Alltech's Lexington Distilling Co. is adding a new whiskey to its lineup: Town Branch Rye joins Town Branch Bourbon and Pearse Lyons Reserve, a single malt.
The rye was distilled on the double pot stills in Lexington and has been aging for four years in Bardstown, said Mark Coffman, master distiller.
"It's all made here," Coffman emphasized.
Once every couple of months, they switch over and make a batch of rye, he said. In hindsight, with the surging popularity of rye whiskey, Coffman said they wish they'd made a lot more.
Rye has been growing in popularity in recent years, in part because of its desirability for cocktails and what the whiskey industry refers to as the "Mad Men effect." But few distillers actually make it; one of the biggest rye producers is the industrial distillery MGP in Lawrenceburg, Ind., which makes rye for Bulleit and many smaller "craft" labels.
"It was a popular whiskey from the late 1700s, all the way up through Prohibition. And then it kind of fell out of favor after Prohibition for a couple of reasons: it was considered 'The Old Man's drink,' and it had that peppery spice and people wanted something a little sweeter, which is where bourbon came in. But also most of the tillable land growing rye converted over to the more profitable corn. ... So rye kind of fell out."
Town Branch Rye is made from about 55 percent rye, 30 percent corn and 15 percent malted barley.
A few companies maintained production, and then in the last decade as bartenders and "mixologists" took it up for cocktails, rye has become very sought-after and often sells at a premium price.
Town Branch Rye will retail for about $50.
"I suggest someone try it straight, then dilute it a little to see the true flavors coming out," Coffman said. "It does complement a number of sweet mixes you could put into it."
It will be released in very limited supply beginning this month mostly in Central Kentucky, Southern Ohio and Indiana.
Town Branch also is experimenting with a rum as well, made from sugarcane molasses, again some in bourbon barrels and some in barrels that have been used for Alltech's Bourbon Barrel Ale.
"We'll see which taste profile we like better," Coffman said. "We don't have any forecast on that one yet."