There’s no doubting that rye is one of the hottest whiskey categories out there right now. Since 2009 alone, the volume of rye produced in the United States has risen over 536 percent, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. To some, this may come as a shock, but to others it’s no surprise at all since rye whiskey was the backbone of the whiskey industry for a very long time — Canadian ryes were what were primarily consumed during Prohibition. When rye first started to come back into popularity in the early 2000s, more producers started putting stock away, giving us the bounty that we can now enjoy. That makes this the rye-ght time to be alive if you’re a fan of this type of whiskey.
No? OK. Bad jokes aside, if you love the spicy characteristics that rye grains give to whiskies, the world is pretty much your oyster. With so many, though, the question that will inevitably arise is: Which do I pick?
Below, we’ve pulled together some of the best rye whiskies under $50. You may not be able to get all of these everywhere in the country, but you’re more than likely to find some of them. (Note: The prices that we’ve listed are an average, so they may vary slightly depending on where you are.)
Old Overholt – $15
One of the rye whiskies that has been around the longest. Dating back to the early 1800s, Old Overholt has produced a quality rye for a very long time. Solid price point and a taste that won’t turn your stomach, you can’t go wrong, especially if you’re on a budget.
Rittenhouse Rye – $25
A go-to for many a bartender, Rittenhouse Rye is a great buy for the price thanks to its higher alcohol content (100 proof). This allows the flavors of the whiskey to shine through in any number of cocktails. Whether you’re looking for a spirit-forward Manhattan or something with a few more ingredients, you’re going to know you’ve got a solid backbone in Rittenhouse.
High West Double Rye! – $26
High West’s Double Rye! may not be something that they themselves have distilled, but you’ll realize that means little when you taste Double Rye! A blend of two-year-old and sixteen-year-old rye whiskies, Double Rye! is a sweet and spicy whiskey that somehow manages to have both the liveliness of youth and the complexity of age going for it.
George Dickel Rye Whisky – $28
What makes George Dickel Rye stand out from the rest is the Lincoln County Process — charcoal filtering that they do to make their Tennessee whisky. When the rye is put through that filtration process, it produces a smooth texture that also manages to keep the spicy characteristics of the rye.
Redemption Rye – $30
Made with 95% rye and 5% malted barley, Redemption Rye is a whiskey for those who especially love rye spices. This whiskey, which is sourced from Midwestern Grain Products, is a solid option when you want a good-looking bottle behind your bar that you’ll probably be using in a variety of cocktails.
Sazerac Rye – $30
Heard of the Sazerac cocktail. Well, this is the namesake rye whiskey that goes in it. Sazerac has grown in popularity over the years, especially in and around New Orleans, and for good reason. It’s great in cocktails but it’s also a fine sipping rye.
KO Distilling Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey – $40
Winner of the Rye category for The Manual Spirit Awards, KO Distilling’s Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey is made with 100% rye grains, which offer up spice notes immediately on the nose, followed by oak and vanilla. Cinnamon and nutmeg on the palate provide a nice backbone to this whiskey, with caramel and sweet orange notes rounding out the sharper flavors.
Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye – $48
Made in one of the more historical rye styles of the U.S. — Old Monongahela Rye — Dad’s Hat is, perhaps surprisingly to most, aged only six months. What helps this though is that the aging occurs in 50-liter casks (much smaller than the standard 200-liter size). What comes out is a bright rye whiskey that is full of fruit and spice notes and a good look at what used to be consumed.
Pikesville Straight Rye – $50
A throwback to earlier times, Pikesville Straight Rye is is Maryland-style rye that, before Prohibition, was a prominent player in the rye game. Like most distilleries, though, they were forced to shutter during that dark time. After Prohibition, the brand reopened, produced whiskey, and then shuttered in 1972. They survived on already-produced whiskey for a decade until Heaven Hill bought them and began producing the brand.
Russell’s Reserve Rye – $50
While you may only know Russell’s Reserve’s bourbon, their rye is no slouch, either. How could it be, when Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell have over one hundred years of distilling experience between them? Russell’s Reserve Rye is aged six years and the resulting whiskey is smooth and sweet with a great amount (not too much, not too little) of rye spice throughout.
Article updated September 15, 2019 to include details of The Manual Spirit Awards 2019.
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