American By Nino Marchetti / March 1, 2019 In what is very likely a first of its kind, a whiskey made in part with ryegrass has been released by a small distillery out of Oregon. Not rye, but ryegrass. What exactly is ryegrass, you ask? The short definition is that it is a type of grass one commonly might see in a lawn. How did it come to be in a whiskey and why? As the story goes one Chris Beatty runs a small distillery out of Corvallis, Oregon. Beatty has a background in sugar and alcohol chemistry, and made use of his skills for sometime in a biofuels company. When that endeavor ultimately did not pan out, reported the Weekly Source, he looked to other places to make use of his skillset. Figuring distilling was a likely compatible industry, he began to tinker with making spirits. Oregon Ryegrass Spirits Ryegrass Whiskey (image via Oregon Ryegrass Spirits) Looking across the spectrum of things he knew he recognized that ryegrass, grown in abundance in the Willamette Valley he calls home, likely could be used as an ingredient in a whiskey. As ryegrass itself is not a grain like rye, he needed it to have a particular use to incorporate it. As he told the Source, his time in biofuels made him realize ryegrass, under the right conditions, produces usable sugar in its make up. And why is that a big deal? In his own words from his describing this consideration, “during my previous biofuel research using ryegrass, we learned that there is quite a bit of usable sugar in the grass at certain growth stages. Where there is sugar, there can be fermentation! We made the beer and it was awful due the salts that the grass plant also takes up. We then distilled the beer and got a whole different animal.” Stemming from this he discovered a flavor profile that is like “a rhum agricole or a lighter Highland single malt – earthy and, yes, sort of grassy.” It came to mind that, blended properly, this would be a good component for a whiskey. After jumping through a number of regulatory issues, he finally arrived at creating a whiskey “with a ryegrass component in an otherwise typical Bourbon recipe (#2) [that he put] into a new 30 gallon charred American Oak barrel.” After a year in the new oak it was moved to an old barrel “to mellow” before being bottled up late last year at 42% ABV. Should you want to seek out a bottle of the Oregon Ryegrass Spirits Ryegrass Whiskey (with spirits distilled from ryegrass) a very limited amount of it is available at his distillery’s tasting room, pricing at around $40 per 375 ml bottle. You’ll find some limited official tasting notes below for your consideration. Color: Pale golden with a hint of amber. Aroma: Medium tenor oak notes with a suggestion of earthiness. Taste: Mellow with topnotes of vanillins and hay.