About Rye Whiskey

About Rye Whiskey
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

Old Potrero 18th Century Rye Whiskey
94 points
$70
Golden amber color. Aromas of hay, carob, dark chocolate, and pumpernickel crisps with a satiny, vibrant, dryish medium body and a peppery, interesting, medium-length cracked pepper, fresh tarragon, caraway, butterscotch, and toasted sesame finish. A complex and peppery Rye whiskey with great herbal character.
Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey
91 points
$37.99
Amber color. Spicy aromas of toasted sourdough, cultured butter, fresh tarragon, white pepper, and spiced pecans with a velvety, dryish full body and a smooth, complex, medium-long spiced apricots, kasha and clove finish. A rich and spicy Rye that will make an excellent Manhattan.
91 points $37.99
Cask House Triple Oak Rye Whiskey Finished in Oak and Bourbon Barrels
89 points
$19
Best Buy
Golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of violet, sweet anise, caramel-filled chocolates, and spice cake with a velvety, lively, dry medium-to-full body and a smooth, nuanced, very long finish with notes of glazed nuts, cherry cola, dense chocolate cake, toffee, and hints of rose jam. A complex, well-matured Rye destined for sipping with excellent company.
89 points $19 Best Buy
Bishop Rye Whiskey
89 points
$19.99
Best Buy
Amber color. Aromas of rye toast, orange-ginger marmalade, honeyed pear tart, and cucumber with a silky, vibrant, dryish light-to-medium body and a smooth, engaging, medium-length caramel-drizzled apples finish. A vivid and delicious rye whiskey for sipping or classic cocktails.
89 points $19.99 Best Buy
Cadée Cascadia Port Finished Rye Whiskey
88 points
$52
Amber color. Aromas of fennel seed, dill, violet candies, and sweet caramel with a satiny, vibrant, light-to-medium body and a sleek, refreshing, medium-length gingersnap cookies, dark chocolate, caraway, and caramel gelato finish. A palate-lifting Rye that undulates between creamy caramel and bright spices; a joy to sip and mix.
Capmaker Rye Whiskey
87 points
$19.99
Minutely hazy gold color. Aromas of ripe pear, peach tea, lemongrass, gingersnap cookies, and violet with a satiny, crisp, dryish light body and a smooth, interesting, medium-length rye toast, apricot preserves, and spiced nuts finish. A light and fresh rye whiskey that’s approachable but doesn’t skimp on flavor.
87 points $19.99
Elk Rider Rye Whiskey
87 points
$45
Gold color. Aromas and flavors of cucumber-melon, rye crisps, and fennel with a supple, bright, dry-yet-fruity light body and a smooth, breezy finish with notes of alfajores, peppermint and violet finish. A green and herbaceous Rye whiskey for fresh, springtime whiskey cocktails.
Bespoken Spirits Rye Whiskey Batch 2020-1
86 points
$34
Dark amber color. Aromas of chocolate-dipped graham cracker, pomegranate, apple pie, clove, and toffee with a round, crisp, dry-yet-fruity full body and a warming, interesting, medium-long butterscotch, waffle cone, carob, and bacon finish. A woody, chewy Rye with huge flavor and smoky oak.
Journeyman Distillery Cask Strength Last Feather Rye Whisky
86 points
$59
Copper color. Aromas of banana-topped cream of wheat, gingersnap cookies, hot cinnamon candies, and cedar with a satiny, crisp, dryish medium body and a peppery, appealing, medium-length cookie dough, spice cabinet and peppercorns finish. A high-octane, spicy, peppery Rye.
Leadslingers Fighting Spirit Rye Whiskey
83 points
$35
Golden amber color. Aromas of spice box, almond cookies, floral soap, ground ginger, and raisin bran with a satiny, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light body and a peppery, brisk violet candies finish. An interesting, floral Rye whiskey that will make for bright and interesting creative cocktails.