Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I made some rye. Correction, I barrel aged some rye spirit. I named it The Rye Storm. Over the past six months, I've been indulging in this experiment in the background, far from the daily routine.
Here's a video I threw together of that recaps some of the post below:
My brother-in-law, Andrew, and his wife, Leslie, bought me a two-liter pre-charred barrel for Hanukkah last December. (Thank you, guys!!!!) Within minutes of holding the barrel in my hands, I knew what I wanted to do with it: two things, equally important and intertwined. Aging rye spirit would be the first part.
I wanted to make sure the spirit I'd use had a very high rye mashbill, since that's the sort of stuff I like to drink. Having tried Corsair's Wry Moon (46% ABV) on a couple of previous occasions, I knew it was the only rye white dog that I liked on its own. Of course, for Wry Moon, Corsair uses malted rye rather than the unmalted rye utilized by most rye producers. That would definitely affect the flavor. They also use a tiny portion of Chocolate (or roasted) malted rye, which really does give the spirit a light cocoa note. This wasn't going to be a harmless comfy rye, it was going to be a little odd.
The barrel itself held some challenges. I didn't know what the char level was, which is a complication since that would directly affect the maturation and final product. Also, I wasn't sure how well coopered it was. In a related issue: Our condo stays very warm. During the day when no one's home (and the A/C isn't running) there isn't a cool spot in the entire joint. How much spirit would I lose to the angels?
Despite those quirks and despite the fact I'd never done this before, I went ahead and set lofty goals. I wanted to end up with something approximate to a three-year-old rye; some oak, but not too much oak. I still wanted the white dog to bark through his house. Since the barrel's surface area is so small, leading to a lot of spirit/oak contact, maturation would happen 5x-10x faster than a normal bourbon barrel -- so said the instructions. So, I thought it would take 3 to 4 months. I'd rotate the barrel every week, then taste it every four weeks. The Wry Moon bottles would work perfectly for bottling the result since they have a very tight cork.
On January 31, I filled the barrel with the Wry Moon. I was left a few ounces of the spirit from the third bottle that I could compare and contrast with the developing experiment. A dark corner was found where the barrel could be tucked away. I figured that after three or four months, there would still be 1.5 liters left, enough to fill two bottles. A 22% loss to the angels sounded like a comfortable overestimation to be safe.
From my notebook:
At 36 days - 12.5% of the volume has been lost. No color, remains very clear. No change on the nose. Slightly easier to drink, perhaps a wider variety of notes on the palate.
At 74 days - 24% of volume lost, less than 1400mL already. Color remains the same. Decision made to hold off on nosing and tasting for a couple weeks.
At 91 days (3 months) - 31.1% of volume lost. The spirit has begun to take on some color. The nose has been considerably softened. First hints of oak vanilla and honey. Big hot chocolate finish, a little more sugary on the palate. Sudden realization: The liquid is evaporating much faster than the alcohol, this is considerably hotter than the original 46% ABV.
At 122 days (4 months) - 42.2% of volume lost. Liquid evaporating more quickly as the weather gets warmer. Color looks good, like a light bourbon. Still spirity, but a little floral with some nice baking spices on the nose. The palate remains similar to before, though getting smoother and thicker. Adding water to sample didn't result in any changes. Realization: Will need to age as long as possible, but not so long that the rye will turn into a poisonous thimbleful.
At 164 days (about 5 1/2 months) - 61.5% of volume lost. Just enough to fill one bottle.
The Rye Storm has arisen. In the next post, I'll talk about the brown stuff in the bottle.