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Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Straight Rye Whiskey Launches

Grain & Barrel Spirits recently released a limited-edition Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Rye Whiskey, aged for 20 years and bottled in a Prohibition-era Chicken Cock replica apothecary-style bottle at 100 proof.

The mash bill for the new release contains 90% rye and 10% malted barley.

Originally established in Paris, Kentucky in 1856, Chicken Cock – known as “The Famous Old Brand” – was forced to move production up to Canada during Prohibition.

Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Rye Whiskey
Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Rye Whiskey (image via Grain & Barrel Spirits)

The Canadian rye whisky produced during that period was then smuggled back into the U.S. in tin cans, earning the brand the nickname “the whiskey in a tin can.”

It was around this time that Chicken Cock rose to what’s described as prominence as the featured house whiskey at The Cotton Club (located in Harlem at 142nd St. and Lenox Avenue), one of Prohibition’s legendary speakeasies.

It was there the brand was ceremoniously opened table-side as Duke Ellington and his orchestra regularly performed on the Cotton Club’s stage. In an excerpt from Music is my Mistress, Ellington said, “during the prohibition period, you could always buy good whiskey from somebody in the Cotton Club. They used to have what they called Chicken Cock. It was a bottle in a can, and the can was sealed. It cost something like 10 to 14 dollars a pint.” (About $140 today).

After Prohibition, Chicken Cock enjoyed a resurgent couple of decades before a distillery fire just after World War II put it out of business.

In 2012, Matti Anttila, founder of Grain & Barrel Spirits, set out to resurrect Chicken Cock to its Prohibition-era glory alongside Master Distiller Gregg Snyder. Since that time, the team has introduced a flagship KY Straight Bourbon and KY Straight Rye Whiskey, made in partnership with Bardstown Bourbon Company as part of its collaborative distilling program.

The new, 20-year aged spirit and its commemorative tin honor Chicken Cock’s Prohibition-era history and a period where the brand ventured north to carry on its tradition of bringing whiskey to patrons across the country, Anttila said in a prepared statement.

“This rare straight rye whiskey signals a return to pre-prohibition times when the classic spirit was more prevalent, while also honoring the brand’s history and heritage,” he noted. “We even maintained the spelling of ‘whiskey’ versus ‘whisky’ on the original tin from Prohibition.”

Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Rye Whiskey distiller’s notes:

  • Appearance: Aged 20 years in a used bourbon barrel, the whiskey glistens with a soft, yellowish-brown hue.
  • Aroma: Sweet candy combined with slight grassy rye, earthy notes, hints of citrus/orange peel, spice and white pepper.
  • Flavor: A combination of vanilla, spice and sweet molasses, complimented with mild overtones of pepper, citrus and toasted oak.
  • Finish: A long finish with a wonderful balance of pepper, spice and sweetness, that lingers with a buttery mouthfeel.

About 1,600 bottles of the new whiskey are available for the suggested retail price of $499.99 per 750ml bottle, and can be found online via Passion Spirits, Flaviar, Caskers, and Cask Cartel and soon nationwide through special allocation.

For more information, you can check out Chicken Cock Whiskey here.

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