When I started drinking whiskey, and more importantly American Whiskey, the coolest bottle I could handle paying for was Rittenhouse Rye whiskey. Rittenhouse is a rye whiskey bottling from Heaven Hill, the same people that make Old Fitzgerald, and Elijah Craig. Sitting right around $20-$25 a bottle, it very quickly established itself as the gold standard rye whiskey in my mind.
In late August, it was brought to my attention that Rittenhouse had changed. Rittenhouse Rye is a Bottled in Bond Whiskey, which has a variety of legal stipulations, but for the sake of my point, it has to have the Distilled Spirits Plant number on the bottle. The whiskey I know as Rittenhouse is actually from DSP-KY-354. The new changed Rittenhouse is from DSP-KY-1. In short, the Early Times distillery from Brown Foreman used to make Rittenhouse, and now the Bernheim distillery with Heaven Hill is making Rittenhouse.
This blew my mind. For so long I was committed to Heaven Hill and how good their rye was, only to find out it was being made by the same guys who make Old Forester. How did this happen? As it turns out, there was a fire in 1996, and they lost several warehouses and portions of the distillery. As a favor (and effective business deal) Heaven Hill relieved a portion of it’s production requirements by having Brown Foreman and Jim Beam make some of their whiskey until they could get back on their feet. In the last 10 years, Heaven Hill has been expanding capacity, and in 2008 the Bernheim Distillery began making rye. Both whiskies are delicious, and there are some differences if you’re looking, but Rittenhouse is to remain my gold standard.
All that being said, within the American Whiskey industry you have competitors coming to each others aid. It reminds me very much of the craft beer industry, and closer to home, the restaurant industry. Where everybody is pulling for each other, supporting the efforts of your neighbor, and being picked up by your buddies when you’re in need. American whiskey is great, because despite being behemoth companies and huge production requirements, they are still neighbors, friends and understand the importance of community and hospitality. A rising tide lifts all boats, and thats what we love about what we do.
Chad M. Owen
Lead Tender / Mixer of Miscellany
Seven Grand Whiskey Bar
San Diego, CA