What goes around comes back around.  What once was new became old and then it became new again.  That can actually be said of practically everything and anything; food and fashion come foremost to mind.  I guess the old saying about history repeating itself is more than true.  And that goes for Rye Whiskey and Moonshine as well.

I believe the heyday of Rye was back in the early 1900’s through the 40’s while moonshine was most popular during the years of prohibition, 1920-1933.  Well guess what, they’re back with a vengeance and being distilled by more companies than ever before. Why in just the past few weeks I’ve come across 2 new moonshines or as they are legally called, white whiskey.

According to the United States government, rye whiskey sold in the United States must meet these requirements: it must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% rye, aged in new charred-oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV), entered into the barrel for aging at a proof no higher than 125 (62.5% ABV) and finally bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV). Besides all that you just can’t make a proper Old Fashioned, Boulevard, Sazerac or Manhattan without rye.  I especially like the Sazerac as it’s made with Rye and Absinthe, what could possibly go wrong with that combination!!

Fog's End Distillery Monterey Rye_300 (2)

The Fog’s End Monterey Rye is pale golden in color and the bottle indicates that it is 90 proof.  Wow, right in the bottle the aroma of rye is most potent and quickly followed by toffee and vanilla.  In the glass the rye settles down and mixes nicely with the vanilla and toffee and then there is a hint of oak backing it all up.  Well it certainly has the spiciness and pepper on the palate of an American whiskey.  The rye along with an overall taste of grain comes to the front accompanied by a good degree of sweetness.  The vanilla and toffee take a back seat.  It is almost rum like in that it is that sweet.  I still get a hint of the oak but it has receded even further.  The finish is peppery but pleasant and I am left with a very sweet taste of rye.  It’s light enough and interesting enough to be a standalone sipper.  On the rocks with Ginger Ale, it settles down into a really nice and flavorful mixer.  But I do believe that in a Sazerac the Rye and Absinthe becomes a match made in heaven.

Next up is California Moonshine from Fog’s End Distillery, made right on the left coast as they like to put it.  Of course, it is water clear and is 100 proof.  They’re not kidding around here.  Surprisingly, right out of the bottle, I don’t get a huge whiff of alcohol just grain and sugar.  In the glass, and only after a few deep inhalations, I get the spice note I was expecting but not the alcohol.  On the palate the spice note is dominant but not overbearing and followed by well balanced sweet grain.  The finish is spicy but not overly and the entire experience is well, unexpected. After all this is moonshine!  There should be some pain involved if not downright agony.  Dare I say it but this may be the most civilized moonshine I have ever tasted.  WTF!  This ain’t no white lightning although it does come in a screw cap bottle.  Straight up it’s not quite a sipper but on the rocks it becomes downright friendly.  If you’ve never tried moonshine before, this just might make a hell of a nice introduction to the category.  If you’re a good old boy from the backwoods of Tennessee you might confuse it with momma’s milk, either way it’s not all that bad but it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Both Monterey Rye and California Moonshine in 750 ML bottles are around $29.99.

By George Brozowski