Lovers of a true, and intense, rye whiskey will rejoice at the upcoming release of Coalition Whiskey’s 100 percent rye finished in Bordeaux wine barrels. And there’s good reason to rejoice: In the U.S., the majority of rye whiskies aren’t made with anything close to a 100 percent rye. To be called a rye whiskey, the spirit must simply be made with only 51 percent rye, with other ingredients including corn, malted barley, and wheat added to the bill. That’s pretty much it—a rye can be distilled anywhere in the country and doesn’t need to be aged at all, though typically decent ryes are aged in charred oak barrels for around two years.
A rarity in the U.S., high-rye styles like Coalition’s new spirit are not only being made from 100 percent rye (where no other grains are introduced), they’re also produced with pre-Prohibition techniques like zero automation and distilled in an all-copper pot. From there the distiller steps up by finishing the rye for up to nine months in Margaux, Pauillac, and Sauternes wine barrels, producing whiskies at 90.8, 92.6, and 94.2 proof, respectively. The extra attention and addition of smooth French wine notes makes for a spirit with a fiery flavor that’s fuller and richer than your standard rye concoction.
These ryes are based off of Coalition’s Barrel Proof rye, which comes in at 108.8 proof and is aged from four to five years in oak barrels. “Our goal with Coalition Whiskey is to coax even more flavor out of our 100 percent rye whiskey,” said Coalition co-owner Lenoid Yangarber, the former CEO of Russian Standard Vodka USA. “We [used] our deep wine knowledge to pick just the perfect Bordeaux wine barrels to gently enhance the handcrafted whiskey.”
Adds partner Ludwig Vanneron, veteran wine maker: “It took the inspection of nearly 150 barrels just to find the perfect 25 we are using to finish our rye whiskey. You have to first start with the best, most voluptuous wines from the finest chateaus in all of France to get the best possible barrels.”
And the third person involved in the “coalition” in Coalition Straight Rye Whiskey, Steve Thompson, owner of the Kentucky Artisan Distillery where the liquor is made, says that “it’s a more expensive way to go, but there was truly no other way to create that truly deep, rich and spicy flavor we knew would be the ideal match for our velvety Bordeaux wine barrel finishing.”
The 100 percent rye whiskies will be available at the end of January, with the wine barrel-finished spirits retailing at $90 a bottle, while the Barrel Proof base version will be $130. All of the ryes will come in a crystal-cut, decanter-inspired glass bottle with art deco accents and are are available now for preorder.
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