About Rye Whiskey

Serve in a Canadian Whisky Glass
Rye Whisky must contain a minimum of 51% rye grain, be distilled at less than 80% ABV (160 proof) and be aged for a minimum of two years in new charred barrels. A small amount of straight Rye whiskey is bottled and marketed, but most of the industry production is blended into other whiskies to give them additional character and structure. Canadians frequently refer to their whisky as "Rye," though it is in fact made primarily from corn or wheat.

The Taste: While the best Bourbon is known for a creamy, caramel-like palate, the best Rye whiskey makes its presence known with a spicy, grainy, hard-edged firmness that is distinctive and unique. Usually very dry, with notes of walnut, toasted grain, and black pepper, straight rye has a bold assertive character that has earned it a small but dedicated following among discerning whiskey fans.

The Scotch-Irish immigrant distillers had some exposure to using rye in whiskey production, but for their German immigrant neighbors rye had been the primary grain used in the production of Schnapps and Vodka back in northern Europe. They continued this distilling practice, particularly in Pennsylvania and Maryland, where Rye whiskey, with its distinctive hard-edged, grainy palate, remained the dominant whiskey type well into the 20th century.

Rye whiskey was even more adversely effected by National Prohibition than Bourbon. A generation of consumers weaned on light-bodied and relatively delicate white spirits turned away from the uncompromising, pungent, full-bodied straight Rye whiskies. Production of Rye whiskies had vanished altogether from its Mid-Atlantic homeland by the 1980s. A handful of modern Rye whiskies are currently being made by Bourbon distilleries in Kentucky and Indiana. America’s first indigenous whiskey style is today only barely surviving in the marketplace. Its primary use is for blending to give other whiskies more character and backbone, although a small but vocal group of Rye whisky enthusiasts continue to champion it.
Top Picks for Rye Whiskey
216298
Five & 20 Spirits
Rye Whiskey
Bright golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of leather and suede, dried nectarine, butter caramel corn, and pickle barrel with a supple, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, intricate, long rye bread, spiced fruits, pistachio gelato, and cola finish. A fun, flavorful rye whisky that is sure to please in a variety of applications.
94 points $49.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
205734
Skip Rock
Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey
Rich amber copper color. Aromas and flavors of hay stack, melted chocolate toffee, mocha cream, and toasted meringue with a supple, fruity-yet-dry medium-full body and a rich, tongue warming menthol tobacco, peppery spice, and sandalwood incense ash finish. A powerfully delicious rye that is contemplative sipper and will shine in cocktails.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
205786
Corsair
Ryemageddon American Rye Whiskey
Deep amber copper color. Aromas of buttery toasted cranberry-cherry bread. honeyed nuts, and delicate spice with a supple, fruity medium-full body and a generous honeyed grain, malted chocolate fudge, and candied smoked nuts and citrus finish. Fantastically vibrant and flavor packed.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
219031
Russell’s Reserve
6 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Pale golden amber color. Perfumed aromas of peach chutney, charred oak, curry, and nutmeg and mace with a velvety, vibrant, dryish medium body and a warming, complex, medium-long rose jam, honeycomb cereal, black tea, rye crispbread, menthol, burlap sack, and caraway finish. A fantastically spicy rye with heaps of exotic flavors and satisfying length.
93 points $41.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
216907
Great Northern Distilling
Rye Whiskey
Brilliant amber color. Complex, grainy aromas and flavors of saddle leather and soap, buttered toasted dark rye bread, dark roasted chestnuts, and bbq spices with a silky, bright, dryish medium-to-full body and a silky, intricate, long rye flour, raisin bran, dulce de leche, and sweet and peppery spices finish. A complex and pure rye that captures the essence of the grain in a beautiful oak frame.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
216205
Cascadia
Rye Whiskey Finished in Port Barrels
Brilliant amber color. Spicy, grainy aromas and flavors of nut bran cereal, dried dill, carob bar, and leather bound cigar box with a supple, lively, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, layered, long herbal honey on pound cake, menthol mint, sandalwood, and turmeric chai finish. An exotically spicy and herbal rye.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
216654
Union Horse
"Reunion" Straight Rye Whiskey
Medium golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of chocolate mint cookie, leather, clay and putty, and spiced apricot with a lightly tannic, lively, fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, long mixed peppercorns, menthol tobacco and fennel, raisin rye bread pudding, and rye flour finish. A spicy, grainy, youthful rye with lots of great sipping and cocktail possibilities.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
216199
Blackback
"Lucky 13" Rye Whiskey
Pale golden amber color. Fruity, floral aromas and flavors of spiced peaches, vanilla-caramel buttercream, toffee, and buttered muffin with a satiny, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a silky, medium-long honeyed rye toast, chocolate cream, and spiced nuts finish. A very smooth and flavorful rye that will be a great introduction to the category.
93 points $53.49
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
210146
High West
Double Rye! Whiskey
Golden amber color. Toasty aromas of vanilla buttercream, dried peach, leather, and nutmeg with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and an intriguing, medium-long cola, chocolate nuts, pink pepper, and cedar and minerals finish. A very nice oaky rye whisky for sipping.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
205733
Skip Rock
Rye Whiskey
Amber color. Grainy rye flour, pistachio brittle, mango-papaya pie, and chocolate mint cookie aromas and flavors with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a baklava, dried fruit, and round browns spices nuanced finish. Seriously flavorful and elegantly styled with a pure rye grain character that jumps from the glass.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab