A Whiskey by Any Other Name: American Single Malt and Indiana Rye

Whiskey in all its forms has been going through a renaissance in the last few years and there are some “new”, at least officially, categories that show how the identity of whiskey in the US is maturing. Indiana Rye and American Single Malt were categories that didn’t exist a year ago and may not have been on everyone’s radar.

Indiana Rye was adopted by state law as its own category on July 1st 2021 and the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has announced it has officially added the discussion of creating an American single malt category to its agenda for December. Both of these are significant additions to the list of American whiskey categories but to really understand how significant we’ll need to know more about each change.

Indiana Rye follows very close to the TTB definition of rye whiskey but with a few important differences. In addition to the normal rye requirements of at least 51% rye in the mash bill is distilled to no more than 160 proof, entering the barrel at no more than 125 proof, and using only charred new oak barrels,  Indianna Rye is manufactured and rested for two years within the state of Indiana. The definition of “manufactured” is not spelled out in the bill but with the significant amount of rye whiskey produced in the state even if you are sourcing your wash from another producer it shouldn’t be difficult to find one in Indiana.

It is important to note that the Indiana Rye Whiskey designation is a state law and not a federal category recognized by the TTB. The TTB does not officially recognize state-specific designations so Indiana Rye will join Tennessee whiskey as a state-wide designation.  

American single malt has been proposed to be a federal category as early as Spring 2022 if the TTB maintains its expected December announcement and everything runs smoothly. How likely this is to happen remains to be seen but the fact that it is officially being considered is an amazing first step.

Currently, there is no official designation for a single malt from the TTB, however, there are several categories of malt whiskey but no regulation covers the single malt category. The American Single Malt Commission (ASMC) is spearheading the lobbying efforts to create a new TTB designation for American Single Malt and the proposed definition is very similar to the definition for a single malt used in other countries but there’s no way of knowing what the final ruling will be until we get further along in the process. 

The ASMC has put forward this proposed standard for review by the TTB:

  • Made from 100% malted barley
  • Distilled entirely at one distillery
  • Mashed, distilled and matured in the United States of America
  • Matured in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters
  • Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% ABV)
  • Bottled at 80 (U.S.) proof or more (40% ABV)

If the trend of recognizing regional specialties keeps going strong, future special designations seem more likely. Will we see a New York Empire Rye or a Florida Rum next or maybe some other regional specialty next?

There are a few possibilities and now that the door is opening it may be time to write to your local congressperson or industry group to get your favorites on the docket! If you have a regional specialty or come under-recognized specialty spirit you’d like to produce, get the word out and let us know.