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10 rye whiskey bottles we love: You should have at least one on your bar shelf

Pick 1 — or all 10 — and stock your bar shelves full

Rye whiskey
Luwadlin Bosman / Unsplash

To be considered a bourbon (on top of many other rules), the whiskey must be made with a mash bill of at least 51% corn (with most being much higher in percentage). But what is rye whiskey? The easiest way to understand rye whiskey is to think about the bourbon rules. Rye whiskey vs. bourbon is all about the percentage of ingredients included. This is because, in the simplest sense, to be considered a rye whiskey, it must be made with a mash bill of at least 51% rye. Other ingredients include barley, wheat, and corn.

While that’s the easiest way to define rye whiskey, when you take a deeper dive, the style gets a little murky. First off, unlike bourbon, rye whiskey doesn’t have any geographic rules. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S. (just not Kentucky), but no other countries. Rye whiskey can be made anywhere. This is where it gets a little confusing.

There are two different types of rye whiskey. The first is the one we mentioned above. In the U.S., rye whiskey fits the criterion. But rye whisky (the don’t use the ‘e’ up north) from Canada has historically been a term used as a label for all whisky, regardless of whether it’s actually a rye whisky (or even contains any rye at all). Luckily, this is changing, and more often, when you see a Canadian whisky labeled as “rye,” it actually is a rye whisky.

Now that we’ve gone through the confusing nuances of rye whisk(e)y, it’s time to actually learn about some of the best rye whiskey that belongs on your bar shelf. Keep scrolling to see 10 of our favorite rye whiskey brands. Whether you prefer to drink it neat or in rye whiskey cocktails, below, you’ll find classic brands like Sazerac rye whiskey, Rittenhouse, and others that belong on your home bar cart.

Old Overhol
Old Overholt

Old Overholt Rye

When it comes to classic rye whiskeys, it’s difficult to beat the appeal of Old Overholt. The oldest continually maintained whiskey brand in the U.S., Old Overholt has been distilled since 1810. This non-chill filtered rye whiskey is known for its nose of vanilla, ripe fruit, and gentle pepper and a palate of dried fruits, caramel, and cracked black pepper. It’s a sweet, spicy sipper for any occasion.

Michter's Rye
Michter's

Michter’s US-1 Rye

If you’re a bourbon drinker, you might first look to Michter’s for its corn-centric expressions. If you limit yourself to those, you’ll be missing out on some great rye whiskey. Its Michter’s US-1 Rye Whiskey is made from rye that’s sheared to guarantee the most flavor. This single-barrel whiskey is matured in fire-charred American oak barrels. It’s known for its mix of sweet and spice with peppery rye, toffee, vanilla, and dried fruits, all making an appearance.

WhistlePig Piggyback
WhistlePig

WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye

When it comes to rye whiskey in the U.S., it’s hard to top the appeal of Vermont’s WhistlePig. While you can’t go wrong with any of its expressions, a great starting point is its WhistlePig PiggyBack. This whiskey is made with mash bill of 100% rye. Matured for six years in American oak barrels, it’s known for its nose of citrus, vanilla, and pepper and palate of vanilla, candied orange peels, and cracked black pepper.

Redemption Rye
Redemption

Redemption Rye

Redemption Rye is all about history. It’s crafted to taste like the rye whiskey drinkers imbibed before prohibition. This means it’s a mix of spicy and sweet, with an emphasis on peppery rye because of its recipe based on pre-prohibition ryes. Its classic rye has a mash bill of 95% rye and is known for its nose of mint, charred wood, and pepper. Sipping it reveals notes of candied orange peels, vanilla, and peppery rye.

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye
Dad's Hat

Dad’s Hat Rye

When rye was America’s most popular whiskey in the pre-prohibition days, Pennsylvania was its center. Dad’s Hat Rye strives to make its rye whiskey in the traditional way. This rye and malt-based whiskey is matured for a minimum of six months in charred quarter casks. This results in a spicy, floral, peppery whiskey with notes of dried cherries, vanilla, and oak as well. It’s rich, complex, sweet, and has just the right amount of peppery heat.

Alberta rye
Alberta

Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

A few years ago, you might not have heard of Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye. That all changed when it was named the world whisky of the year in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible.’ This cask-strength rye whisky has a mash bill of 100% rye and matured for at least five years. The result is a high-proof sipper with a nose of vanilla, oak, and spice and a palate of chocolate, dried fruits, toffee, and a nice wallop of peppery rye.

Oregon Spirit
Oregon Spirit

Oregon Spirit Straight American Rye

This award-winning straight rye whiskey begins with 100% Oregon-grown rye. It’s matured for four years in new American oak barrels. This 90-proof whiskey is known for its nose of orchard fruits, vanilla, and spices. The palate is loaded with flavors of vanilla, pepper, caramel apples, and herbal notes. It’s a sublimely well-balanced rye whiskey that belongs on your home bar cart.

Rittenhouse
Rittenhouse

Rittenhouse Rye

A favorite among bartenders and drinkers alike, Rittenhouse Rye gets its name from Philadelphia’s historic Rittenhouse Square. This bottled-in-bond whiskey is matured for four years in charred American oak barrels. The result is a 100-proof, flavorful whiskey suited for mixing or slow sipping, thanks to notes of caramel, dried fruits, vanilla, and peppery rye spice.

Sazerac Rye
Sazerac

Sazerac Rye

Sazerac Rye is entrenched in the history of New Orleans. The iconic cocktail gets its name from the use of this rye whiskey. Even if you’re sipping it neat or on the rocks, you’ll notice its nose of vanilla, clove, and cracked black pepper. This is followed by a symphony of candied orange peels, toffee, licorice, and more peppery rye.

Sagamore
Sagamore Spirit

Sagamore Spirit Rye

Based on the traditional Maryland-style rye whiskey, Sagamore Spirit is gaining quite a following for producing award-winning, flavorful expressions. One of its best is its classic Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey. This blend of two straight rye mash bills aged between four and six years is matured in high-char American oak barrels. The result is a whiskey filled with notes of cinnamon, honey, toffee, orange peel, and peppery rye.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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