I was originally going to write “A Ranking of Ryes, Round 2,” but based on the feedback from the first installment, I decided to write about what you were really interested in: my stove!
If generations of Irish writers have taught the world anything, it’s that you write better with a glass of whiskey on the desk, so I think I’ll try Sazerac Rye while I’m writing about my stove. It smells like Whiskey, along with gunsmoke and FP-10. BRB, washing hands. Trying again, the only really notable thing is the aroma of char, which isn’t that notable at all. Pretty generic actually. It tastes rather generic, but good. Quite lovely actually. An initial “you’re drinking rye,” followed by lingering honey and vanilla flavors. Nothing that you won’t find in a hojillion other wood-aged spirits, but still delicious. If it behaves like I think it will upon opening up, I’ll probably prefer it neat. Yep. Exactly as predicted. Dropping it from 90 to 80 is textbook. This would make a really good teaching whiskey if you were going to have a tasting, since there’s absolutely nothing original about this, but you can use it to explain how typical whisky responds to changes so people know what you’re talking about. And most importantly, it’s tasty.
The stove was an upgrade from the builder’s appliance package. It’s the only upgrade I made, because I didn’t really have an opinion on things like the dishwasher. Also, for some stupid reason, the default stove was electric, which makes no frigging sense at all in a house that has gas heat and water heating. He charged me $20 for a gas outlet in the kitchen.
Here is the cooktop in it’s default state. It does come with what I guess is supposed to be a griddle. It’s removable, and needs to be if you want to use any of the four main burners. If you look at it, it’s got a little gutter for draining and catching grease if you were frying sausage on it or something, but I’ve never even attempted to use it. It’s aluminum, so it would likely have a problem with hot spots, and it’s very narrow, especially for the burners. Let’s talk about the burners:
When I was doing my online research, this listed five burners: one large, one extra-large, two medium, and one small. Maybe there is something to that underneath in the actual gas outlets, but these burners are of only three sizes, labeled “XL” “M” and “S.” And frankly, they kind of suck.
During that part of the writing, I emptied my glass. While that was tasty, I think I’ll try something different to keep the creative juices flowing as it were. Few Rye, from Evan’s old home town. This one you can smell from two feet away. It has an ashy, dandelion smell that I typically associate with tequilas underneath whiskey. Now I wonder if it’s going to have that funk that’s present in agave and cane spirits too. The answer thankfully is no. What it does have in a really bright, extremely sweet initial taste. Even though it’s a bit darker in color, I’m not tasting as much Maillard products as I’d expect. Instead it has a very direct light, crystalline front with a very long finish. Nothing about this is overwhelming (in the sense of being gaudy) like the Bulleit or Rittenhouse were. But very good. This one is making me happy. I don’t want to dilute this, but I need to to be fair. Wow. Ok, now it’s a lot more aggressive, a lot more spice, a lot more toasty, just a lot more. A different beast altogether, since it loses that sugary hit that was present in the 93 proof sip. I’m not sure which one I prefer, but I guess this adds to its value since you’re basically getting two different drinks in the same bottle.
So why do those burners suck? Well mainly because of how they’re designed. They’re round, and the heat intensity is controlled by how much gas is glowing through them. Because the jets are horizontal, your heat is is a ring, and the size of that ring increases as the gas flow does. What that means for me is that unless I’m using a 10″ pan or larger, I can only use my front burners on the very lowest settings or I’ll a) waste heat by sending it up the side of the pan and b) scorch the everliving fuck out of anything with a polymer or wood handle. I’m just one guy. 8″ skillets would be great for me, and my saucepans are all 8″ or smaller. Someday, after I am satisfied with my firearms collection I’l get a stove with controllable concentric banks of star-shaped burners.
What about the oven?
New subject, new drinky. Knob Creek. It’s very proud of itself, with a fancy-schmancy wax seal and a little “gold medal world’s best rye” symbol on it. Remember how all spirits used to list all the medals they won, no matter how mediocre the brand? Like Smirnoff had five world gold medals or something. That seems to have fallen out of fashion in the spirit-labelling world. Anyway, this stuff is 100 proof, so there’s definitely going to be some differences in tasting conditions here. It’s unusually dark, and the nose is… threatening. Not harsh, not particuarly intense, just… too quiet. I know there’s a lot of stuff here, but it’s staying hidden. Let’s see if we can find it. Remarkable. Not even remotely harsh (and 100 proof!) with an extremely long consistent taste. Again, there’s nothing particularly unique here rye-wise, but it’s all so well done. Like if you took the Sazerac above, put it on a workout regimen with a professional trainer, had a Saville Row tailor make him a suit, and had a top-notch esthetician do his hair. This is giving me the opposite problem from the Bulleit in the first round: even though this may be the absolute best rye-qua-rye I’ve tried, do I deduct points for it being so perfectly typical? Of course that’s all at 100 proof. At 80 it should be a completely different tipple. Let’s try. Well unlike most, bringing this to 80 didn’t cause an explosion in the nose. Different yes, but not terribly strong. *sips* Oh my. Usually the taste change when diluting whiskey is referred to as “opening up,” and that’s a good metaphor especially for those people like myself that synesthesize and taste shapes. This doesn’t so much open up as unfold. It doesn’t lose the experience of the neat drink, but it adds to it — it’s like you’re having sex while watching a recording of you having sex with the same person previously AND having a live feed from some cameras giving you different angles of you having sex in real time. They may not have been bullshitting with their “world’s best rye” claim. But this is not flashy at all. It’s more of a BMW M series rather than a Lambo.
So about the oven. It’s an oven. It’s a space that gets hot. I don’t do a lot of baking, but I do a lot of roasting of vegetables. I always run it in convection mode in order to prevent hot spots, but it doesn’t speed thing up as is claimed. The set temperature matches the oven thermometer’s reading, so I guess it’s right.
Redemption Rye. On the nose it’s like a bourbon. In the mouth, it’s a delicious rye whiskey. But not in the top half of the ones I’ve had tonight. It’s better at 80 proof than 92.
Winner of round 2: Knob Creek Rye.
So far, these can be divided into four categories:
Not recommended – Jim Beam
Ryes that are ryes if you like rye and want rye – Sazerac, Redemption, Old Overholt
Ryes that have their own wrinkle – Few, Bulleit
Special Ryes – Knob Creek and Rittenhouse Bottled-In-Bond.