I’ve been thinking a lot about home lately. I’m not much of a vagabond but I’ve also never put down deep roots. I’m from Pennsylvania, but despite my family still living there it’s not a place that inspires excessive nostalgia. I’ve been in LA for 7 years but I’d but up a healthy fight with anyone who called me an ‘Angelino. When I think of home I don’t think of places. I think of moments. Walking through the grape vines in the fall back in Pennsylvania. The marathon parties at Syracuse in college. And of course, drinking whiskey with friends. Rittenhouse has been along for the ride for many of those nights, and its home is also a collection of its experiences.
In many ways Rittenhouse is the quintessential Pennsylvania style rye. Hell, it takes its name from Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia and was originally introduced after Prohibition as Rittenhouse Square Rye. Over the years it evolved. The whiskey got older and was eventually released as Bottled-In-Bond in the 40’s putting the governments quality control stamp on every drop you drank. But the decades were not kind and a World War, the collapse of the American Whiskey industry, and the rise of Vodka tried to push the brand down. It was kept alive by leaving it’s Pennsylvania birthplace and started rolling of the production lines at Heaven Hill in the heart of Bourbon country Kentucky.
But even there it had trouble finding its place in the world. Rye was not the hot commodity it is now and a massive fire at the Heaven Hill distillery meant that they no longer had the production capability to produce the white dog spirit on their own stills. So, they reached an agreement with friends from Brown-Forman to contract time on the stills at the Early Times distillery to distill rye. Just like the rest of us transplants this spirit was given life and character from one home but mellowed and gained maturity at another.
This is where most of us met and fell in love with Rittenhouse. But about 6 years ago Heaven Hill had recovered from the fire and moved production back to their own stills and once that juice reached the proper age the slapped an updated label, interestingly meant to evoke the label from the long gone Rittenhouse Square bottles, and another change in home and flavor rolled along.
To me Rittenhouse feels like home. It’s changed even in the short time that it’s been a part of my story but then again so have I. It’s never going to blow my mind the way it did when I was young and inexperienced but it is warm and spicy, and carries enough heat to console me when I’m down, to celebrate the victories, or just sit with me at night and watch the world go by. But just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s so easy to overlook, because who misses home while you can still go back?