What is Straight Rye Whiskey?
The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey is the first Australian whiskey that is legally labelled as ‘Straight’, due to the strict distillation and maturation process required and is typical of American whiskeys.
Labelling an American style whiskey as ‘straight’ is not only an indicator of potential quality, it also stipulates certain minimum qualifications. Let us uncover what that actually means.
To understand what straight rye whiskey is, we first need to define American rye whiskey. The legal definition according to The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau of the USA is:
“Whisky produced at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent rye and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.”
Thus, to be classified as ‘rye whiskey’ it must have 51% or more rye grain in the mash bill. The regulations do not stipulate whether the rye has to be unmalted or malted, so we chose to use unmalted rye grain at The Gospel due to it’s dry, earthy flavour and deeper connection to the earth.
The definition is similar for all other major American whiskey types including bourbon (51% corn) and wheat whiskey (51% wheat) - the base grain being the primary difference which results in distinct flavour profiles. Rye has a spicy and peppery quality that is somewhat dry on the pallet when compared to other grains such as corn which is noticeably sweeter.
Straight Rye Whiskey is a subcategory under the above broad definition, requiring rye whiskey to also be aged in new, charred oak for at least two years. It also can’t include any additives in terms of flavour or caramel colouring. After maturation, you’re only legally allowed to: blend a barrel of straight rye whiskey with other barrels of straight rye whiskey; particulate and/or chill-filter; and bring it down to proof using water. These post-maturation steps are optional.
“Whiskies produced from a fermented mash of more than 51 percent of any one type of grain, and stored for a period of 2 years or more in charred new oak containers may optionally be designated merely as ‘straight whisky’. No other whiskies may be designated ‘straight’.”
Where did the legal term originate? According to bourbon historian Michael Veach, the original legal definition for straight whiskey in the United States came under President William Howard Taft in 1909. The Taft Decision built upon the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 in an effort to protect consumers from adulterated whiskey. Only one modification was made to the definition when in 1938 it became an added requirement for the whiskey to also be aged in new, charred barrels.
What about The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey?
Our Straight Rye Whiskey meets the above legal requirements, with new make spirit going into heavily toasted new American oak barrels at 62.5% and aged for a minimum of 2 years in Melbourne. Our high-quality barrels are sourced from a cooperage in Kentucky, USA, who obtain the oak from a single forest. They are heavily toasted with varying char levels – a formula we developed after years of trialling different combinations – resulting in a medium bodied whiskey that perfectly balances the rye spice and vanilla oak influence.
Our Straight Rye Whiskey is made using single-sourced 100% unmalted rye grain and Melbourne’s dynamic climate to produce a unique rye whiskey unlike any other. It embodies the bold and rich characteristics of traditional American rye whiskey while having a nuance that is distinctly Australian. It is full of flavour and spice - a deep and complex whiskey that is perfect on the rocks, or in old-school whiskey-forward cocktails.
Curious to try our Straight Rye Whiskey? Buy here.