Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to the first ever Jackson + Rye “Flight Night” of rye tasting with my mate Stefan. After my initial confusion over what Rye tasting was (whiskey not bread), I was excited to put my tastebuds to the test on some of the best American whiskey on the market.
Aside from the odd 4am glass after a night out with my flatmate at uni, someone buying an extravagant/frivolous round at the bar, or in a cocktail, I must say I’ve not had a lot of whiskey in my life. I tend to opt for rum in its many forms and even did a great rum tasting at Rudie’s in Dalston last year and tried a selection of Caribbean blends!
Little did I know, whiskey or whisky can also come in a variety of types all dictated by the grain content of the final product and how it is made – malt, grain, blended, corn etc.
Rye whiskey, as the name suggests, needs to be at least 50% rye. On Flight Night we were also treated to some bourbons and single malts too – a nice treat to be able to try a broad range. A whiskey flight is a number of different selected whiskeys served in small pours to allow you to sample them. Jackson + Rye will be offering Flight samples at all of their restaurants every Wednesday.
Jackson + Rye in The City is fairly new and only opened about three months ago on the site of an old bank. It offered a large space in the upstairs for our tasting and also has a dining and bar area. I can imagine G4S or Securicor doing their rounds here, lugging crates of cash out of a vault! We were also treated to some great nibbles including sliders, ribs, mini-tacos, corndogs and chocolate brownies.
We were introduced to the night by Ben Matthews who is the Operations Director at Jackson + Rye. He had a real appreciation for whiskey and with rye in the name of the restaurant it is literally at the heart of the business. I’d seen Jackson + Rye before with one just down the road by the river in Richmond but had previously thought it was just the name of two Americans.
Taking us through the rye on the night and giving us a run-down on each was James Goggin, a bubbly Irishman and a real whiskey enthusiast.
We were trying whiskeys that are all available at Jackson + Rye and each of the three “flights” consisted of three very different whiskeys but with a similar theme or style in the tasting groups. It was explained that each one was unique and they were not product placed by brands or chosen as whiskeys that needed marketing or promotion to boost sales. This meant that there were some cool smaller brands on the flight too!
Jackson + Rye are really trying to push whiskey more as it is part of its origin. Whiskey is apparently something you can have with all the meals that they serve and dinner should be fun so a flight with food is a good thing. It was explained how to drink whiskey – adding room temperature water is usually seen as okay after first tasting if you feel it’s needed. Adding ice, however, is frowned upon! “Look. Nose. Taste”. Away we went…
Flight 1 – The Wryeht Brothers Flight (an obvious aviation pun based on the first men to invent and then fly an aeroplane – Orville and Wilbur Wright)
– Ezra Brooks
The house Rye for Jackson + Rye. Described as easy-going, approachable and easy to mix (sounding quite like a female)
I really liked this rye – fruity and quite sweet apparently due to the casks it was in being charred a lot – it was a great one to start on.
– Copper Fox
– Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey
Flight 2 – For the Love of Rye (these were high ryes over 70% rye and up to 95%)
– Bulleit Rye
This and Rittenhouse are known as two of the most popular brands in the UK and this specific one was over 90% rye.
– Few Rye
Was 58.7% alcohol. There is no water added to this one but apparently it’s fermented using a red wine yeast for the spice and fruity flavours.
I enjoyed the caramel smell as well as the fact that it didn’t linger in the throat too long for a strong whiskey – which was welcome.
The bottle to James’ surprise was one that he had actually bottled himself in Chicago!
– High West Rendezvous Rye
Flight 3 – Many Faces of America (this was the experimental flight for us including the Bourbons and American single malts)
– Makers Mark
One I’d heard of before and a favourite of my old boss.
– Sonoma Rye
Was definitely one of my favourite smelling whiskeys of the night! It was made in California at the up and coming Sonoma County Distilling Co with 100% rye.
It has a real fruity taste with a herby, Christmas tree smell.
At nearly 50% alcohol it was the second strongest of the night. but had a taste that didn’t linger on the tongue.
– Balcones single malt
Usually single malts are Scottish but this one is from Texas and was aged for 2-3 years using malted barley imported from Scotland.
It gets aged like tequila and rum do due to the almost tropical temperatures with the wood expanding and contracting all day. With Scottish single malts you may get the wood changing shape once a year if there is a good summer!
Most American single malts use at least 51% malted barley but this one was the real deal with 100%.
The fourth flight on the list at Jackson + Rye that we didn’t taste was The Spirit of America – made up of three traditional bourbons.
As I tweeted, the night really was a great journey, you can check other people’s experiences on #flightnight. When I asked Rye Expert James about his favourite whiskey he said it was like a pair of shoes with different ones for different occasions or times of the day – which I really liked as an analogy.
Don Mclean – American Pie
So bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die
It appears whiskey isn’t just for the old boys now… Wednesday Flight Nights are at Jackson +Rye every Wednesday with three shots of rye for under a tenner!