Taste | Ryes of Europe

European distillers are taking a walk on the spicy side
By Jason Thomson
When you think of rye whiskey, you think of North America. The two are entwined by history and lore, and it’s hard to imagine sipping a glass of rye without musing on its traditional homeland. This whiskey love affair is a ballad for the ages but, as with most things in life, it wasn’t always wrapped up in rose-tinted memories and romanticism. It started as many of these things do: through necessity.

In the early 19th century, rye was the American grain. Thought to have been heavily planted by European settlers making their home in the new world, it was the ideal frontier crop. Rye was hardy, simple to grow (in relative terms) and helped fill empty bellies on a relatively small yield. The 19th century was also a time where farmhouse stills were numbered in the tens of thousands across the US and, as always, people would turn to what they have when looking to distil a spirit. The early passions for rye whiskey only grew and it wasn’t long before it was the de facto spirit of North America. But, like all great love stories, it couldn’t be all plain sailing.

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