Back to all stories

Behind the Grain: San LUis Valley Rye

Josh and Jason Cody in their element.

WE don’t use just any rye grain for our whiskey

The soulful, rich flavors of our no-compromise whiskey begin with our use of only heirloom and heritage grains. Modern agricultural has no interest in these low-yield, finicky grains, yet we could not create the singular profile of each Laws Whiskey without them. For the heirloom rye grains we use for our San Luis Valley Straight Rye Whiskey expressions, we depend on the Cody Family Farm and Colorado Malting Company to deliver the best and most unique rye grain we could find. We sat down with the Jason Cody to get the full story behind the grain that makes our San Luis Valley Straight Rye Whiskey so unique. 

Laws Whiskey House: Why is Alamosa, Colorado a good place to grow rye?

Jason Cody: It comes down to the altitude/climate, the irrigation systems, and the soil.

First, the altitude. The San Luis Valley is 7,500 ft above sea-level, the air is dry and crisp. Consider the front range and Eastern Colorado. For most of the year, temperatures at night are high and increase during the day, too hot for healthy plants. When you are at San Luis Valley’s altitude the temperatures are high during the day, around 85 F, and at night the temperature drops to the low 40 F range. Rye loves this! (Remember, it is natural a grass that only goes to seed because we control it – we will get into this in the next paragraph.) Grass can survive harsh climates, but if you place grass in too hot of an area you sacrifice the health of the plants. The San Luis Valley is arid and is characterized by cold winters, moderate summers, and much sunshine.

“But the truly amazing flavor profiles (pepper, nutty and sweet) come from the soil type that is found in our unique corner of the valley. Just West of us is rocky soil and just North of us is sandy soil, both drain too quickly. Just East of us is tighter, more salty soil that hurts the plants. On our farm, the soil is somewhere in between and holds the key to rye whiskey perfection!”

Josh Cody – Colorado Malting Company

Laws Whiskey House: What is a Winter Rye?

Jason Cody: The rye we use is a Winter Rye which simply means that the grains need to be planted prior to winter. What happens is that the grain needs to vernalize which is a process that accelerates flowering and causes the plant to go to seed the following year. The way to vernalize is to raise the grass at the end of the fall. Once the plant is up, and photo-synthesizing, you let the cold temperatures cause the plant to go dormant. Then next spring the plant/grass will green up again, but this time it will flower and go to seed! If you planted this Winter Rye in the spring, then it would stay grass and you’d never get the rye seed, which is what you beautiful people (Laws Whisky House) make the whiskey from and what we (Colorado Malting Company) malt. 

Our three main San Luis Valley Rye Expressions

Laws Whiskey House: What makes the rye grown on your farm unique?

Jason Cody: Our rye is completely unique from other rye’s grown in the market for many reasons. Some reasons we mentioned above are about the unique climate conditions of the San Luis Valley. But the truly amazing flavor profiles (pepper, nutty and sweet) come from the soil type that is found in our unique corner of the valley. Just West of us is rocky soil and just North of us is sandy soil, both drain too quickly. Just East of us is tighter, more salty soil that hurts the plants. On our farm, the soil is somewhere in between and holds the key to rye whiskey perfection! The complexity of the soil causes the plants to stress, but not too much. This causes them to build protein structures that are packed with rye flavor and bring that added complexity through the still and into the whiskey. 

Also, the irrigation systems in the SLV give the grain water when it’s needed. This is much, much different than dry land rye that only receives the moisture when it rains. 

Back to all stories

Are you older than our whiskey?