Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey from Heaven Hill Distilleries comes in two versions;Rittenhouse Rye won the 2006 North American Whiskey of the Year competition in San Francisco, where it was unanimously awarded the gold medal by all judges in a blind tasting. It was also named "Whiskey of the Year" for 2005 by Wine & Spirits Magazine.
Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond is different from Old Overholt—a Rye that I quite like—right from the aroma. It's both more citrusy and more "Rye" like than Old Overholt. I realize Rye experts are now laughing themselves sick about now, but I don't really know how else to describe the difference. Yes, it's 100 proof versus 80 proof, but the flavor and aroma are just "more." I think the sweet-sour nature of Rye is just more apparent here. There's an underlying mellow sweetness, vaguely reminiscent of brown sugar or caramel—in all honesty, something is reminding me a little bit of kettle corn, with the peppery quality I associate with Rye. The "Bottled in Bond" designation means that the rye has been aged at least four years in barrel, it is bottled at 100 proof, and it is the product of a single distillery, from a single season and year. Heaven Hills has also issued special releases of single-barrel 21 year old Rye in 2006, and 23 year old Rye in 2007, though you have to be very lucky indeed to find them. I found one retailer offer the 23 year old single-barrel Rittenhouse Rye for $399.90.
Rittenhouse Rye, still, proudly describes itself as "made in the "classic Pennsylvania or Monongahela" style, a reference to the prominence of Rye Whiskey distilleries along the banks of Pennsylvania's Monongahela river, where Ulster Scots settlers quickly planted Rye and then almost as quickly turned their hands to distilling it into Whiskey. It is precisely this Rye that Melville immortalizes in chapter 84 of Moby Dick, when Stubbs has successfully harpooned a whale: "'That drove the spigot out of him!' cried Stubb. ' 'Tis July's immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine today! Would now, it were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable old Monongahela!' "
In short, I'm rapidly beginning to favor Rye over even Makers single-barrel small-batch Bourbon, both on the rocks and as a the foundation of Rye cocktails, and quite frankly, this Rittenhouse which was priced pretty close to that of my previous favored Rye, Old Overholt, is looking to supplant Old Overholt in my affections.