I’m undecided what the “I’m from Pennsylvania” equal of David Allan Coe’s “I’m a long-haired redneck rock-n-roll son of the South” is … however I’m that man. Raised in Amish nation, lived in Pittsburgh and the Philly burbs, and now I’m settled subsequent to a cornfield, about 10 miles from the geographical middle of the state. I eat Lebanon baloney. I consider within the climate predictions of groundhogs and woolly bear caterpillars. I understand how to pronounce “Susquehanna,” “Schuylkill,” and “Kishacoquillas.”
However I got here to 1 Pennsylvania factor late: I didn’t drink rye whiskey till I used to be 37. I’ve been attempting to catch up ever since. Truthfully, I hadn’t even recognized that rye was linked to Pennsylvania at the moment, in all probability as a result of I used to be from the jap a part of the state.
Monongahela rye … constructed a popularity giant sufficient to be talked about in Melville’s Moby-Dick in 1851.
Rye whiskey was distilled up and down America’s jap seaboard within the 1700s; George Washington made it at his Mount Vernon distillery. However it stood up and roared out within the valley of the Monongahela River. Monongahela rye—made by Overholt, Giant, Dillinger, Sam Thompson, Gibson, and the uniquely euphonious Guckenheimer distillery—constructed a popularity giant sufficient to be talked about in Melville’s Moby-Dick in 1851.
Earlier than the autumn of Prohibition, Pennsylvania rye was well-known, and iconic. It didn’t recuperate from Prohibition till very just lately. Now that its revival is lastly occurring, it’s a touchstone for immediately’s Pennsylvania distillers, who would like to burnish their manufacturers with that renewed glory.
Drawback is … nobody’s fairly certain what made Monongahela rye so distinctive. There are issues in the way in which it was made that set it aside from Maryland rye and Kentucky bourbon. The rye was principally from Pennsylvania, they usually grew strains of rye we don’t use a lot immediately: Rosen, Danko, Abruzzi. There was little or no corn in lots of their recipes, and infrequently some malted rye to go together with the malted barley. They used a candy mash, not the Kentucky-style bitter mash.
Distillers used a kind of nonetheless, known as the three-chamber nonetheless, that extracted extra taste from the grain than column stills and faster than pot stills. Warehouses have been usually brick or stone, and heated via the winter, which might gently change and speed up the getting older. However none of these items have been completed by all of the distillers. Some did … and a few didn’t. It’s very arduous to middle in on even a set of variations and say, “Okay, that is what made Monongahela rye totally different.” I do know as a result of I’m sitting on a distillers’ committee that’s attempting to try this proper now, and it’s not simple!
It might be rather a lot simpler if these old-time distillers had left behind some form of rule or definition. However they weren’t making guidelines; they have been too busy making whiskey.
It might be rather a lot simpler if these old-time distillers had left behind some form of rule or definition. However they weren’t making guidelines; they have been too busy making whiskey. It’s as much as us to do one thing with that Pennsylvania rye popularity to honor them, and the spirit they made.
What to do? Go searching at rye whiskey immediately. Heritage manufacturers like Outdated Overholt and Rittenhouse are regaining stature. A 95 p.c rye whiskey from the previous Seagram’s distillery in Indiana is mixed and completed in different barrels for bottlers beneath quite a lot of names, and craft distillers run in each route with rye. European distillers are making distinctive new rye whiskeys. Selection reigns!
Pennsylvania distillers ought to take that checklist of traits, decide those they like, and make their very own Monongahela-like rye. Age it to the place it’s scrumptious, heated warehouses or not, and bottle it. Then, you and I’ll open it up and luxuriate in it, collectively, the way in which Abe Overholt and Sam Thompson and Samuel Dillinger meant. Whether or not we’re in Pennsylvania or not.