After spending most of the last decade of my life surrounded by shelves of liquor, I have come to the definitive conclusion that different spirits have distinctive personalities. And, up until today, I was pretty sure who rye was. Now, I’m not so sure. There was a day when I knew everyone in the bar, and I then this whole new Jim Beam (ri) thing happened. Now I’m wondering what the heck is going on and re-evaluating everyone trying to figure out who is who.
Ok let’s see here; there’s Bourbon. You know Bourbon that down-home, play you an old song until you admit you like it too, Red State voting, will get you drunk and lecture you the next morning for having a hangover, only seen him get really upset like three times but when it happened it was really bad, retired fellow that compensates for it by mowing the lawn three times a week. He owns a tractor that he parks in his front yard that hasn’t moved in fifteen years that people use as a landmark when giving directions, and he is an uncle to 23 kids without having any of his own.
Then, you’ve got that smart-ass gin. He’s the professor who will give you an F while gesturing with your 40 page term paper and tell you it’s ok because the real value is some absurd life lesson. He makes everything more complicated than it needs to be, tries too hard to be philosophical in a coffee shop so others can hear, balances out better when he’s bitter, but somehow grows on you as you get older until you finally admit that he’s just the type of person you have to get used to.
That sleazy frat guy in the corner trying to get people as drunk as possible without them knowing, who would slip you a roofy in a freaking heartbeat if he didn’t already have two felonies on his record, used Pontiac car salesman dressed in the nicest suit he can afford, bragging about how may times he slept with the prom queen fifteen years ago, boring personal history that gets over exaggerated when sharing stories, guy I hate is Vodka.
Rum is a pirate and always will be.
The unemployed guy always looking for someone to bum a cigarette off of, known as Jager, is the person you seem to run into every time you go to a bar making you wonder if he’s following you. Tomorrow he is probably going to buy the most expensive impractical vehicle he can’t afford with two or three wheels. He doesn’t show up early in the morning when you have to move and owns a freakin’ python, but you’ve know since him you were in college so you just can’t seem to not answer the phone when he calls – even though you don’t want to talk to him because you know it will result in a five hour long pointless conversation that leaves you exhausted for your presentation at work the next day.
And then there’s your best friend. Sure everybody’s best friend is different, but there’s something about them that’s just grows on you. They’re not perfect by any means, but you’ve just been through so much that they’ve kind of become a part of you. This could of course be any of the personality types listed above or some of the others I haven’t, like that slut Chambord who seems to have been knocked up like 8 times since she was 14. It all just depends on who you are I guess. But for me, it’s rye. There’s just something genuine about it.
So today, when I tried Jim Beam’s new offering, it was kind of like having a day on which my best friend came to me and confessed his undying love for this bitch we both worked with two years ago he’s been secretly seeing and blowing me off for every weekend since. It was almost as if my friend rye, the guy I could always count on to be there, was sleeping with the freaking enemy while I watched the rain delayed, anti-climactic World Series by myself.
There are just so many things about this rye that contradicts the very nature of what rye is. To begin, the words “ultra-premium” are on the label. We could probably just end things there, but since blogs need some sort of content now and then, even while you are building your own bar and short on time, we’ll discuss further. Whenever I see the words “ultra-premium” red flags and alarms start going off. This phrase which has been used to describe every new brand of vodka over the last five years is so played out that it makes Nickelback seem like a refreshing alternative to other mainstream radio choices.
I understand that this is what pr firms do. They identify trends and sales potential, and after numerous focus groups and endless rhetorical analysis, create a new marketing campaign that squeezes as much financial sweat out of a product until the trends turn south just in time for a new product and initiative. That’s the world we live in, and generally I just ignore it. The marketing team for Ri1 probably is onto a lot here, and they will likely be very successful. Since, this is their job – more power to them.
But, if rye starts to change in any way; I’m going to have to start reading some more Chuck Palahniuk novels. When boutique offerings starting fading and cucumber or root beer rye infusions start appearing, you guys are going to have to find a new bartender. I’m sure it won’t get to that point, but I do think that recent trends in spirit marketing demonstrate that when popularity is noted by a large spirit conglomerate interested more in money than maturation, quality may suffer tremendously. Rye is so critical to the revitalization of the cocktail, and this concerns me tremendously. This not only threatens to diminish the genuine nature of rye, but moreover this may indicate that some individuals are interested in recasting the classic cocktail as the next wave of trendy drinks to be priced at $15 in every sweaty nightclub in America charging a cover charge for a bad DJ. I can’t help but think that if Thomas Handy were alive today he’d be rethinking the switch from Cognac in his sazeracs. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is what this brand is trying to accomplish, as it is quite a bit far off from all of this. But, I do think that Jim Beam’s latest release of a rye shows the spirit is now on the map for marketing firms looking for the next in spirit.
Ok, so I’ve given my opinion on the bottle and marketing past what anyone was likely interest in, but how does it taste? There’s nothing overly offensive about the rye; it just happens to not be as bold as some of the ryes I’ve tasted. It is fairly smooth for being 92 proof, but I’ve never valued smoothness as a characteristic in rye. Rye isn’t supposed to emphasize drinkability; it’s a bold spirit that should demonstrate spicier characteristics with an evolving, extensive finish. The Jim Beam (ri) is a spirit perfectly aligned with its marketing campaign focused on fads, not flavors. Admittedly, I haven’t tried the new rye in any cocktails yet, but, I’m predicting it will make a less than desirable Manhattan. At $50 for a 750ml a bottle, there are some notable alternatives – three bottles of Rittenhouse bonded, two bottles of Wild Turkey rye, or chip in another five for a bottle of Thomas Handy. You could also take that wad of cash and buy the Sazerac 6, a bottle of Vya sweet vermouth, and some Angostura bitters.
Before I tried the Jim Beam (ri) I ran into a friend who told me all of what I have written (in a much more straightforward manner), but I just had to try it myself. I am sure some of you reading this will do the same. I understand. New rye – got to try it. After all, rye is your best friend; he’s always been there for you. He would never do this to you. Well, you’re wrong; he’s marrying that bitch because he thinks it’s a good move for his future. And, there is nothing you can do about it. You can either pretend you’re okay with it and hope she doesn’t want to come along for your annual trips to visit a new baseball stadium, or you can do what I did and tell him how you feel to his face…err…on a cocktail blog. Who knows; maybe you”ll learn to love her.
I’m really curious to find out what others think about the new offering from Jim Beam. Obviously, I am a fan of other styles of rye, but I wonder if I’m way off base here. I think the marketing certainly shows that they are appealing to a mainstream audience, but does anyone who has tried the rye like it? There doesn’t seem to be very much actual feedback online to this point, so let’s get some comments going on here.