By Dr Jennifer Rifkin of Tatlock and Thomson and Ian Palmer of InchDairnie Distillery.
When we began to look at producing RyeLaw in 2016 we studied the definition of Rye Whiskey in America. This definition is very clear on the basic principles but many of the parameters gave us plenty room to develop our own unique take on this outstanding whiskey. One of the parameters however needed some study but this was not going to happen overnight.
Our RyeLaw is different in many respects from how rye whiskey is produced in both America and Canada. We use malted rye and malted barley, most of the American and Canadian distillers use un-malted rye and often other grains are added to the mash bill as well. We ferment with our own special yeast strain. We batch distill the wash in our wash pot still and our Lomond Hills spirit still while in American and Canada most of the whiskey is distilled in continuous stills of various designs.
One of the major differences which was difficult to understand was the maturation. The definition asks for new oak charred casks, which are rarely used here in Scotland. We mature our RyeLaw here in Scotland which has a different temperature and humidity profile to both America and Canada. With all these difference in the new spirit and the maturation conditions why should we mature the RyeLaw in the same casks?
As casks are toasted in Europe to different specifications, we needed to understand what char we should use, in order to gain a comparison.
In 2018 we took delivery of some casks charred from char one to char five, the normal is char three. In addition, we took delivery of some American Oak casks that had been toasted to three different specifications, light, medium and heavy. We filled all these casks from the same RyeLaw batch which had been reduced to the specified strength, 62.5%alc. Over the years since filling, we have monitored how each of the chars and toasts were maturing. This year, 2022, we carried out a detailed analysis of all these casks and the outcome of this detailed study can be found here.