Rye whiskey is an intoxicating spirit that can be enjoyed as a stand-in or mixed into various cocktails. When mixed with other spirits like bourbon or whiskey sour, the result is complex and flavorful concoctions.
Rye whiskey is a robust, spicy and earthy spirit that pairs perfectly with various flavors. Its distinctive taste has earned it the affection of whiskey connoisseurs around the world.
Rye is one of the world’s most versatile spirits, making it perfect as a base ingredient in numerous recipes. Old-fashioneds, Manhattans, Sazeracs and Boulevardiers all benefit from adding a dash of rye to make them truly classic.
Rye whiskey comes in many varieties, each with its own distinct characteristics. Some are big and spicy while others are rounder and softer.
Some whiskeys come from single barrels, while others are blends. Some even get bottled at cask strength – meaning they have been distilled and aged to a higher alcohol content than traditional bourbon.
Most rye whiskeys are composed of at least 51% rye, with no more than 2.5% additives allowed – such as colorants, flavorings, or blending agents – added.
Contrary to bourbon, which can only be distilled in America, rye can be produced worldwide. In fact, many ryes are crafted in Canada and the Netherlands.
Producing rye whiskey has more complex requirements than making bourbon. A single barrel must be distilled to at least 80% proof and filled with no more than 62.5% alcohol by volume.
Straight rye whiskey must be aged for two or more years, while blended rye must be aged at least three. The aging process changes the flavor profile and gives the whiskey its color.
Many ryes are aged in oak barrels to give the spirit an earthy aroma and robust taste. Some even feature spices like cinnamon, cloves, or ginger for extra complexity.
One unique characteristic of rye whiskey is that it loses more liquid when aged in barrels than other American spirits due to the high rate of evaporation during maturation. This phenomenon has been observed with other American spirits as well.
Some distilleries, such as Buffalo Trace, have made a specialty of crafting rye whiskeys with an unmistakably distinct flavor. This has attracted an enthusiastic new generation of whiskey drinkers while also drawing some new distilleries into this age-old and beloved craft.
The good news is that rye whiskey is back in fashion and there are a number of reputable distilleries eager to make a name for themselves with this intriguing spirit. WhistlePig recently won gold at San Francisco World Spirits 2021 for their The Boss Hog VII: Magellan’s Atlantic, made with 100% rye.
Additionally, many artisan distilleries are producing rye whiskeys using small batch processes. These establishments stand a better chance of creating loyal customers due to their dedication to doing things correctly.