San Luis Valley Rye has been a flagship product at Laws Whiskey House for almost as long as our Four Grain Bourbon, and just like our Bourbon, our Rye has progressed over the years. Our commitment to making great whiskey means we are always learning, growing and refining our craft. What does this mean, exactly? What has changed, and why is the best rye we have ever made coming off our still right now?
The Evolution of our Rye Mash Bill
Our current Rye mash bill is 100% rye, but this hasn’t always been the case. Much like Bourbon must be 51% corn to be called Bourbon, rye must be at least 51% rye grain to be considered an American Rye Whiskey. Our first rye mash bill was 95% rye and 5% malted barley, and most of our older rye releases are still made from this recipe. This particular mash bill was chosen out of necessity to maximize fermentation.
Malted grains contain an enzyme – amylase – that helps convert starches to fermentable sugar during the cook process. Malted barley releases that enzyme, which is why barley is sometimes seen as a conversion grain rather than a flavor grain. In reality, any grain can be malted, but you need more of that malted grain for the same degree of enzyme conversion you would achieve from adding a small amount of barley to the mash.
After experimenting with different mash bills, Laws dropped the barley from our San Luis Valley rye recipe. Today we produce a whiskey that is 100% rye, a pure ode and love letter to this amazing grain and place. We were able to do this by creating a mash bill of both malted and raw rye. A 50% raw and 50% malted rye split allows us to highlight the terroir and singular influence that this grain has on our final product.
What’s in a Name? Honoring Where our Grains are Grown
Many will remember our vintage rye releases, Secale Rye, named after the Latin word for rye. As we built strong relationships with Colorado farms, and realized the flavor impact of the region on the grains themselves, we decided to steer away from Latin names and pay more of an homage to where our grains are grown, and soon Secale Rye transitioned to San Luis Valley Rye.
The San Luis Valley of Colorado sits in a prehistoric lakebed and is considered a high terrain desert, 7,500 ft above sea level. The unique climate and soil conditions of the San Luis Valley produce a distinctive heirloom varietal of rye unlike any other rye grown in the world. Distinctive flavor profiles such as pepper and toasted nuts backed by a discernable sweetness emerge from the sandy, alkaline soil that causes the grain to experience a degree of stress, building protein structures packed with rye character that adds deep complexity to our whiskey.
As a terroir-driven distillery, we believe the region where our grains are grown greatly impacts flavor, and that’s what makes our Colorado whiskey so special.
Best Rye Whiskey in the World: 3X Winner Best American Rye 12 years and Under
We are thrilled to announce that our Bonded San Luis Valley Rye was named America’s Best Rye 12 Years and Under 2023 by Whisky Magazine (World Whiskies Award). This is the third time Laws has taken home a win in this category.
Colorado’s first ever Bonded Rye is now seven years old and we are extremely proud of the progression of this spirit over the years. Look for our award-winning Bonded San Luis Valley Rye this April when the 2023 release hits the shelves.
The good news is that our small batch San Luis Valley Rye (at our preferred 95 proof), as well as our cask strength expression, are available now through our ecommerce store, in our tasting room, and at retailers near you.
Thanks for reading and for joining us on this journey,
Al and the Laws Whiskey House Village