SPIRITS: Rye Whiskey Picks

Updated: Jan 14

The rye whiskey revival is in full swing. These all-American spirits have come a long way since their early moonshine days. —INGRAIN, Fall/Winter 2019



STORY / Mike Smith


The whiskeys available since Prohibition tend to be sweeter and distilled with more corn, wheat, and malted barley. Rye offers a new taste profile; think anise, hard candy, dry mint, meadow grass, and bitter rye oil. From the barrel-aging process, expect notes of spice, leather, dryness, and caramel. Fiery when young, a well-made rye is often herbal, spicy, and grassy with a kick.


OUR PICKS


PIGGYBACK

Whistle Pig


A very surprising whiskey and a newer offering distilled with help from the late whiskey legend Dave Pickerell. $50


Nose Slightly metallic, very spicy, with hints of peppermint and abused orange.

Taste Resiny rock candy with cinnamon and peppermint. A deceptively long-lingering finish. Overall Sipped or mixed, this rye can do it all.


RITTENHOUSE RYE

Heaven Hill Distillery


A staple for years and a bartender’s go-to for making cocktails. $22


Nose Light fruit (banana/peach) and grain nose; not much spice.

Taste Fruit carries over with rye spice; dry mouthfeel with alcohol burn and slightly spicy finish.

Overall With the light spice, proof (100), and price, it’s worth having in your bar arsenal.


OLD FORESTER RYE

Old Forester Distilling Co.


One of the newest and a standout among the group. $25


Nose Apple, butterscotch, caramel, and a very pleasing light spiciness.

Taste Wood spice up front, fruit in the middle, with a slight alcohol burn at the end. Very smooth finish.

Overall Great to sip but could be used for cocktails.


US 1 KENTUCKY STRAIGHT RYE

Michter’s Distillery


A reliable sipping rye with a stellar nose from a distillery that was recently brought back to life. $40


Nose Caramel and fruity notes with a good spice character.

Taste Almost no alcohol burn and a sweet, lingering finish.

Overall Very smooth for first-time rye sippers.


RUSSELL’S RESERVE 6-YEAR-OLD RYE

Wild Turkey Distilling Co.


Straightforward, with a balance of fruit and spice notes from two distillers with more than 100 years of experience. $45


Nose Fruity and slightly spicy, with notes of oak.

Taste Sweet honey, sticky mouthfeel, and a quick, dry finish.

Overall Aroma and flavor are the most consistent in the group.


F.E.W. RYE WHISKEY

F.E.W. Spirits


One of the boldest sippers in the group from a distillery that put its name on the map with this rye. $55


Nose Orange zest and piney-wood aromas.

Taste Raw oak, big citrus, and very hot alcohol notes with a spicy, dry finish.

Overall For seasoned sippers (a couple of ice cubes are welcome in the mix).


DAD’S HAT PENNSYLVANIA RYE WHISKEY

Mountain Laurel Spirits


Not for the timid; a rye with an early-American profile. $45


Nose Very spicy; woody notes with strong ethanol burn.

Taste Bold, oaky, spicy taste with a big, dry finish.

Overall Very dry and spicy, doesn’t shy away from being subtle; save for cocktails


Want to make rye whiskey the star of your cocktails? We're here to help with these recipes:

Recipe: Rye Up Cocktail

Recipe: Matty Nights Cocktail

Recipe: Sazerac Cocktail


Ready to know about all things rye? Check out It's Rye Time.