often overlooked in bourbon, but it is distinctive. My first whiskey love, Scotch, is made – by their ancient, plaid law, with 100% barley. Although the 4% here doesn’t make Old Dominic’s taste like even remotely like scotch. The barley, for my money, is just a little more interesting than wheat.

I’m a fan of Old Dominic’s No. 10 Gin, and now I’m a fan of this high-rye. Huling Station Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a big bourbon flavor with creamy vanilla and caramel carried on that peppery rye spice. There are hints in the nose that makes me think of my great Uncle Bill’s dark cherry pipe tobacco. It may be my personal baggage, but its sure as hell pleasant baggage. It’s winds up with a clean, almost graham cracker, finish. It’s 100 proof, but not too hot to drink neat – or if you are an actual human, with a splash or a cube.

The price point is great at about $38, so that it doesn’t feel like a sacrilege to make a cocktail out of it. The tuned down sweet and turned up spice finish makes an excellent Old Fashioned, by the way. In rougher environs, it’s a great belly warmer at the hunt club after a wet, cold day.

It puts a fella – this fella, at any rate – in the mind of William Faulkner. Its fall, time to re-read Go Down Moses and hope that I understand it this time. Although, from what I know about the man he, like my undergraduate nephews, was more worried about quantity that quality. Again, with the right price point, you can get both.


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