Part of American’s rich spirit history, rye whiskey is a bold, spicy option to enjoy either straight up or mixed in a cocktail. Most of its flavoring comes from baking spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, offering a nice balance with the pepper you often encounter.
With requirements a tad more relaxed than those of bourbon, for example, many distilleries across the country have taken up producing rye whiskey again.
Rye is a cereal that is winter hardy and does most of its growing in the spring. It brings a spicier flavor to the liquor when compared to corn, for example, but both malted barley and corn can be used in the mash in order to produce the rye whiskey.
What differentiates rye from other types of whiskies is the 51% rye grain that must be present in its mash bill. Other grains that are typically used are a combination of malted barley and corn, but different ones are often used as well. The rye whiskey from the US must be aged in new charred oak barrels. It has to remain under 160° proof by law, and it has to be aged for at least two years.
After these requirements are met, distilleries have pretty much free reign to put their own unique touch to their spirits.
Let’s see which are the 25 best rye whiskeys that you could enjoy ight now.
25. New Riff Rye
With tasting notes of honey, orange, pepper, and vanilla, New Riff is slowly gaining traction into the whiskey world. This expression is one of their most popular ones, with its silky taste that goes down smoothly.
The sweet and spicy profile gives the impression of an older offering, while it’s a fairly new spirit.
24. Knob Creek Rye
A well worth your while rye, this offering from Knob Creek is an affordable option that brings you a lot for the price. With 50% alcohol, it has a light gold color and a flavorful nose.
The lingering oaky finish doesn’t take anything from the spiciness of the palate we are used to seeing in higher rye expressions. For all it offers, it’s a great daily rye.
23. Old Forester Rye
One of the newcomers to the whiskey world, Old Forester has been producing rye whiskey for about two years or so. The recipe is based on a 1940s high malt blend that contains a lot of brown sugar, which gives the spirit some subtle floral notes.
A great accompaniment to many cocktails, the 100 proof whiskey is just the right amount of bold.
22. George Dickel Rye
For a very affordable price, this approachable rye whiskey provides you with a unique flavor profile. The Dickel charcoal filtering process is partly responsible for that, but the marshmallow, rye spices, and vanilla tasting notes also have a little to do with it.
A great option to consider for bourbon lovers that want to branch out to rye whiskey.
21. Nashville Barrel Company Small Batch Rye
One of the best newer distilleries, Nashville Barrel Company comes from the Indiana and Tennessee regions. Their barrels are sourced in Indiana, and the second batch of rye is a blend of four and eight year old MGP whiskey.
A very pleasant sipping rye, it contains an ABV of 50%. The tasting notes of cinnamon, caramel and vanilla will please your palate.
20. Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof
This Texan rye is chocolatey, peppery, with hints of tobacco. The 50% ABV spirit is made with a mash bill of 100% rye grains. The Elbon rye used is brought over from Northern texas, and it is blended with chocolate, crystal, and roasted rye varieties.
That results in a rich and spicy whiskey that contains tasting notes of cocoa, espresso, and pepper.
19. Woodford Reserve Rye
A great cocktail rye that contains tasting notes of apple, honey, and a hint of pepper, it is a bit overpriced for what it offers. While it boasts a traditional rye flavor profile, it leans towards a lighter side.
That is why it makes a great base for an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, but it may disappoint if you were planning on sipping it on its own.
18. Wild Turkey 101 Rye
Heavy on the spice, this expression is one of the hottest rye whiskies on our list. If you enjoy your cocktails with a little kick, this makes a great base for a spicy Old Fashioned.
With tasting notes of butter and oatmeal, and 50.5% ABV, this straightforward spirit leans into the traditional rye profile many enjoy.
17. Mitcher’s US 1 Kentucky Straight Rye
Not as well-known as other rye whiskies on our list, this expression from Mitcher’s is worth noting. This single barrel, limited availability spirit is made from sheared American rye, and aged in new American fire charred oak barrels.
That results in a flavorful, bold liquor with a kick of spice, as well as hints of candied orange peels, buttery caramel, and oaky wood char.
16. Sagamore Spirit Signature Rye Whiskey
Brought to you from a Maryland distillery, the Sagamore Spirit flagship expression is a blend of two straight mash bill whiskeys. Enjoying this spirit is like you’re going back in time to the original ryes that were once made.
With flavors of butterscotch, dried orange peels, honey, and candied walnuts, this rye is aged for four to six years.
15. Angel’s Envy Rum Cask Finish Rye
The distillery specializes in cask finishing, and their barrels originate from the Caribbean. The whiskey soaks up the colors and flavors of these barrels after spending at least 18 months in them.
The tasting notes of caramel, orange, and mint are brought out by the rum finish. The rye holds up nicely to the elegant spiciness that comes from those rum barrels.
14. Elijah Craig Rye
A crowd pleaser that tastes similar to bourbon, this expression form Elijah Craig has tasting notes of kettle corn, nutmeg, and rye spice. Using a lower rye content than other rye whiskies on this list, it is a sweet offering that contains 47% ABV.
Definitely worth considering, and it’s best enjoyed on its own.
13. Rittenhouse 100 Proof
This bottled-in-bond spirit follows the regulations that were put in place by the Act of 1897. The Bottled in Bond act states that the whiskey has to originate from a single US distillery, be 100 proof, and be aged at least for four years in a federally bonded warehouse.
Rittenhouse offers a high-quality, spicy whiskey that is beloved by bartenders from all over the country. Reasonably priced, it stands up well to citrus and with tasting notes of baking spice and vanilla, it makes a great rye overall.
12. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel
This fine, single barrel rye was created by Eddie Russell, Jimmy Russell’s son, despite the fact that the 60-plus year veteran doesn’t care for rye whisky. With 104 proof and ABV of 52%, it is a strong rye, to put it mildly.
Packing some heat, the nutmeg, oak, and vanilla tasting notes are prominent after spending time in oak barrels. The earthy, smoky flavors make this a powerful spirit that ends with a dry, nice finish.
11. Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky
Spelled a la Canadienne, without the “e” in whiskey, this offering was briefly discontinued in the early 2000s, making it a precious collectible. Relaunched by Pernod-Ricard in 2012, fans were surely happy about it.
With tasting notes of oak, spice, and vanilla, it is a dry and powerful spirit. Great over ice, the chilliness brings out the fruity notes and tempers the big-bodied, bold character.
10. WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye
Sourced from Canada, this whiskey is a reasonably priced six-year-old rye that offers great value. The brand usually releases a few expensive bottles, but this one is one of their more affordable options. It doesn’t skimp on quality, with ample flavor and a relatively high ABV.
The tasting notes are cardamom, cocoa, and leather hints. With prominent flavors of grapefruit , and baking spices with hints of citrus, it is great on ice or mixed in a boulevardier.
9. Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey
If you’re tight on budget, this variety from Old Overhoildt is a great option, one that many bartenders use. After Prohibition was lifted this brand was the most popular in the country, according to them, anyway.
Starting off with a sweet cereal and orange taste, you get a touch of vanilla and cinnamon. All is finished off with a bracing hit of white pepper that adds a bit of spice to the spirit. A great base for an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.
8. Sazerac Rye
From Kentucky comes this great spirit that is one of your best bets for a Sazerac. The tasting notes of candied spice, citrus and vanilla, along with bright and vibrant notes of lemon and orange zest and hints of baking spices make this a great base for the popular cocktail.
The rye used for the mash brings out the candied citrus notes, and marries the whole beautifully for a great taste on your palate.
7. Redemption Rye
Manhattan lovers, your search is over. This is one of the most affordable and best tasting whiskies that are heavy on the rye. With notes of citrus, mint, as well as floral notes, this offering carries a 95% rye grain.
The malt and spicy quality of the grain came through and balanced out the sweet fruity vermouth taste. The cinnamon and nutmeg notes play off the bitters, for one of the loveliest cocktails ever. But the 92 proof spirit should be enjoyed sparingly.
6. Willett Family Estate Rye
One of the premier rye whiskies on this list, this family owned and operated distilleries has a few great expressions in their inventory. This particular one is a 4-year-old rye that is not easy to find, but if you do, you’ll savor it.
The citrus, cherry, and raisin tasting notes create such a unique flavor, you should try to get your hands on a bottle.
5. Barrel Seagrass Rye
Another expensive whiskey offering, Barrel Seagrass is an incredible expression. Yes, it may be pricier than what you’re used to paying, but once you taste it, you’ll understand. With tasting notes of apricot, other fruits, and vanilla, this blend of Canadian and American rye whiskies is one of a kind.
Meticulously sourced and finished in Madeira and apricot brandy barrels, as well as rum ballers from Martinique, it is awesome to enjoy by sipping it slowly.
4. A Midwinter Night’s Dream
Finished in French oak port barrels, this unique blend of straight whiskies can be considered a true masterpiece. One of the most expensive ryes on this list, it is also amongst the most difficult to find.
With tasting notes of caramel, strawberry, toffee, and vanilla, it feels smooth and sweet, with a bit of spiciness on your palate. And at almost 100 proof, you can easily sip it on its own, or over ice. It will be one of the best tasting rye whiskies you ever tried, if you’re lucky enough to get a bottle.
3. Lock Stock & Barrel 16 Year
This collector’s item was made by the late Robert J. Cooper and it’s a high-proof rye that is very easy to sip. All in all, only 3,000 cases of the 107-proof spirit were made, so it may not be very easy to get your hands on a bottle. The liquor was aged in charred American oak barrels for 16 years, and distilled from 100% rye.
The result is a delightfully spicy rye that is balanced by a touch of honey with notes of stone fruit and vanilla. We suggest you sip it to really enjoy its balanced flavors, but it can be a base for strongly flavored cocktails as well.
2. High West Double Rye Whiskey
High West, a Utah distillery that is a ski-in locale brings you this special offering. It is a blend of two ryes that co-exist in perfect harmony. Heavy on the spice, heat seekers will love the combination of honey, menthol and spice notes.
The combination of the older spirit with a younger one, both aged for at least two years, results in a spicier version than your average rye. One of the best tasting rye whiskies you can mix in an Old Fashioned, it would also make a great base for any cocktail that calls for an amaro.
1. Basil Hayden Dark Rye Whiskey
One of the best and most popular rye whiskies overall, Basil Hayden offers notes of dried fruits, molasses, and spice. This unique blend will make a great sipping whiskey, as well as a great base for a Manhattan or Boulevardier.
The spirit combines Canadian rye from the Alberta distillery, along with Kentucky rye and hints of the California port, where the spirit gets the undertones of dark fruit flavors. With noticeable flavors of holiday spices, this liquor will surely please your palate.
This sums up our list of the 25 best rye whiskey to enjoy right now. Cheers!
- 25. New Riff Rye
- 24. Knob Creek Rye
- 23. Old Forester Rye
- 22. George Dickel Rye
- 21. Nashville Barrel Company Small Batch Rye
- 20. Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof
- 19. Woodford Reserve Rye
- 18. Wild Turkey 101 Rye
- 17. Mitcher’s US 1 Kentucky Straight Rye
- 16. Sagamore Spirit Signature Rye Whiskey
- 15. Angel’s Envy Rum Cask Finish Rye
- 14. Elijah Craig Rye
- 13. Rittenhouse 100 Proof
- 12. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel
- 11. Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky
- 10. WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye
- 9. Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey
- 8. Sazerac Rye
- 7. Redemption Rye
- 6. Willett Family Estate Rye
- 5. Barrel Seagrass Rye
- 4. A Midwinter Night’s Dream
- 3. Lock Stock & Barrel 16 Year
- 2. High West Double Rye Whiskey
- 1. Basil Hayden Dark Rye Whiskey