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Rob Masters was filling barrels with rye whiskey on a cold January morning four years ago when a friend alerted him that President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony was getting underway.
That simple comment helped set in motion a plan that is finally coming to fruition, four years later and with President-elect Joe Biden soon to be sworn in.
Back in January 2017, Masters, head distiller at The Family Jones, decided to keep that whiskey in the barrels until the next presidential inauguration and name it, appropriately, Inauguration Rye.
On Jan. 20 — Inauguration Day 2021 — The Family Jones team will begin bottling that Colorado straight rye whiskey and, they hope, start a beloved patriotic tradition. On the same day, they’ll fill other barrels with new whiskey that will age until the next president is sworn in, four or eight years from now.
Masters wants to make one thing clear: This spirit isn’t meant to be political or divisive. It’s intended to be a fun celebration of our nation’s history, which has involved whiskey from the start. A few months after leaving office in 1797, George Washington started a commercial distillery at his Virginia plantation Mount Vernon specializing in — you guessed it — rye whiskey. (Our first president’s favorite mash bill was 60 percent rye, 35 percent corn and 5 percent malted barley, according to the nonprofit that maintains his historic estate.)
“I hope that we’re going to make it a tradition every inauguration; it has nothing to do with who is elected or when or how the election went,” Masters said.
Family Jones’ Inauguration Rye is “bottled in bond,” a historic designation intended to ensure quality and consistency in American spirits, primarily whiskey. To achieve that label, a spirit must meet several rigorous specifications outlined in the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897.
There’s some subtle symbolism there, too. The Inauguration Rye label reads: “As the new president is sworn in and commits to uphold the highest of standards, we make that same commitment.”
“It’s about transparency and it’s about honesty in the bottle,” Masters said.
Following “bottled in bond” rules, Inauguration Rye is 75 percent rye, 15 percent corn and 10 percent malted barley, all sourced from Colorado growers and producers in a single season. It’s been aged in new, charred oak barrels for four years in a bonded warehouse, has no additives, and was made by a single distiller (Masters). It’ll be bottled at 100 proof.
Masters recommends sipping it neat or with a splash of water, but he’s not opposed to using it in a well-made Manhattan.
And while he’s not a big fan of writing up elaborate tasting notes, Masters did say this rye has hints of tropical fruits like coconut, mango and papaya.
“For a rye that has 75 percent rye, it doesn’t drink super spicy,” he said. “It’s more of a balanced rye. It has a backbone of spiciness, it’s just not in-your-face spice.”
For now, Inauguration Rye is The Family Jones’ oldest bottled spirit to date (Masters barrelled the rye just a few months after the distillery began production). The distillery expects to get 380 bottles from two barrels and is selling them for $80 apiece (limit two per person). They’re available for pre-order now on The Family Jones website.