Rittenhouse Single Barrel Straight Rye Whisky Very Rare 21 yr old

RITTENHOUSE SINGLE BARREL STRAIGHT RYE WHISKY VERY RARE 21 YR OLD

SPIRIT: Rye

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 50/100

AGE: 21 years

The 21-year-old Rittenhouse Rye, now one of the most sought-after whiskeys ever released from Heaven Hill, originated with a mistake. One day in 2005 Jodie Filiatreau, a warehouse manager, was going through one of the company’s single-story aging facilities in Bardstown when he came across a stash of about 200 rye barrels. He was doubly surprised: Not only had he never heard of this lot of barrels, but as a rule, Heaven Hill stores its rye on higher floors. 

Filiatreau and his team did some investigating, and found that the whiskey had been made for a distributor, who may have intended to bottle it as a limited-edition release – it was unclear, since it seemed the distributor had forgotten about it too. Whatever their original intentions, the customer no longer wanted the whiskey, so Heaven Hill bought it back. The whiskey was already pretty old, but because it had aged in the relative cool of a one-floor building, it was rich and mature without tasting overly oaked. 

The blenders decided to bottle it at two-year intervals, starting at 21 years old, and the first release went on sale in 2006 for about $85. It was sold as an extension of Rittenhouse Rye, a whiskey that originated at Philadelphia’s Continental Distilling, in the years just after Prohibition. Continental went under during the late 1980s, and the Rittenhouse brand was shuffled among various Kentucky distilleries until Heaven Hill finally acquired it in 1993. Back then the distillery barely made rye whiskey – just one day a year – but forward-thinking minds in Bardstown must have figured that with bourbon starting to pick up, rye might not be far behind.

Rittenhouse 21 was, at first, a disaster. Bottles of whiskey that expensive, and rye in particular, were on nobody’s wish list. “A lot of distributors didn’t want them,” said Heaven Hill’s Bernie Lubbers. “In some instances we had to buy them back. It was a hard sell.” But time told a different story. Over the years rye whiskey has seen a resurgence, and these bottles of Rittenhouse, few in number to begin with, have become grails for collectors.

Release: Rittenhouse Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey, 21 Years Old

Producer: Heaven Hill

Misc.: The whiskey was originally called Rittenhouse Square Rye, after the public park in downtown Philadelphia, but dropped the “square” after World War II. That whiskey was made in line with the Pennsylvania, or Old Monongahela, style, with no corn. Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse, including the 21, 23, and 25, is made in the Kentucky style, with about 51 to 55 percent rye and a good dollop of corn as the second grain.

Collectors’ tips: Though no one will say for sure, solid speculation holds that the same barrel run that produced these old Rittenhouses was also the source for some of the legendary ryes bottled by Willett in the 2000s.

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