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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff
Friday, 02 March 2012 18:25

Cowboy Whiskey… Gimme a Shot of Rye

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It is Livestock Show and Rodeo time in Houston and that means it is "cowboy" time.  Seeing all the hats, boots, big belt buckles and slightly too tight jeans (which can be a good or bad or bad thing depending on the wearer) got me thinking about the link between cowboy culture and whiskey and that is of course specifically rye whiskey. 

Many cowboy movies contain the iconic scene of cowboy walking through the saloon doors (often the music stops and the locals turn and stare at the stranger), striding up to bar with his spurs jangling and ordering a whiskey.  The timid and nervous looking barman (always in a bowtie for some reason) pulls a cork out of a bottle, pours a shot and the hero throws it back, stamps his foot, pulls a face then orders another or says " ...leave the bottle".  In many cases that same bottle is smashed over the head of Bad- Breath Pete (that's a good name for independent Islay bottling) later in the scene.   In the cowboy-comedy-cartoon version the drinker's hat flies off, steam comes out of his ears and the barman then makes a comment about it being "the good stuff".   You never see the cowboy comment to the barman about the nose and making some notes in his leather bound whiskey journal.   The overall impression you are left with is that rye whiskey is stuff to get down as quick as possible and is about getting drunk and quite often leads to a gun fight.  In the politically incorrect movies the local tribes were always keen to drink the white man's "fire water".  That name is not exactly positive either and would have the marketing guys today reaching for their six guns (or at least their iPhones).

Then I tried Sazerac Rye and that all changed.  The standard Sazerac rye is good.  It is cotton picking, rooting tooting good.    I have also now tasted and reviewed the Sazerac 18 year old, Thomas H Handy and Pappy Van Winkle rye whiskies and find they are also as complex, rich and rewarding as any single malt.  I can't recommend them enough (other than the fact they are hard to find and not cheap) and as yet since I started drinking ryes I have not been involved in single gun fight and considering I live in Houston, Texas that is not something you can actually rule out.  So my advice is if you also have the image of rye whisky as the cowboy whiskey, you need to go to your local store or favorite online retailer and order a bottle of Sazerac.  You can thank me later pardner or to paraphrase John Wayne... "Get off your horse and drink your whiskey".

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