Arnett: Many rye whiskeys ‘one-dimensional’

12th January, 2017 by Kristiane Sherry

Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett has claimed many rye-based American whiskeys available today are “one-dimensional” with the industry failing to embrace the historic variance of the sub-category.

Jeff Arnett Jack Daniels

Jeff Arnett, master distiller for Jack Daniels

Speaking to The Spirits Business in December, Arnett said most consumers know ryes as big, spicy whiskey expressions that, as such, are limited in their appeal.

“The nature of a lot of ryes out there literally limit them to cocktails only because a lot of them are one-dimensional, they’re monolithic, but harsh and edgy. They’re best suited to have a sweetener of bitter added to them to kind of polish off their edges.”

Fellow Brown-Forman master distiller Chris Morris, who works with Woodford Reserve, agrees. He launched a rye two years ago, based on historic rye recipes. “I was so excited and then so disappointed when bartenders were saying ‘it’s not 95% rye’, ‘it’s not 100% rye,” he told The Spirits Business. “This [current] wave of ryes whiskeys has reset the expectation.”

Both argued there needs to be more consumer awareness of the flavour spectrum that rye-based whiskeys can offer beyond the big spice notes.

Jack Daniel’s released Single Barrel Rye in February 2016, the brand’s first new grain recipe since before Prohibition. Woodford Reserve added a permanent Kentucky straight rye whiskey to its portfolio in January 2015.

For more on American whiskey and the rise of rye, see the January 2017 print edition of The Spirits Business.

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