Ep. 73 - From Maryland Rye to New York Cocktail Culture to Navy Strength Gin

NEW YORK DISTILLING // Co-founder Allen Katz

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Show Notes

I jump into my discussion with New York Distilling's co-founder Allen Katz. Starting out in Baltimore, it's no surprise that Allen would find rye whiskey as his passion, but the surprise was - he went to New York City to start a distillery. But before then, he spent life as a bartender in the revitalized cocktail culture of New York. So today we'll talk rye whiskey, cocktails and even find out why the British used to have a different proofing system that we do in the US.

Items we'll discuss:

  • How a heist helped choose Allen's destiny
  • Bringing Maryland to New York City
  • Working with farmers and specific rye varietals
  • Does a cocktail need a complex rye?
  • The early days of the New York cocktail culture
  • The staple rye whiskies for any bartender
  • Differences in character between warehouses
  • Tasting Ragtime Rye
  • The winter hot toddy
  • The Empire Rye designation
  • The idea of an urban distillery in New York City
  • Getting help from others
  • Gin and New York's other Matthew Perry
  • Navy Strength gin's history and gunpowder
  • The basis for the old British proofing system
  • Tasting Ragtime Rye Bottled-in-Bond
  • The origins of Rock and Rye
  • Tasting the Single Barrel

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript is available on the tab above.

For more information:


Drew (00:00:09):
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, drew Hanish, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lores Travel Guide to Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon. And before I jump into this week's interview, I want to give all the fans who have been quietly anticipating a brand new season of whiskey lore stories. The good news you've been waiting for. Your time is now coming up. On Monday, we're going to jump from my guests telling their stories to me once again, taking the reins for an epic season six of whiskey lore stories. And of course, if you haven't listened to that show, what you need to know is that what I do is I do some research. I deep dive into stories, history and into the mysteries of whiskey. And in this case, it's going to be about Irish whiskey. Now, during this season, I'm going to be digging into all sorts of interesting stories, questions that have lingered in the air for a long time as to whether Ireland or Scotland could truly be called the inventor of whiskey.

I'm going to introduce you to an excise man turned inventor who's gotten a raw deal through the years in terms of what he brought to the Irish whiskey industry. I'm going to tell the story of something that he did to help improve the Irish whiskey industry. Also, we're going to find out how Irish whiskey got the reputation of being tripled distilled, where it earned the E and why Irish whiskey hit such hard times in the 1960s. In fact, so hard that a survey of American consumers confirmed that less than 50% of those surveyed knew that Ireland even made whiskey. Now, we're not only going to travel on a historical timeline, but we're also going to take a stop off into the 19th century when Irish whiskey was booming. And we're going to get to hear a little bit about each of the distilleries that were around during that time period.

But you're also going to get a chance to tag along with me on my own historic journey around the island of Ireland. And you're going to hear the stories and learn a whole lot more about where Irish whiskey is today and where it is headed to tomorrow. So make sure that you're subscribed to Whiskey Lore Stories, which is available wherever you download this very podcast. And now let's get out with this week's interview. Today I have as my guest, Alan Katz, who is the co-founder of New York Distilling Company in Brooklyn, and the adjacent cocktail bar called The Shanty, as well as being the Director of Spirits Education and mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits of New York. That's a lot <laugh>. Alan, you must stay busy. Welcome to the show.

Allen (00:02:59):
Thanks so much. It's great to be with you. I mean, when you love what you do,

Drew (00:03:04):

Allen (00:03:04):
It's not really work.

Drew (00:03:06):
Yeah, there you go. There you go. So we're going to get a little bit into your background. We'll talk about New York distilling rye whiskey, which I know you and I are both extremely interested in. Talk a little bit about cocktails, might even sneak some gin history in there or some history surrounding one of the names of your gins. And then also do a tasting of your three versions of Ragtime Rye. So if you're ready, we'll jump right in.

Allen (00:03:35):
I am indeed.

Drew (00:03:36):
All right, perfect. So interesting for me when I started out, now I'm doing whiskey podcasting with my music engineering degree. You actually had interest in music when you started out as well. Is that what brought you to New York City? It

Allen (00:03:57):
Really is. In large part, I was a music studies major. It's far enough in my history. I remember, I don't remember exactly what was the point of having a major, but it was really my great passions from childhood and they still are today are music and food and food culture. And I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. I had really as magnificent a childhood as I could imagine an American child having. I was very fortunate great family and a family of not extraordinary, but reasonable creativity just about life. And life would take us on tangents as it dolphin does. And for me, growing up with that sense of creativity, really self steered me toward an innate passion for music. And people say, what kind of music do you like? I said, well, good music is good music. But certainly when I was even four or five years old, I was drawn toward classical violin music.

Why I couldn't tell you. I was interested in popular music as well. I ended up becoming interested in jazz and certainly ragtime music and studied those instruments, particularly violin through my childhood. And I knew by the time I was 12 that I wanted to live in New York City. And there were a couple of good occasions somehow to be really truthful about it and not smirky. On two occasions, a family occasion and a school trip occasion, the vehicles were robbed. Now, no one was hurt, but I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. This is how real life is. And it just endeared me even as a kid to New York City even further. But even when I went to college et cetera, I said, well, I know that the day I graduate, I'm moving to New York City. And that's exactly what

Drew (00:06:05):
I did. That's fascinating because I mean, as when I was younger for some reason I got obsessed with Philadelphia and I don't know why. And I ended up moving to Philadelphia. Now in your case, you stayed In my case, I was gone after a year because <laugh>, coming outta the mountains of North Carolina to South Philly was quite the shock. But coming from Baltimore, did you live in Baltimore?

Allen (00:06:30):
I lived within the confines of Baltimore City. It had a somewhat suburban feel, but it had great access to Baltimore. I was the kind of goofy kid. I did get in trouble at school from time to time but it was mainly, and this is a true story, I would skip the afternoon classes, go to downtown Baltimore because Christopher Plumber was starring in Macbeth.

Drew (00:07:01):

Allen (00:07:02):
Well, how could I miss that? And I would go see that, and then I would come back and the principal would really lay into me. I remember it, it was yesterday, and I said, well, I know there's going to be a consequence here, but I just had to see this. So from time to time, stay in school kids, but from time to time, you just have to follow that and say, this might be once in a lifetime to see this person live and in the flesh. And I had just read Macbeth in high school for the first time, so I've gotta see how live human beings embody this play. But yeah, I came to New York and I'm now 30 years into that tenure.

Drew (00:07:45):
Well, it's interesting that you come from an area that is known historically for rye whiskey and that you are now involved in distilling rye whiskey. What first got you interested in rye?

Allen (00:07:59):
Well, it really is that specific link, to be honest. It is my personal heritage from Baltimore and the wonderful state of Maryland and my parents and our family would cook. We would cook together nothing fancy. Sometimes it was fresh vegetables and sometimes it was canned vegetables. But on holiday occasions, it seemed to me that those special moments were typically two days of cooking followed by two days of eating, and it was a lot of conviviality around the table. Not that I realized it at the time, but there was no rush. It was, well, of course we're all going to sit here together, not just the adults, but the kids who ranged in age, including cousins and friends. And it was a pleasure. And it was a little bit of a fantasy inducing moment of seeing how an occasion was put together in this time set for me in celebration of specific holidays.

So there was a purpose to it as well, but it was really about family at the table sharing these experiences and stories and catching up. And very honestly, there was always alcohol, and it might typically be wine, or in the summertime it might be steaming crabs in the backyard with cold beer. And in my regular <laugh> daily life, I would observe my parents and my grandmothers who I interacted with very intimately enjoying very rudimentary cocktails or simply a spirit on the rocks. And for my father, it was a daily occurrence for my mother and my grandmothers, it might have been once or twice a week. And so there were these elements at the bar. There was a little bar in my parents' home, and I didn't know anything about the spirits, but I was intrigued by it, mainly by their aroma, and probably by any kid who's ever seen the color of Campari and been fascinated to say, wow, that looks like candy.

And even if you just dip your little pinky finger in there and taste it and you think you're going to be turned off forever until you have your first Negroni or Boulevardier and say, well, that's pretty good. What happened to my taste buds over the course of 25 years? Absolutely. And the same thing happened for me, but for Ry, again, being just curious and in a mindset of not just observing but having a great appreciation for history, I knew a little bit about Marilyn's history of rye whiskey. My grandfather's business was building roof trusses on the outskirts of Baltimore and on the property where they had their rather large wood shop where I literally was playing in the sawdust with Tonka trucks. <laugh> was a six-story warehouse, and this warehouse was completely defunct. And my family would come from time to time, and we would take a walking tour of the warehouse and would, I could remember overhearing them, talk about maybe we could grow sprouts here or maybe we could grow mushrooms and sell them to chefs.

This was in the seventies and none of it ever came to fruition. But that warehouse was a whiskey warehouse for a rectifier in Maryland. And again, these things just sort of cropped up from time to time. And by the time I was 17, I was going to downtown Baltimore with my swanky grandmother, and we'd go to a bar, and that's really where I first had my first interaction with a Manhattan. And it was probably also a great affinity for the rye whiskey that I'd say I grew up with, which was Pikesville Rye. Okay, the white label Pikesville Rye, not the absolutely delicious over proof rye that Heaven Hill has now used that brand name to create a new product essentially. But I grew up loving this rye whiskey, and it was easy drinking. And I was like, I'll have a Manhattan. What do you, I'll have a Manhattan. And so my upbringing and link to Baltimore and Maryland. And then when I got into the alcohol industry and was able to take the time to learn even more about the history of rye in Maryland and Pennsylvania and West Virginia and other parts of the MidAtlantic, I was hooked. And it was an easy road for me to traverse out of interest and to not only be enveloped by it, but to develop other through lines for myself that had personal significance.

Drew (00:13:05):
So we'll get into the specifics of what you're doing at New York Distilling Company at this point, but in talking about New York rye, Pennsylvania, rye and Maryland rye Laura Fields and I got into a discussion over this and the idea that you use what grows in your area. So would you say that the main difference between New York rye and Maryland rye is that there was probably more corn in Maryland dry and probably not much at all in New York Rock?

Allen (00:13:40):
Well, from a historic sense that that's the case in a contemporary concept, it is working with what you have, but also manipulating it to where you think it's going to be the most interesting, the most useful. It was evident to me as I was probably twiddling my thumbs and doodling for several years about concepting a distillery that I wanted to make rye whiskey and I love bourbon and I love a range of styles of international whiskeys. But that if I was able to open a distillery that I wanted to focus on rye specifically. And part of that story I thought had to be about the agricultural link to New York state. And I had had a really wonderful experience for about a decade as a nonprofit volunteer essentially helming the board of directors of an organization called Slow Food. And it was through that experience that I was able to develop wonderful relationships. And most impactfully for me learning experiences about agriculture, the closest I get to real science is music theory.

In fact I'm reminded often that as I started embarking on the journey of opening a distillery with my partners I reengaged a relationship with my 10th grade chemistry teacher. And if there was a subject that I in any event came close to, let's say, not passing with flying colors, it was chemistry and how hilarious that I was going to get into this line of work that so astutely has chemistry as part of the process, and that is really quite vital to understanding what's happening in fermentation and distillation and frankly also in aging as well when you're barrel aging spirits. And so we rekindled this relationship and I made a special cocktail for his retirement party. He was on the verge of retiring as a wonderful high school chemistry teacher. But through these experiences that I'd had, I was able to interact with a few key people, and particularly in upstate New York and the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes and opportunistically take advantage of relationships that would hone me in on what we might be able to do in an interesting fashion from growing grains, the types of grains, the varieties of rye that we wanted to focus on, and what we thought we might want to derive from these grains ultimately to a finished whiskey.

And it was great in a collaborative way to say, Hey, we're not just branding people, we're not just distillers or blenders, but we really want to be able to take advantage of relationships with farmers and agronomists and scientists and say, let's make sure we understand what we're embarking on and what we're doing.

Drew (00:16:55):
Well, and this is one of the things that I'm really loving about rye whiskey is that we're in an era where everybody wants to claim terroir and they want to get a taste of this and the taste of, and I have had the opportunity to taste so many different types of rye. And even in Ireland now they're starting to work with rye and trying to incorporate rye in back into, because at one time they did use rye to a greater degree than they use it or have used it in the past. But one of the things that I really kind of look forward to is to get a rye that isn't one that we call a lot of the Kentucky rise the barely legal rise because they're really almost bourbon drinker rise, and there's so much corn in them that it can sort of pull away from the personality of the rye. And so with your work with these farmers, is your concept to try to, or did you go through a process of trying to find a rye variety that you could use, and then in terms of keeping your mash bills together, did you try to emphasize the rye in those mash bills? Well,

Allen (00:18:13):
Absolutely. I mean, that's the bottom line, and it's very simple to explain it in that fashion. We are absolutely focusing on the elements of the rye that we are growing, fermenting and distilling to dig deeper, so to speak. The elements from a scientific standpoint are what is the sugar concentration in the grain? One, two, what are the flavor profiles? And three, which I don't think is so esoteric, is a simple underlying, frankly unwritten desire to be purposefully different.

And again, I reference we're not trying to be esoteric. We don't wanna put something in someone's hands and say, well, can you figure out what to do with it? We want it to be accessible, but we also want to be unique. The worst thing I think you can ask, whether it's a distiller or a brand owner is, and I get to ask this all the time, is so what does your product taste like as if to infer, does it taste like something I'm already familiar with? And it doesn't typically come out of my mouth in audible range, but in my mind I'm thinking, well, why the hell would I make anything that tastes like someone else's

Drew (00:19:31):
Product? <laugh>,

Allen (00:19:32):
Right? That's not why we got into this. We're trying to add to the conversation. And that really is not only the starting point, but the through line of our work with our farming family. It's the Peterson Family Farm in the Finger Lakes region near Senneca Falls, New York. And if you're not familiar that's about a six hour drive north of New York City, so closer to the Canadian border than it is to New York City, of course. But those are the types of elements to say, and we don't live in a silo. What can we experiment with? What do other people use today? What grain varieties of rye are popular in the United States in Europe where really the history of rye probably begins in earnest and certainly having full awareness based on the rise I grew up with, if someone is perhaps not familiar with the origins of Pikesville rye for the last prior to heaven of the new brand, the wonderful over proof pikesville, it was sort of written House Jr.

It was a white label rye that was younger written house at 80 proof instead of bottled in bond. And again, they're all eminently drinkable, frankly, I would say they're really good whiskeys. But that perspective is set, as you said, by the Kentucky Rye range at 51, 50 2% mash bill. So that was the easy place to start. Well, we know we're going to be more than that. Can we go over the top into the nineties? We decided not to do that. <laugh>, where should we sit so that we're making a range of whiskeys that for us and specifically for my background, can hone in on a specialization in cocktails. They need not be complicated eight step cocktails, but Manhattan's old fashioned sours and then original creations all the way to sipping whiskeys so that in time you say that is a New York style rye, or even more so perhaps in the future. Yes, I recognize that as part of the New York distilling or rag time range of rye whiskeys because of certain hallmarks that they take years to achieve.

Drew (00:22:04):
Well, it's interesting too because you working with cocktails, my assumption with rye and cocktails was that you wanted something that would have a particular flavor profile for whatever drink you were making, but I never really dived that much into it. I'm an eat drinker. So I mean, if I'm going to sip it, I'm looking to see what is the personality, how drinkable is it, what's, how complex is it? And then I think about if you're going to put it into a cocktail, and this is my ignorance on cocktails if you take a somewhat complex rye and you put it into a cocktail is the cocktail maker wanting that complexity in awry or do they want something that just has a particular personality note that stands out?

Allen (00:23:01):
I would say I hope so, that they want that complexity. But the eye is in the glass of the drinker. And as a bartender and a hospitality pro professional and having probably the greatest privilege of my life was being in the right place at the right time, at the right age, also personally in New York City to experience this modern cocktail renaissance. In part, at its origins, New York City wasn't the only place, but it was certainly one of the zeitgeist moments and central geographies for the elements of cocktail culture to blossom and then be fostered from city and town, coast to coast and through other countries. And I lived in the East Village for 17 years, and I often like to reference New Year's Eve 1999 where by my estimation, there were the sum total of four cocktail bars in New York City. There were restaurants that served very good cocktails, but to me, there were four cocktail bars.

There was Angel Share, which just closed, which had a really unique Japanese influence As part of their cocktail program, there was the Rainbow Room, which at that time I had only visited once because it was well out of my price range. And this was the Midtown establishment that had been recreated as a cocktail program by Dale DeGraw, the king of cocktails in the United States. And even by the time 1999 rolled around, he was no longer there, but it was still under Dale's influence. And in things that sound very simple today, the advent of using fresh juice to create a sour style cocktail rather than artificial sour mix. Who wouldn't do that? Well at the time, artificial mix was ubiquitous, and this was in my mind, a 50 year arc to reclaim our taste buds food and drink as Americans. And I'll get to that. But the other two bars, which are really important one is called Passerby, which no longer exists, which was in the Chelsea West Village area of Manhattan.

And the last, which opened on New Year's Eve 1999, was a little speakeasy style cocktail bar called Milk and Honey and Milk and Honey was the spark that set off perhaps the international craze on American speakeasy style cocktail bars. And I was sort of in the middle of the downtown three and for several years could just take a walk, have a cocktail or two walk home in whatever condition. And that was really my reference point of origin to a lot of spirits, not just rye whiskey. And as bartenders we're looking backward and forth with near simultaneously, Hey, what were they drinking in the late 19th century? How could I create something new combined with this influx of amazing distilled spirits and modifiers that really had never had a platform in the United States and certainly not in generations. Again, as this arc takes place of an American reclamation of taste buds, that to me mirrors my lifespan.

Yeah, it's about 50 years. And while there are pockets of magnificent food culture, the general American food culture had been overrun by in part fast food or in part convenient food, whether it's taking cans at home or going to a fast food restaurant. And in 1971 in Berkeley, sheez Panis opened with a keen eye toward sourcing ingredients from local farmers. That became a movement in of itself. And to me that began interest in wine, wine and food pairing. Then you have the craft beer movement. Yes, spirits maybe are an underlying tone there, but the last little cultural element to me was cocktails. And it was in a reclamation of part authentic American gastronomy. For me, there's barbecue of the American South, close to my heart also <laugh> and cocktails. And that really is the start and finish for better or worse of our American contribution to international gastronomy.

Drew (00:27:58):
So we have bartending schools and all the rest these days. But back then, how did a bartender who wanted to expand that way learn their chops? I mean, you were right in the perfect spot for it, it seems.

Allen (00:28:13):
Yeah, without it being written or said, it was almost a guild system people would come and say, I'm really interested in this. Could I apprentice? May I this would be fantastic. And there was a need for people who were just going to come in and work hard and put in the time to taste,

Well, we have a Manhattan recipe. Let's just use that recipe. Actually we are going to taste a hundred variations. We're going to use a few different rise. We're going to use a few different going to split base. In other words, well, I like this attribute of one rye, but I'm trying to get this note and instead of just using one, we'll use part of one and part of another. Should it be 50 50, should it be 25 75? And this might take a week and we're just going to winnow this down and at the end of the week we'll have our house Manhattan. What will the bidders be? Will they be Angus store bidders? Will they be fee brothers, bidders? Will there be some German bidders that we've never had before, but maybe we could get them to send us a few bottles? And that really was a timestamp that was so instrumental, I think, to the culture of cocktails, but to the development of a core set of people. It's almost as if there's a few family trees of great bartenders of the last 20, 25 years and who they apprenticed for and who the mentors themselves apprent for or who got inspiration from. And in large part in America, that apex, that point person is Dale DeGraff, and then the tree grows down and out from there.

Drew (00:30:03):
So when you were putting together a bar with rye whiskeys did, what were your staples and what would be your reasoning for those staple rye whiskeys?

Allen (00:30:14):
Well, in part it's a great question. In part it was what's available, and if I go back to even a dozen years ago in New York City, we would run out of American rye whiskey three times a year. You just couldn't get it. And we would be hounding the suppliers, the manufacturers of these whiskeys, Hey, stop sending so much to London. We need in New York, we're going to build programs around your rye whiskey. And they would laugh

Drew (00:30:49):

Allen (00:30:50):
And we would implore them again. And finally it said, why are we selling all this rye whiskey in New York City? And again, at that time it was still a point of discovery of the past. And in large part that also informs my upbringing in cocktail and spirit's culture and interest. But the staples that were available were written house rye, bottled and bond from time to time, which I love was also wild Turkey rye at both proofs. Okay, SAAC rye and old Overholt, which at the time was only available at 80 proof. And occasionally you could find Jim Beam yellow label rye. And at the time we were opening the distillery in the shanty, there were increasing numbers of Ry, some from actual distilleries, some from purchased whiskey from M G P that was being bottled under brand names. And so Beam had started to come out with a range of Ry, some of which still exist under different brand names.

Victors certainly had come out with their rye whistle. Pig was in its early stages as being full force wonderful barrel selections primarily Canadian whiskey. And so it was exciting to say, wow, this conversation is going to expand how fast I didn't know. And it'd be such an international interest, as you said, whether from Ireland or Germany or Scandinavia that all have their own wonderful rye traditions. But I think at the core, all of us look at wow, look at the stark increase on a graph line of interest, purchase and consumption of American rye whiskey. And one of the other fun evidence is the number of craft rye whiskeys coming out of Canada over the last six, eight years as well is another sort of little key pushpin on the history map to say, okay, this is a cultural evolution as well that that's acknowledging not the significance for its own sake, but the versatility of the grain itself, that we can make so many styles of whiskey from this point of origin.

Drew (00:33:23):
So did you feel that when you were creating your own, that you wanted to first concentrate on maybe a profile that was missing in the cocktail world? Or were you looking at let's just see what the best rye whiskey flavor we can come up with is?

Allen (00:33:39):
It's really the latter. I could say it's my greatest attribute and hopefully not my failing, but it certainly can frustrate others is an extreme sense of patience. And we wanted to make our own whiskey. And it's sort of a fun way to put it is I would say to myself, I know what I'm doing, but I've never done it before and I was just going to take time. And in earnest when we started and those few rye whiskeys were available from paramount brands and distillers in Kentucky primarily. And there were just those few and they were straight rye whiskeys. And I thought, wow, we'll make a straight rye whiskey from a craft distillery. This is going to be fantastic.

We'll release it at two years. And two years comes around. And the truth is it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't anywhere near as good as we had hoped either. And so we had a little internal meeting and we're ringing our hands, well what did we tell the investors? We don't want to release the whiskey yet. And the line became, we're not losing the revenue, we are just deferring it <laugh> to next year or the year after. And the truth is, at three years old it was markedly different but we also felt the need to start recouping on the investment. So our first release of Ragtime Rye was in fact just straight up three year old whiskey. And increasingly, and we did have this foresight, at least we said, if we keep the commitment to continue to put whiskey down year to year, we will have enough stock to choose from to create our own profile, our own blend. And that's really where we are today. Where even though Ragtime Rye says three years on the bottle in earnest, it's a four, five and six year old

Drew (00:35:50):

Allen (00:35:51):
And we are blending to taste. It's not this many barrels of this and this many barrels of that and so forth and so on. It's we've been able to continue to self-educate and identify some key hallmarks that we love about a lot of our whiskey barrels. And if there are eight key hallmarks, if we can check off five or six, we give it the green light for a blend.

Drew (00:36:22):
So I always get excited to see what different types of flavors that I'm going to pull out of a rye whiskey and we'll jump right in and do the tasting on this one. Great. And you talk about the different ages that you're putting in there, and I understand you have three different warehouses in there and three different areas of the state do when you're pulling out whiskey for this blend, are you noticing characteristics that make up what this is that are more coming from one warehouse than another?

Allen (00:37:04):
I would say, I have to be honest, I hope so. <laugh> one

Drew (00:37:08):

Allen (00:37:09):
We're not there yet. And the truth is we call our Brooklyn facility a warehouse. It's a token number of barrels for us to continue to experiment with or do some specialty products with. Our primary warehouses are in the Hudson Valley region and the Finger Lakes region, we do pay attention to it, but we're really focused on aroma and taste. Okay more and it's correlation. I would also say to how many summers it's spent in the barrel, in other words, it's age, but we're really calculating it based on summers more so than where was it located?

Drew (00:37:52):

Allen (00:37:52):

Drew (00:37:53):
The thing I get out of this on the nose is the taffee comes across and I get a honey kind of, so there's an underlying sweetness here, but then the oak kind of comes in as well and says, Hey, I'm here. So you can sense some age on there, but it's really kind of the like a florally and lemon kind of ascent almost that I,

Allen (00:38:21):
So that gets the green check mark that is the nose hallmark. If I was the lemon is interesting for me, I typically equate, it doesn't mean it's in every blend, but more so than not in addition to honey, and I'm going to relate it to a specific honey. And as you said, and we've never discussed this before, just confirming that the link is a honey. My, I lived in Italy for a few years and encountered a honey that was called a thousand flowers. And it's not that we are injecting anything, but to me it's reminiscent of that specific Italianate honey that has that little bouquet that's not overpowering. It's just an ease on the nose. And I would say it's acerbic, not necessarily citrusy for me, but akin on the nose also to peach or apricot skin more so than right flesh, but that sort of acidity that you get, maybe you pierce it and you smell that from the skin or infer that when you taste the skin of a slightly under rippe peach or apricot.

Drew (00:39:42):
Yeah, interesting. On the palette, this one, I did a tasting of it the other day and I immediately went back to my childhood and lemon drops. Do you remember the lemon drop candies? Sure,

Allen (00:39:55):

Drew (00:39:55):
What's interesting is that I have said for the longest time that I'm not a fan of overly sweet rise. I think what I mean by that is I don't like the ones that are almost sac in terms of their, it's almost like an artificial sweet, this is sweet to me, but it's not an overbearing sweet. It's just a really, and maybe it's that connection to lemon drops that makes me just really love this cuz it even stays on the pallet towards the end. And then it has this really nice grain note to it, which is,

Allen (00:40:29):
Yeah, you're hitting all the notes from me. Again, the concept in this, and I should reference the bottom bottle proof is 90.4. So this is the lowest proof rye that we bottle. And I wanted something that would be versatile enough that it could be in a range of cocktails. Yes, a stirred cocktail served straight up like a Manhattan or a shaken cocktail that might be a reasonable variation on a whiskey sour and something if you wanted to go overboard that you might shake with egg whites or add another flavor element to that compliments some of the characteristics you're describing. And so to me, a lot of that is the essential part of the grain and time in the barrel. I have a great difficulty fully equating the concept of terroir with age whiskey. There's so many other elements, particularly the barrel that happens long after anything's been harvested.

But I do find that this is something that's T that's coming out commonly in a lot of air whiskey and it's a grain variety that we simply called field race because it was a natural hybrid and we keep the fields around our rye fields empty so that our rye is segregated. Rye is very easy to many grains to cross pollinate. And so there's gaps so it can stay to its own structure and space. And the hallmarks of this field race rye are a little bit of this citrusy element. The other, and it speaks to me, to the sugar content in the grain, the other to me is that where we landed on the mash bill on the recipe and it's 75% rye, so it's bumped up there in a high gear, but not over the top to consume everything by spice or grain. There are these elements, if you will, layered on top of each other that ebb and flow, whether it's the oak content, to me, the citrusy or lemon drop content often comes if you added a little drop of water or even an ice cube that some of it might evolve into notes of cedar as well as oak.

That to me is born of the citrus or lemony context as well.

Drew (00:43:13):
My love for whiskey history and the talk of medicinal whiskey, when I got that lemon drop note, I was thinking it's lemon little bit of honey, and I'm thinking if you have a sore throat or something that you know might get some lemon tea with a little bit of honey in it. And I thought maybe I should warm that up and put that into some tea. That would be a really interesting

Allen (00:43:36):
Or your winter hot

Drew (00:43:38):
Tidy. Yeah, exactly. Perfect for that. So in talking about New York and rye whiskey, one of the things that I think you were involved in was this designation of Empire Rye. Talk about how that came about.

Allen (00:43:59):
It's a great important thing for us at this point, but em, empire Rye was a concept born of a collection of New York state distillers and everyone was at a conference and really bolstered by the thought of how can we support each other truly earnestly. And we knew that others were dabbling in rye whiskey and some have significant brands of rye whiskey. And the exciting thing is that there're these dots all over the map of New York state with probably 80 plus distilleries and from a grain standpoint and a whiskey standpoint that they go from New York City all the way up to the Canadian border and everything in between. We thought, wow, we're not going to tackle bourbon bourbon and say, boy bourbon from New York. That's unique. Now they're great bourbons from New York and they're brands that have made really impressive products and marketing endeavors but the cause that was easy to turn to was, well, rye is unique and similar to the vein of how we started our endeavor, distilling and aging rye whiskey was an idea and desire to try, frankly to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

So this could be something not only that we could get behind as a subset of the New York Distillers Guild, but that we also could likely enthus the New York State Department of Agriculture to support and hopefully in time help us to market. And the truth is, everyone has been wildly enthusiastic in their response. Covid is a not so insignificant blip on this map historically, but we're excited about the prospects of creating a category its own subset of rye whiskey and enthus people with great patience to say taste now, taste again and taste later. Because the evolution of whiskey, in our case rye, is that we are going to keep learning things over the next decade and beyond that we'll be hallmarks of our whiskey and the rules and regulations that we help co-create have enough leeway to allow for great creativity. It's not meant to hinder anyone's production code, but to say, how do we make this a designation that has some teeth to it that someone could say, it's not just a name that Empire Rise is, oh, they made it in New York, but that there's something that's supportive of New York state agriculture. And that in time we certainly expect that there will be these notes of consistency that says, wow, that's an interesting point of view on not just American, but the global rye whiskey scene. And to be very forthright for us, we only make rye on the whiskey side of things. And so our heart and soul seven days a week is as what are we going to discover new or next about our whiskey that we can layer on to the story that we're creating.

Drew (00:47:27):
I think it's interesting that in terms of New York's rule versus Tennessee's, is that in terms of making Tennessee whiskey, is that you focused on make sure that the rye is actually coming from the state of New York.

Allen (00:47:42):
It's true. Now, I wanna be fair, the quantity of grain, and I have no idea say what Jack Daniels or George Dickel might be using from the volume of necessary grains to keep up with the demand for those internationally renowned spirits. We're a collection of beyond enthusiastic and active craft distillers. And so the fun thing for us now is specifically surrounding rye, is that in our case, we work with a farmer who otherwise would've plowed rye under. And so when you go to a farmer, no matter where you are specifically in the United States where the more modern history from an agricultural standpoint of RY is not to harvest, it has specific agricultural attributes that are wonderful from an environmental standpoint, but there hasn't been a huge market for it from a commercial standpoint to say, yeah, I'll sell my ride seed here. So when you go to a farm and said, Hey, instead of plowing that under, how would you like it if I paid you for all of that, and I know you've got a plant to seed nearly a year in advance, why don't I give you the money a year in advance too?

And not many farmers are going to say no to that because it still contributes those environmental attributes to the fields. But instead of plowing it under, we're getting a positive net result from an economic standpoint for the farmer themselves. And certainly departments of agriculture have been very enthusiastic about that, and in our specific case as what we would call a downstate, but truthfully, we're an urban distillery in the middle of Brooklyn. Yeah, we're not farmers. But the story for the state of creating that link between urban access where New York City has 8 million plus people and upstate farmers, it bolsters a wonderful sense of comradery and mutual benefit and support between two industries that it's important to not only designate, but educate the consuming public about the link between the two.

Drew (00:50:05):
So we hadn't really jumped into how you got started in the whiskey industry. Kind of go back to I say this is around 2008, I think, from what I understand, when you started formulating this idea, how did this all come about?

Allen (00:50:22):
Well, yeah, 2008 was when we really started talking about the distillery as a viable business. Should we do this? Could we raise the money at the height of the great recession? I laugh now because coming through Covid was far worse, but the truth for me, my obsession with whiskey really starts in the early two thousands and 2001, 2002, I was a student of cocktail history. I had come back from Italy with a lot of fantastical ideas, none of which left the printed page of paper to anything near to reality. But business ideas that were fantasy bars, restaurants, the wildest idea was a wine school, four Americans in Italy. I even took two real estate scouting trips to Italy. I just couldn't figure it out or how I was going to actually make a living from it and survive. And in the early two thousands, end of the nineties, early two thousands the Food Network, which was also based in New York and still was really coming into its own, and there were lots of opportunities.

It wasn't solely celebrity driven. You could get on the air and talk about spirits or cocktails or cheese. There were a lot of interesting media opportunities. And I was observing those and also observing a bit of a transition of life at restaurant bars where you'd think people were going in and having a glass of wine or maybe a cocktail and then sitting down for dinner. And all of a sudden these lines bled together and it seemed like patrons were going to restaurants and eating dinner at the bar. And so they were blending together the aperitif experience and the dining experience all in one. And I got just a tremendous charge out of the sense of hospitality. And so that when I went back to working in restaurants and bars in the late nineties, I paid a lot more acute attention to the cocktail recipes I was presenting to guests previously in the early nineties.

I couldn't have told you what rum was in the, well, if we were using limes from Mexico or California why we were making a dery, putting those two ingredients together any certain way. It was just about a sense of, in my mind, hospitality was making sure a guest had a good time. And again, when I went back 6, 7, 8 years later, I was taking fastidious notes on flavor profiles. The best advice I ever got was from Gary Regan who's no longer with us, but one of the great modern cocktail influences and authors. And he wrote a book that to me was seminal called The Joy of Mixology. And I met him, befriended Gary in the early two thousands and with more profane language in his British accent, he basically impressed upon me not to rely on recipes that recipes were good, but it should taste good to you.

And he said, it's good to experiment. It's not just that a recipe in other words, will fit every rye whiskey the same. They're going to be different mash bills and different proofs and aged at different lengths and blended differently, and you better experiment and pay attention to what you're mixing together. And I took that to heart and those were the notes that I started taking. And from a whiskey standpoint was just going back to my Baltimore upbringing and the slow fantasy of what types of brands perhaps would I like to work with. And that slowly evolved into the concept of an urban distillery and opening a distillery in New York City and having a point of view and a purpose to say, well, what would we make? What would be fun and why would we do it?

Drew (00:54:52):
So your co-founder is Tom Potter who was with Brooklyn Brewery, correct? Correct. So usually when you bring in a co-founder, like you have one expertise and the other person has another expertise, what holes were you guys filling?

Allen (00:55:11):
Yeah, for me it was simple. When I go back to saying I knew what I was doing, but I'd never done it before. The laundry list of what I hadn't done before was significant. I felt like I had the business acumen, but I hadn't put anything like that into practice. And here was Tom, who had, from the ground up from his Brooklyn apartment, had co-created the Brooklyn Brewery into not only a substantial business, but something that had become world renowned for craft brewing. And we quickly realized that we could contribute hardily to each other where my experience was on the ground with the ins and outs of the distilled spirits and cocktail business from distribution, product development marketing, et cetera. And Tom's expertise was in the specific business acumen of raising money, and which I could say is easy. It's not easy, but truthfully, once you get the ball rolling, you really develop a great enthusiasm and people wanted to participate.

It was one of the great experiences when we raised our first rounds of money for the distillery to say, who's going to invest in this? And the truth is, once the ball got rolling, it felt like we were going downhill and adding to the coffers to the goal that we had in mind to build out the first edition of New York Distilling Company. But what's equally important from a business standpoint is knowing when to put reserve aside. And this is worth spending on, and this is conversely worth going out on a limb on. And our partnership has been such that we've really been able to play off each other's skillsets in growing at a nice pace and having the mutual patience, particularly on the standpoint of developing whiskey brands to say it has to be good, it has to fit what we want to tell as our story as New York distilling company, not just as a brand that floats out there on its own.

Drew (00:57:36):
Yeah. Was what was the landscape like back then? Because it was only, I think 2004 when New York opened up for distilling again, or had created the rules to help make it easier for distilleries to

Allen (00:57:53):
Grow. So we were interested in that. And again, the wonderful, I can't express the graciousness to the right degree of the distilleries that existed at the time in New York state. They're two, I would call them the godparents of New York State distilling, and that's Hudson the Tule Town Distillery and now Black Dirt Distillery, which at the time was Warwick Valley. And they just opened their doors and said, you're interested in this. That's great. And they're not only great friends, but in some cases partners. And we were able to learn on the fly and make our own conscientious decisions on what we thought would make the best route for us to take to achieve longer term goals. How would we produce whiskey? Where would we age it? What could we afford to do to get started, and what kind of resources money would we need to achieve it? And there's still that great, I think, sense of camaraderie and collaboration today that infuses the spirit of the Empire Rye Organization. And it's mainly one of celebration. I mean, if you're going to make whiskey from scratch, you get a big hug from me. And we have our own perspective, obviously others do as well. But it's fun to figuratively or literally get around the table, taste each other's whiskey, and in many occasions create opportunities to co-promote as we really in earnest begin to share the concept of Empire Rye beyond the local confines of New York state.

Drew (00:59:51):
So in talking about how distilleries get started these days, there's usually a move towards white spirits first doing gin or vodka. And New York has a history with gin because of the Dutch in 1640. Exactly right. We're making Geneva or a version of something that was like Geneva. And so as you got started interestingly enough, you start with gin. And I don't tend to talk about gin too much on this show but I was intrigued because of course, we talk about history as well about your naming conventions for your gins because they both have historical historical ties. And it wasn't too long ago that I did a episode on whiskey lore, stories about the whiskey trust, but I started off talking about the Japanese influence on distilling in Indiana or in Illinois at that time and how they were trying to speed up distilling using saki techniques. And so I started that story off talking about how the admiral Matthew Perry had gone to Japan to open Japan up to the west. And so when I saw Perry's tot as the name of your gin, I was like, huh, I wonder if not, when we talk about New York and Matthew Perry a lot of people will probably go, oh, friends. But this was a different Matthew Perry. How did you who come about naming it after him?

Allen (01:01:36):
Well, we always have fun creating these brand names, and we are from New York but we thought it was a little, just frankly dull to have a plane. Well, it's New York distilling gin or rye. And so we wanted to have this in the case of their two gins personification of the brands. And the truth is that the Navy strength concept was the first idea that came into my head. And in the early two thousands, I was invited on what became the first of maybe 30 different distillery trips. And I was taken to the Plymouth Gin Distillery in Plymouth, England in southern England. And that was the moment of lightning flashes above my head, because here it was an urban distillery. And I thought, well, now that's interesting. If I was to ever do something like this in New York, how would that work? I love visiting distilleries in cognac or in Mexico and certainly in Kentucky and Tennessee, et cetera.

But I love living in New York. And I was committed to saying, well, this is where I wanna spend my life. And the urban distillery became this true calling, this beacon of pursuit. And at the same time, I had never heard of navy strength gin, which Plymouth has a key part of history on as well. And so I thought, wow, well that's interesting. There's no navy strength gin in my country. And I thought, well, if I ever open a distillery, I know I wanna make rye whiskey, but maybe I could make Navy strength gin as well. And so when we started tinkering with initial recipes, it was in mind that we would have a Navy strength gin and truth. I got a little weak in the knees along the way and said, I better come up with at least a second recipe. I don't know if everyone's ready for Navy's strength gin, but in those days, for our naming of brands, we wanted a cultural link to New York.

And the truth is, while Matthew Galbraith Perry was not born in New York City, he was the first commandant of the Brooklyn Navy yard. And if you've never heard of it, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is great. It still exists today, but it's a great commercial epicenter, and you can get great bagels there and other food, and there's a movie studio there and it's right on an inlet of the Brooklyn Waterfront. But it was developed, and in its heyday, it churned out, frankly, warships all the way through the Vietnam era. And as I said, Perry was the first commandant or director, the Brooklyn Navy yard. And we thought, well, that's an interesting link and we'll name a Navy strength gin after this unique American figure that had a fun moment of history in New York City as

Drew (01:04:48):
Well. And this works out perfectly for me because I've been trying to figure out since my trip to Iowa how to work in the story of Navy strength gin, because I had not heard of it until I was at a distillery called Copeland's in Ireland, and they had a 1778 Jones Navy strength gin, and that was after John Paul Jones is who they named it after. So kind of go into Navy strength gin and the idea of why it's 57% alcohol by volume.

Allen (01:05:24):
Well, again, it's navy strength because really up until the early seventies British naval vessels were commissioned with a gin kit. And certainly as the 20th century evolved, it was more ceremonial, but you would still get your navy strength gin. But for hundreds of years, when you think of, well, what was Britain's greatest military attribute? It obviously was their Navy whether British history to any degree or not. And again, I don't have any proof of this, but in my mind and in just creative thinking they were in so many proactive engagements to call it such that somewhere along the line, a ship must have gone down because their gunpowder had been compromised. And by that I mean you've gotta sort of close your eyes and picture a wooden ship under sale, a bunch of young, maybe teenage lonely boys, not even young men under harsh conditions, barely any food off on these expeditions and missions.

And it had to be a, at least in my mind, pretty miserable existence. And to take the edge off in many cases, in some cases just the officers, but in many cases, those aboard would get even daily rations of alcohol might have been ale, gin was certainly popular, and also rum. And they were all kept in barrels. If you hit a rogue wave or you get into a battle and bullets pierce a barrel, all of a sudden that alcoholic liquid leaks onto your deck. And again, I have no proof of this, but in my mind, this must have happened. And the alcohol leaked into the gunpowder reserve on board, and they went to fire the cannons and couldn't ignite the gun powder. And those unfortunate souls would've been lost to the sea or the English channel. And word gets back to HQ and they say, this will never happen again.

And the mandate comes from the admiral, figure out how we can preserve our gunpowder in any conditions. And the resulting answer was, we need over proof alcohol. And at 57%, and I've done these tests as well, even if it's spilled on gunpowder, it will be completely useful in firing off cannons or muskets. Now we don't need it today, but in its era, and for hundreds of years, this was as equally vital as ammunition to the British Royal Navy, including the part of taking the edge off with some kind of daily ration. Again, the existence is unimaginable to me, but all of that is a fun story. Somewhere along the line, there has to be some truth to it. What further enthused me was looking at record books from importing records into New York Harbor at the turn of the 20th century, and a few hundred cases a week of Navy strength gin were coming into Port of New York

At the height of the first golden age of cocktail culture. So to me, that's really what set off an interest in, well, what would I do if I made a Navy strength gin at frankly such extreme proof at 114 proof, 57% alcohol that we're just not accustomed to here? And again, the advantage is there were a few other brands, Plymouth being chief among them, that I could use as a starting point and what did I like? Maybe what did I felt I could dare I even say approve upon and set out to make my own original Navy strength gin. And that was a great entertaining and educational task that took months of experimental distilling to say, now what are we trying to do? It has to be gin, in other words, a real backbone of juniper berries, but it has to be effective in cocktails because no one is going to drink this strength.

Drew (01:10:18):
So what's interesting about learning about that is it answered some questions for me, and one was that this was devised before there was a hydrometer. So once the psychs hydrometer was invented they used 57% as the basis for being 100 proof.

Allen (01:10:36):

Drew (01:10:37):
And so the British system for the longest time utilized that I think all the way up until about 1980, that

Allen (01:10:48):
There is a different means of British to American measurement.

Drew (01:10:52):
And so when I was looking at history and I was reading that David Lloyd George, when he was Prime Minister of Britain, had called during World War I for whiskey to be set at some weird number, like 38.7% alcohol by volume. That confused me. And I said, wait, I don't, don't understand why did they set it at that level? And then when I learned and started looking at bottles over there, they would say that this was 30% under proof. And that's how they would sell things. Well, if you do the calculations from a hundred proof being at 57% alcohol by volume, you end up at 38 points. So they were basically saying, no, the law is that whiskey needs to be at 30 under proof is where it needs to set for the law. Of course, they changed it to 40 after a while, but it's like all of these things I didn't understand, why did they have a different proofing system? And all that comes through the story of this Navy strength gin or this 57% alcohol by volume number. That seems random, but in reality it was potentially, it was

Allen (01:12:12):

Drew (01:12:12):
Standardization. It was a saaf SA safety measure that turned into a standard.

Allen (01:12:19):
I love it. It's fascinating.

Drew (01:12:20):
And this is how we learn history through our whiskeys and gins. So I'm going to jump in and do a nosing and tasting on the second one secondary two, which is the bottled in bond. And so what was your thinking in terms of doing a bottled in bond because it's a little stricter on your rules for bottled in bond?

Allen (01:12:47):
I mean, this is a combination of privilege and pleasure to make a bottled bond spirit, you have to be the producer. And I'll be honest, I can't remember if at the outset we thought we'd make a bottle and bond whiskey, but certainly as we started making rye and putting it down, we thought that this was something out in the not too distant future that we could start thinking about. And certainly once we were past year two and could start noticing the evolution of the barrels we were aging, we thought now this will be an interesting point of differentiation. And frankly from a storytelling, even marketing standpoint, that there are not a broad range of bottle and bond spirits, let alone whiskeys or even rise. And that it would be another tact to specifically say, this is not Ragtime Rye 2.0, rather, this is a specific point of view on American rye whiskey based on the barrels that we are aging. And just as you said, your hands are a little tied. And we thought that that experience it's not that it would be useful, but that we would find great purpose in it where we have total freedom in ragtime rye, 90.4 proof, but that ascribing to these regulations, me the bottle and bond regulations specifically would give us a different perspective on how we were approaching the barrels of whiskey we had underage.

Drew (01:14:28):
I think what's interesting about this is that the lemon kind of turns to an orange for me in this, and you have that toffee, but the oak is a little bit more pronounced and gives you almost like a well, you just smell a little bit of the char in it. But there's a mint that seems to come through on it for me as well, which is really interesting. It's something you expect out of rye whiskeys is to sometimes have that very urbanly character. But this one really does turn into almost a mint kind of a note.

Allen (01:15:02):
Yeah, I agree it, it's a fascinating turn of events. And I'll be honest, we've been bottling our bottling bond version now for a couple of years. And at first you say very simply, do I like this? And if so, why? And then as you go along, and to give you a reference point for Ragtime Rye, our blends are 12 to 15 barrels at a time. For the bottle and bond versions, they tend to be eight or nine barrels at a time. So it's a little more close to the vest, so to speak. And as I said, as we got through the first several iterations, the first several bottlings, we could say, now this is an interesting attribute. Do we wanna bring focus to it? And again, the fortunate cause and effect for us is that we have enough barrels to say, you know what? I like this for bottle and bond, mark this in this direction, or this should be for a broader blend of ragtime rye. And so we're able to segregate barrel picks in that fashion to direct them to, in this case, the two different variations.

Drew (01:16:18):
So what's the main thing you're kinda looking for in that bottled in bond barrel?

Allen (01:16:23):
So to compare it to the first is one, by law it has to be at a hundred proof. So we wanted a different mouth feel, we wanted something unique that in effect became this little wrinkle of ebb and flow of mint. And if I want to get real geeky, it's spear mint. I can't tell you why exactly, but that's what it is.

Drew (01:16:49):
I would agree.

Allen (01:16:52):
But nevertheless, that it could be used in a different fashion that this might more so be a sipping whiskey with an ice cube or specifically a cocktail whiskey for stir drinks that you could dilute this, stir it or shake it, but that it would be me would be drinks served on ice so that they would continue to gently dilute over the course of someone enjoying a cocktail and that the flavors would evolve from the starting point as you're describing now.

Drew (01:17:28):
Yeah, I don't know if it's an optical illusion because of where I put these glasses, but almost seems like the although the bottled in bond has more wood notes to it a little bit more, that char from the oak it seems like the other is darker. Is that optical?

Allen (01:17:51):
It does happen, yeah. Yeah. I mean, again, there is some older whiskey in the flagship in ragtime rye and that might contribute to it, but it really is, we are blending to aroma and taste.

Drew (01:18:06):
The reason

Allen (01:18:07):
Everything else is not of

Drew (01:18:09):
Significance. And the reason I find that interesting is because if it does have a little bit more influence of the older whiskeys, these have two completely different personalities to me in terms of that lemon drop that I got in. The first one is muted here and it's a little bit more towards again, what I might say is something that would appeal to a bourbon drinker I think in. Yeah, might be a lot of ways. I get some baking spices in there. I get a little hint of chocolate on it. So the notes are darker in this than they are in the flagship.

Allen (01:18:45):
I agree.

Drew (01:18:45):
I agree. One of the other whiskeys before we taste, the last one that you have is Mr. Kat's rock and Rye. Now, whenever a whiskey is named after the founder you have to say, this is probably a whiskey that has something near and dear to your heart.

Allen (01:19:08):
Well, it does. This is me if I had it letting my head down. And the truth is, it was a little bit of an homage to my father, my grandfather who grew up in West Virginia and things were plaintiff pleasurable really from my dad's stories of growing up in a small town in the 1950s and an evening sip of rock and Ry was not an unusual occurrence. And I had enjoyed learning about the history of rock and rye, really going back to the 1830s when it seemed any saloon worth its salt was going to have its own house version of rock and rye. And I thought, well, this is something fun to do. Our whiskey is going to continue to age. Let's present something in the interim while we dare I say with eventuality graduate to substantially aged whiskey that can live on its own. And we would come up with our own recipe of what would essentially be something that could be consumed on its own. I will confess at the time, again, from my cocktail experience, I thought, wow, this might make an interesting modifier for other cocktails, but in truth it's really taken on its life as a product that people drink on its own. And our recipe is simple. It's fun that it's outright whiskey.

We source sugar from in the raw sugar company which happens to be based in the Brooklyn Navy yard, <laugh> nice. And from there, create a base that includes organic orange peels, a little bit of bing cherry that we source from the Midwest from Upper Michigan and a wisp of cinnamon bark. And it was fun experimenting with it. No matter what you're doing to whiskey, you really want to be able to focus on the true attributes of the main spirit. It's something that I'd say to a fault in a positive way that we're eternally focused on and that's making sure the whiskey itself comes through, what are the attributes of the whiskey? And so anyway, we're interested in focusing on that and ultimately adding these little accents to what could be in modern times we called a Ready Tori cocktail. But ultimately the key for Arrow Rock and Ry is it's proof and it's a much lower proof. It's 65 proof for 32.5% a B V. So on the rocks you taste all the whiskey from my standpoint, but you can really enjoy it or a few of them on your own.

Drew (01:22:20):
So where does the rock come in to rock and rye?

Allen (01:22:23):
The rock itself by history in production is rock candy sugar.

Drew (01:22:28):

Allen (01:22:30):
And in some of that saloon scenario of the 19th, and I'm sure into the 20th century, you might get a shot or two of rye whiskey and you'd get a swizzle stick of rock candy sugar and you might suck on the sugar as if it was your own lollipop or you might let it dissolve a little bit, but you would essentially as the customer be able to regulate your level of sweetness.

Drew (01:22:54):
Yeah. Very interesting because that was also something that during the old medicine show days this was something that would be sold as cough syrup or any number of other things. So we were talking before about taking your flagship, making a cough drop kind of experience out of it. Right.

Allen (01:23:16):
Well even through, I've seen evidence from medical journals and conferences at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore as late as the 1940s conferences focused on cures for the common cold <laugh> that reference suggestions of rock andry. Of course it there's no medicinal purpose or benefit except for the pleasure of the drink.

Drew (01:23:42):
So the last one that we're going to go into here is and this came out of this really nice FLA kit that you sent me by the way, and I don't have it back here for people to see, but it came in the nice wood box. It feels like it may have come from the hayloft in a way. Okay. I don't know what

Allen (01:24:01):
Is the last that you're drinking

Drew (01:24:02):
Today? So the last one I am drinking is the single barrel,

Allen (01:24:06):

Drew (01:24:06):
Is going to probably be something that'll be difficult to compare to something that you have, cuz I'm assuming from the idea of single barrel that you probably look for a particular flavor profile, but it's the inconsistency that actually makes it interesting. Well,

Allen (01:24:24):
You're absolutely right Drew. I mean this is the fun of having enough inventory to play with so that you can say, ow, well that that's a honey barrel, so to speak, a special pick. Not that it's so much better than something else, but that it has these distinctive qualities that are a point of interest to say that's fun. That's something fun to share. If there was something straightforward that I'd lay out from a single barrel pick, it's that it's something that we would feel would be enjoyed on its own. I'm not opposed, it's a higher proof at one 12 just for that purpose and you can sip it at one 12. I will say from my experience, the barrels we specifically select and bottle it, that proof typically do not nearly feel as strong on the mouth feel and the texture as 112 proof. And so we're looking for that also. It's not just aroma and flavor profile, but the actual mouth feel or even lusciousness of the spirit itself.

Drew (01:25:35):
Well this one I get a lot more of the wood spice and getting some earthy notes in it. This is really interesting because it's got notes of hay and yet also got sometimes I equate that oak note if it's earthy to a barnyard just because it kind of puts you in that mindset. Exactly. Right.

Allen (01:26:04):
That's fun. I mean, for us, that's

Drew (01:26:06):
Fun. And then the baking spices come out and I get kind of a clove kind of a note on the nose. The toffee actually comes out first on there and then the citrus spice kind of comes in towards the end. And it's interesting that, as you say, this is very drinkable as it is. And I think a lot of people anticipate that rye whiskey is going to be overly spicy and they're not going to be able to handle it. But none of the ones that I've tasted even it's 56% alcohol by volume. I don't have any issue really. Now, of course I'm used to drinking stronger strength whiskeys, but I think people who drink cast strength whiskeys and maybe have had some of those more corn heavy rye whiskeys where I think rye rye actually gives off more spice when it's mixed with corn. If there's too much corn in it, it can sometimes overly enhance that bite

Allen (01:27:10):
In it. Yeah, I think to me that's come from and continues to evolve from the range of, in this case, rye whiskeys that are available and they're available now from all over the country and from other countries. And I think they can in certain subsets be collected together. And the fun is that comparison for me. Yeah, it's a pleasure for me to be able to taste and say, wow, that's interesting. And again, back to the very simple question of why. Yeah,

Drew (01:27:43):
All very good whiskeys. I enjoyed every one of those. So in fact I said I'm going to have to probably get a bottle of that flagship because I just love that lemon drop. Great. Yeah. Well Alan, I so appreciate you being on the show today. Talk before we go about where your whiskeys are available and how people can get Ragtime ride.

Allen (01:28:07):
Our pleasure. We are in about a dozen markets in the United States. If it's not readily available, where you are, the easiest is to go to our website, which is ny distilling.com. And one of the wonderful turn of events in these pandemic and post I hope pandemic times is the access points for getting products to people. And while there are a few states where it's still not legal, we have plenty of retailers that are accessible to our website that direct ship legally to just about every state in the country.

Drew (01:28:47):
Fantastic. Well, again, thank you Alan for being on the show and talking about some fun history such as getting into Navy strength, that was great, and rock and rye, which is something that I've actually never really thought about where that name came from or knew much about it, so that was fun to dig into that as well. But also talking about your past as well, cuz it's fun to hear the evolution, especially when a particular state or country is evolving in those people who played a part in helping make those areas what they are today. So congratulations on your success and thanks for being on the show.

Allen (01:29:28):
Thank you so much.

Drew (01:29:29):
Have you liked to learn more about New York Distilling Company? Just head to ny distilling.com and find defined show notes, transcripts, my YouTube tastings or whiskey lores other social media channels. Head to whiskey lore.com and next Wednesday I'll be back with another interview talking about Missouri's whiskey history. And don't forget to also subscribe to Whiskey Lores Stories podcast where you can catch up on past seasons and catch all of the new season six episodes that will be starting on Monday. I'm yours, Tru Hanish. Thanks for listening and until next time, cheers and SL Ofk Whiskey Lores a production of Travel Fuel's Life, L L C.


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