It all started at a craft spirits conference in late 2015, during that hour when all of the best work gets done at a conference: the late-night, after-hours drinking session.
It seems that at a particular table, a group of New York State craft distillers had gathered and the conversation turned towards the state’s nascent craft whiskey industry. According to Tom Potter, founder of New York Distilling Company, a group of them “shook hands, and decided to do something” to differentiate and protect those distillers using local products and high-quality craft production methods.
Not long after, the Empire Rye Whiskey Association was born. According to their website, the association intends to be “an homage to New York State’s pre-Prohibition rye whiskey-making heritage and a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of its contemporary distillers.”
The standards for a whiskey to be labeled as an “Empire Rye” include the following:
- The mash bill must include a minimum of 75% New York State-grown rye grain (which may be any combination of raw or malted)
- It must be distilled to no higher than 160 proof
- It must be aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels—and placed into the barrel at no more than 115 proof
- It must be produced entirely at a single New York State distillery—including mashing, fermentation, distillation, and barrel maturation—and made (excepting maturation time) in a single distilling season (January 1 through June 30 for the spring season, or July 1 through December 31 for the fall season)
- Products so produced may display the “Empire Rye” logo on the bottle.
- A product made from the Empire Rye whiskeys of more than one NY distiller may be created and labeled as “Blended Empire Rye”
Empire Rye is not a protected geographical indication, nor is it defined by state or federal law—for now, it remains a trademark and certification mark used by members of the Empire Rye Whiskey Association. But who knows what the future may bring? This is some tasty whiskey.
Examples of Empire Rye are widely available up and down the east coast of the USA. I was also able to locate three examples on retail shelves in central Texas (each bottle I found was priced in the $40 to $50 range). For those in other locations, online retailers or a trip to New York might be your best bet.
Members (and whiskeys) of the Empire Rye Whiskey Association (as of October 2017) include:
- Black Button Distilling – Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey
- Coppersea Distilling – Bonticou Crag Straight Malt Rye
- Finger Lakes Distilling – McKenzie Single Barrel Rye Whiskey
- Kings County Distillery – Straight Rye Whiskey
- Taconic Distillery – Founder’s Rye
Tulhilltown Spirits – Manhattan Rye Whiskey
- Van Brunt Stillhouse – Van Brunt Stillhouse Rye Whiskey
- Yankee Distillers – Yankee Rye Whiskey
References/for more information:
Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator
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