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The 50 Best Rye Whiskeys Of 2021, Ranked

Rye whiskey is surging in sales and popularity worldwide. The old European style of whiskey (Dutch and German colonists brought it to the Americas hundreds of years ago) has had a rebirth in the last decade or so in pretty much every corner of the world where whiskey is made. Amidst this boom, many of the old and tired ideas about what rye is “supposed” to taste like have died. Thinking that all rye is just “spicy” is akin to thinking all apples are just sweet.

Rye — like any whiskey out there — can be nudged and nuanced into almost endless flavor possibilities, especially if you look past the U.S. borders. Though white and black pepper notes are often drawn from the grain, those flavors do not necessarily predominate.

I was lucky enough to get to drink a lot of old and new ryes this year. But I’m going to focus on the latter. I’m calling out the 50 best ryes that were either released in 2021 or dropped a new edition in 2021. Beyond that, the whiskey just has to taste good to make this list. Whether you can find it where you live or afford it is not a factor.

The 50 ryes below range from 95 percent rye spice bombs from Indiana to subtle floral ryes from Ireland to fruity and honeyed ryes from Kentucky to some international newbies and favorites from Scotland, Finland, and, of course, Canada.

Let’s get to it!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

50. Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Rye Whiskey

Rerwood Empire Rye
Redwood Empire

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This 95 percent rye whiskey (a portion from Indiana) is shipped out to Sonoma County, California where it’s blended with Redwood’s own rye and proofed. The whiskey is named after the fastest-growing Redwood tree in the world, the Emerald Giant.

Tasting Notes:

The nose ping pongs from malty cinnamon rolls with walnuts and plenty of buttery syrup to a touch of black pepper. The palate builds on that pepperiness. and cinnamon to bring about a nice warmth that’s countered by sweet honey and orange oils. The finish leans into the hot cinnamon, leaving you with a slight buzzing in your senses.

Bottom Line:

This is a good place to start. The rye feels like a good intro to 95 percent rye and how a distiller/blender can create a solid whiskey.

49. WhistlePig Beyond Bonded FarmStock Rye

WhistlePig

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $125

The Whiskey:

The vast majority of WhistlePig is/was Alberta and Indiana rye until the distillery actually began to age its own juice. Now, those sourced juices still make up the main lines of the brand but their own juice is starting to make and appearance in the Farmstock line. This expression is made with 100 percent Remington Rye grown on-site at WhistlePig. It’s then aged for around four-plus years before blending and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This rye leans into dry wood, lemon zest, and plenty of cinnamon that’s a little sweet and buttery, like a cinnamon toast. The woodiness leans towards dry cedar bark with black tea next to peach, more lemon zest, and a holiday cake spice matrix. The finish starts to dry out with those spices as hints of burnt orange peel and marshmallow lead towards a note of a fresh dollar bill pulled from a new stack.

Bottom Line:

I like this rye. There’s no “wow” factor but it plays well in cocktails. That said, it is a little on the pricier side, which is the point of WhistlePig’s branding.

48. Redemption Rye

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

This affordable rye is a sourced whiskey from MGP. It’s the famed 95 percent rye — aged for just under three years — that’s dominated the market for the last decade or so. The juice is blended by Master Blender Dave Carpenter and is brought down to a very reasonable 92 proof with soft Kentucky limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with rushes of cedar, green grass, nasturtiums, and soft leather. The palate feels like common black pepper next to more cedar with a touch of wet chili pepper flesh. The end combines mint, chocolate, and tobacco and packs all three into an old cigar box, and then dusts the whole thing with white pepper.

Bottom Line:

This is the same juice as the Redwood pick above. However, the vibe of this bottle is completely different. That’s thanks to the Master Blender looking for something that fits their palate for their whiskey. In the end, though, this is still a quality mixing rye above anything else.

47. Castle & Key Restoration Kentucky Rye Whiskey 2021 Batch #1

Restoration Rye
Castle & Key Distillery

ABV: 51.5%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

This new whiskey from Castle & Key goes easy on the rye. The mash bill is 63 percent rye, 20 percent malted barley, and 17 percent yellow corn. That spirit is then aged for a few years in only 80 barrels, which makes this a pretty small batch of whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

This feels like Kentucky whiskey on the nose with floral honey, bright cherry soda, meaty apricot, a touch of wet oak, and a faint whisper of dried roses. The palate dried out the wood and touches on hints of buttery toffee, candied ginger, eggnog, and dried fruits. Those dried fruits get meaty and sweet like a date as the ginger sharpens with a light warming spice next to a touch of cherry tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is worth tracking down just to have a rye on your shelf that doesn’t read simply as “spicy.” Beyond that, this is perfectly fine on the rocks but really shines as a cocktail base.

46. George Dickel Rye Whisky

Diageo

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $28

The Whisky:

This is an interesting whisky. It’s a classic 95 percent rye — like that one from up in Indiana — that Dickel is making in-house. Dickel runs their rye through the charcoal filtration process and then ages the mellowed juice in their signature barrels.

Tasting Notes:

This has a nose of peach, cedar, vanilla, and a bit of graininess. The palate balances cotton candy with spicy vanilla Coke vibes next to a creamy nature. The finish gets a little leathery with a hint of the cola spice driving back towards that creamy vanilla, a hint of dry cedar, and a dash of white pepper warmth.

Bottom Line:

This is the perfect mixing whiskey. Try this in your next Manhattan and don’t look back.

45. Chicken Cock Rye

Chicken Cock Whiskey

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from a re-invigorated brand is comprised of that famous sourced 95 percent rye that’s aged (and now contract distilled) at Bardstown Bourbon Company. In this case, it’s aged for around two years before the barrels are blended, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This opens like a root beer float with an eggnog ice cream scoop that leads to a touch of rye bread funk. The palate is like an old cedar box full of spicy tobacco leaves that lead back to the sasparilla of that root beer. The mid-palate has this spicy stewed peaches vibe with a hint of dried fruit, black tea bitterness, and touch more of that peppery root beer.

Bottom Line:

I really dig that sassafras note on ryes. For some that rings a little medicinal (and I get that). Still, this is a cool bottle of rye that works wonders in a cocktail and is perfectly serviceable on the rocks.

44. High West Double Rye

High West Distillery

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $38

The Whiskey:

This rye is a blend of Indiana’s MGP 95 percent rye with own-make from the Utah distillery. The rye from Utah is an 80 percent rye/20 percent malted rye mash. Both whiskeys are a minimum of two years old before they’re vatted, proofed with Utah’s Rocky Mountain water, and bottled in old tequila bottles.

Tasting Notes:

This is pure apple crumble with notes of brown sugar, cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice, and a bit of mint. The taste has a dried rose note that leads into a very botanical, absinthe feel next to dry apple cores and stems. A warm mid-palate soon takes over, with plenty of black pepper and sharp cinnamon. That apple returns late, with a warmth that reminds you of apple tobacco on the finish.

Bottom Line:

This bottle could easily have been much higher on this list. But — spoiler alert — there’s another High West on this list that is damn near transcendent, so here we are.

In the end, this is a great cocktail rye that I also pour on the rocks from time to time.

43. Traverse City North Coast Rye

Traverse City Whiskey Co.

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from Michigan is a blend of Traverse City’s own-make (a 100 percent rye) and MGP’s 95 percent rye. The whiskeys are aged for about two years before they’re vatted and proofed down with that clear Michigan water.

Tasting Notes:

This is sort of all over the place from top to bottom, with a nose full of soft leather, dried flowers, bready grains, lemon curd, and dark cherry. The palate has that creamy vanilla and eggnog pudding vibe with a touch of caramel corn, fresh ginger, and meaty dates. The spice kicks up on the backend with a very distinct cherry-vanilla tobacco chewiness that leaves your mouth buzzing.

Bottom Line:

This grows on me more and more every year. This year’s release felt a little more in line with that Michigan vibe (chill) and just more well-rounded overall.

42. Frey Ranch Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond

Frey Ranch Rye
Frey Ranch

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from Nevada is a single estate spirit. That means it’s made with 100 percent rye in the mash bill and that rye (Winter Rye specifically) came from the Frey Ranch farmland. The spirit was then aged a few years before only a few thousand bottles were filled.

Tasting Notes:

Citrus oils — especially grapefruit and blood orange — pop on the nose with hints of floral honey, spicy malts, almond shells, raisins, and rummy molasses. The taste has the buttery brown sugar crumble vibe that’s accented by heavy ginger and black pepper spice, a touch of dried flowers, and a hint of dark cacao powder. That dark chocolate stays bitter as the finish brings about another touch of honey and raisin before descending into spicy ginger-infused tobacco and black pepper warmth.

Bottom Line:

This sort of has it all. It’s spicy, fruity, and plenty sweet. It’s also pretty unique and damn tasty. You can’t go wrong snagging a bottle of this.

41. Old Overholt Bonded

Old Overholt Bonded
Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $28

The Whiskey:

This rye hails from the Pennsylvania rye traditions of the early 1800s. The brand was moved to Kentucky almost 200 years later thanks to Beam. The juice in the bottle is a bit of an enigma since Beam doesn’t disclose the mash bill (a rarity for them). It is aged for four years and bottled at 100 proof per bottled-in-bond laws.

Tasting Notes:

This leans a bit more towards a high-rye bourbon than an out-and-out rye whiskey, with hints of vanilla, dry oak, and sweet corn. The taste really leans into the vanilla with a creamy pudding vibe leading towards salted caramel, more dry wood, roasted almonds, and a final spurt of heavy spice with a grassy edge. The finish stays dry and nutty as the spiciness stays more woody than peppery with a green edge to it.

Bottom Line:

This is the perfect cocktail whiskey. It’s bold enough to stand up to big flavors (like in a boulevardier orSazerac) while also being soft enough to drink in a nice highball.

40. Nashville Barrel Company Single Barrel Rye #511

Nashville Barrel Company

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $115

The Whiskey:

Nashville Barrel is all about the barrel picks for retailers, bars, and whoever comes along (within reason). The juice in this case is that 95 percent MGP rye that’s around eight years old. The whiskey went into the bottle at barrel strength without any additional fussing.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with a cinnamon toast with plenty of woody cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, and a hint of vanilla bean. The palate is very peppery — kind of like milling some black pepper right onto your tongue — while balancing a nice touch of raisins, clove, and anise. The mid-palate dries out even more with a toasted tobacco leaf that leads back to a cherry-infused cream soda.

Bottom Line:

The good folks at Nashville Barrel Company are picking some of the best barrels in the game and bringing them down to Nashville. These single barrel releases are always worth tracking down and will surprise you every time.

39. WhistlePig Roadstock Rye Whiskey

WhistlePig Roadstock Rye
WhistlePig

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $75

The Whiskey:

This 2021 release from WhistlePig has a pretty cool story and a wild mix of finishing barrels. The Vermont whiskey maker had a special 18-wheeler semi-truck and trailer made to transport barrels of Canadian rye from Vermont to Paso Robles, CA, and back — and yes, they had a blocker car. Before the 6,000-mile roundtrip journey started, some of the whiskey was barreled into red wine casks from Jordan Winery which held a Bordeaux blend. Once the barrels reached California, the remaining whiskey not in the wine casks was barreled in barrels from Firestone Walker Brewery which previously held their Imperial Stout, Imperial Blonde Ale, and Experimental Ale. All the barrels were then driven back to Vermont for proofing and bottling, making this the first “road finished” rye on the market.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a burst of berry brambles hanging heavy with blackberries, blueberries, and … savory gooseberries next to a wisp of green stems and seeds that leads towards a woody maple syrup and a hint of orange zest. The orange zest drives the spiciness of the palate as stewed peaches and pears combine the fruit, sweetness, and spice while cedar sneaks in late. The finish leans towards a spicy-yet-fruity tobacco leaf with a touch more of that cedar and a cinnamon cookie with a hint of brown butter and sugar.

Bottom Line:

Gimmick aside, this is a tasty rye whiskey. It also has a little better price for a WhistlePig release, which makes this an easy bottle to reach for when mixing up some cocktails or looking for an easy-drinking on the rocks pour.

38. Pinhook Flagship Rye Hard Guy Rye

Pinhook Hard Guy Rye
Pinhook

ABV: 49%

Average Price: $39

The Whiskey:

This flagship 2021 rye release from Pinhook highlights the power of the blending happening with the brand. The base whiskey is a sourced two-year rye (from Castle & Key Distillery) with a mash bill of 60 percent rye, 20 percent corn, and 20 percent malted barley. Hand-selected barrels are vatted in small batches and then proofed with Kentucky’s soft limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this is subtle yet vibrant with hints of plump and ripe apricot drizzled with honey next to a eucalyptus-heavy potpourri bowl and a touch of soft wood. The palate adds orange oils to the mix as stone fruit melts into a caramel sauce that’s just touched with a flake of salt. The mid-palate takes on a black licorice vibe that leans towards spicy absinthe and some more of that buttery caramel on the very end.

Bottom Line:

It feels like Pinhook is only one of two years away from topping this list. Their whisky gets better with every new release and this year was a great year for the brand. Pick this up if want a unique rye that works wonders in a Sazerac or on the rocks.

37. Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Rye

Rabbit Bole Boxergrail
Rabbit Hole

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $53

The Whiskey:

This crafty distillery makes their rye with 95 percent rye and malted barley right in Louisville. The juice is aged for three years in heavily toasted and charred barrels before vatting, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Hints of wildflowers, peaches, vanilla, and white pepper flutter on the nose. The palate has this earthy nature that’s close to a dried mushroom next to notes of cedar boxes, soft vanilla-heavy cream soda, a touch of rye spiciness, and dried tobacco leaves. The end collapses the cedar, tobacco, and vanilla into a single warming note and then leaves you with a hint of that white pepper.

Bottom Line:

This is another whiskey that has been growing on me. This year’s edition hit really well, especially in an old fashioned.

36. Smooth Ambler Contradiction Rye

Smooth Ambler Contradiction Rye
Smooth Ambler

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $43

The Whiskey:

This new release from Smooth Ambler mixes some very interesting whiskeys together. The blend is two Tennessee ryes (one 70 percent rye, one 51 percent rye), MGP’s 95 percent rye, and Smooth Ambler’s own rye which has a mash bill of 88 percent rye. Those whiskeys are then blended, proofed, and bottled in the hills of West Virginia.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a stewed cherry that’s heavy on woody cinnamon sticks next to hints of vanilla pods and maybe some dried florals. The palate leans into the woodiness of the cinnamon stick to the point of feeling like a cedar box full of spicy cinnamon tobacco as creamy vanilla leads to a toasted coconut vibe. The finish lets the creaminess of the vanilla drive a sweet edge as the spicy cinnamon tobacco is just kissed with cherry syrup and dark chocolate on the very back end.

Bottom Line:

This is good stuff. It does feel like it could easily have been a bourbon, given the flavor notes. That’s not a knock at all because this is tasty whiskey. But this is a rye whiskey list and that’s why it is a little lower.

35. Angel’s Envy Rum Finished Rye

Angel's Envy Rum Cask Rye
Angels Envy

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

Starting back in 2015, this rum-finished rye has a lot of fans. The juice was primarily MGP 95 percent rye but they’ve been distilling and aging their own make for a while now and this whiskey has gotten better over the years. This particular expression is aged for 18 additional months in rum casks to get it exactly right.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is bold on this one with hazelnut shells mingling with rummy molasses, orange oils, vanilla cookies, maple syrup, and wet cedar bark. The taste sweetens that cedar as cherry peaks in with a sense of Nutella on the mid-palate. There’s a plummy vibe to the finish that just touches on dark spices, more cedar, and plenty of that maple syrup.

Bottom Line:

This whiskey really popped for me this year. It’s a great cocktail base that also works perfectly well on the rocks as a sipper.

34. Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye

Catoctin Creek Distilling Company

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $43

The Whiskey:

This Virginia whiskey is made from 100 percent rye grains sourced from local farms. The juice matures for two years in Virginia before it’s proofed with local water to a very approachable 80 proof.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a hint of peppery spice that leads towards lemon cream pie filling and a touch of vanilla pods on the nose. The palate holds onto that lemon vibe and marries it to black pepper, like a 1990s “lemon pepper” spice blend, next to a rush of black licorice, white peaches, and more of that rich vanilla. The pepper gets powdery towards the finish — more like a fine white pepper — as the citrus lingers longest.

Bottom Line:

This is another whiskey that really popped this year. I big part of that is its accessibility. That 80 proof makes this one of the easiest-drinking whiskeys on this list.

33. Peerless Rye Absinthe Barrel Finished

Peerless Absinthe Finised Rye
Kentucky Peerless Distilling

ABV: 55.35%

Average Price: $134

The Whiskey:

The good folks at Kentucky Peerless Distilling had the good sense to ask, “I wonder what happens when we finish our rye in absinthe barrels?” and then they did it with their famous rye. They first released this in 2020, but I missed that one. I was lucky enough to get a taste of the 2021 release though, and the results are fascinating.

Tasting Notes:

This hits you hard with the absinthe right on the nose with anise, black licorice, and maybe even a little caraway popping up. The rye makes its presence known on the palate with touches of fresh peach next to light vanilla, brown sugars, and a mild peppery spice that leads back to those bold absinth notes. The finish is long and really leans into the botanicals as woody spices warm on the sense and you’re left with what almost feels like a salted black licorice tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is almost like a Sazerac in a glass when you pour it over a rock or two. Seriously, you can just dash some bitters into the glass and drop in something sweet, and you’ll have the drink ready to go. All of that being said, if you don’t dig on absinthe-forward Sazeracs, this is not going to be for you.

32. Basil Hayden’s 10 Year Rye

Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $78

The Whiskey:

This is Beam’s high-end brand and their high-end rye within that brand. The barrels are the ones that made it to ten years and hit just the right marks of flavor and texture to be batched, proofed down to a very accessible 80 proof, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The result of the ten years of maturation is a softening of the spicy rye, giving this offering a much richer, more approachable flavor. Before you even take a sip, you’re met with aromas of peppery rye, subtle toasted oak, and lingering vanilla. The sip leads you into a symphony of sweet toffee, rich caramel, and warming rye spice. It’s all finished with a flourish of warming cinnamon and smoky dark chocolate.

Bottom Line:

This is a great entry-point rye for the higher end of the bracket. It’s so easy to drink, feels like a classic, and, I think, is getting better and better every year. Or maybe I’m just programming my palate to like it more and more. Either way, it’s good rye.

31. New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond

New Riff BiB Rye
New Riff

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $49

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is the famed 95 percent rye but made in Kentucky. The juice is aged for four years before it’s proofed with that soft Kentucky water and bottled without filtration.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a balance between dry cedar, woody spices, and spicy root beer and soft dark berries, orange oils, vanilla pods, and a wisp of dried rose. The palate starts with a buttery toffee that’s spiked with cinnamon that then leads to more cedar and orange next to what feels like bubble gum. That mid-palate sweet note leads towards a deep and dark spice that’s warming but not hot. Finally, a dark cacao bitterness arrives and merges with the vanilla, toffee, berries, and orange oils for a slightly sweet finish that ends on a dry wicker note at the very end.

Bottom Line:

We’re not even to the halfway point, and we’re already into some seriously good whiskeys. While this originally dropped in 2019, each year just seems to get better and better. This is a whiskey to keep coming back to every year, pouring over some rocks, and really seeing what’s buried deep inside.

30. Hudson Whiskey NY Back Room Deal

Hudson Back Room Deal Rye
William Grant & Sons

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $63

The Whiskey:

This whiskey dropped late last year and has been getting a lot of attention this year on the award’s circuit. The juice in the bottle is Hudson’s three-year rye. That whiskey is then finished in their former bourbon barrels that Hudson sent to Scotland to age peated malt in. Those barrels were sent back to New York so that this whiskey could finish aging in them.

Tasting Notes:

You’re immediately greeted with a hint of peat that’s more tied to a smoked and meaty apricot next to smoked almonds and a touch of vanilla-laden streusel. The palate really amps up the sweetness of the smoked apricot as hints of menthol tobacco lead towards a very mild black peppery vibe. The finish takes its time as the smoked aspects of the sip play second fiddle to the spice and fruitiness of the rye on the slow fade towards more minty tobacco and smoked apricot.

Bottom Line:

This might actually be the most unique whiskey on the list. It’s also delicious, especially if you like a subtle peated malt every now and then. Still, it doesn’t lose its “rye-ness” and works great as a sipper on the rocks.

29. Knob Creek Rye

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $37

The Whiskey:

This is another bourbon drinker’s rye with a mash bill that’s believed to be only 51 percent rye (which is likely the same for the Basil Hayden’s above). This rye, however, is batched and proofed at a higher ABV, 50 proof, allowing more of the barrel to shine through.

Tasting Notes:

Classic cherry, vanilla, cedar, and peppery spice lead on the nose. That matrix of flavors delivers on the palate with the vanilla getting super creamy as the cherry really pops as “ripe” and “vibrant” on the tongue. The spice is more attached to a moist tobacco leaf with a bit of a chew to it that’s also just touched by dark chocolate cherry vibes.

Bottom Line:

No, Knob Creek rye isn’t new. But it did get a makeover in 2021 with a new bottle and label. Did that make the juice in that bottle better? I don’t know. What I do know is that this rye is delicious. It also stands up to ryes that punch way above its class price-wise. These are all reasons to drink this rye.

28. Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey

Brown-Forman

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This whiskey was a long time coming. Master Distiller Chris Morris tinkered with this recipe for nine years before it was just right. The juice has a fairly low-rye mash bill — for a rye, that is. The bill only calls for 53 percent of the spicy grain. The rest is made up of local corn and malted barley. The whiskey then spends up to seven years maturing at their Versailles, Kentucky facility before its blended, proofed with soft limestone water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Grassy rye comes through with a nice note of sharp black pepper next to mellow pear and marzipan with a hint of cedar bark. The palate really delivers on the pear with a honeyed sweetness while the rye pepperiness ebbs and flows without overpowering the subtler notes of malt, clove, and even fresh mint. The end is shortish and leans into the sweetness of the fruit with a sharp rye spice counterpoint.

Bottom Line:

This is another new 2021 edition that grabbed my attention this year. I actually pulled out my 2020 bottle and tried this side-by-side, and this year’s was a little subtler and maybe a little more herbaceous.

27. Kyrö Single Malt Rye Whisky

Kyrö Single Malt Rye
Kyrö Distillery Company

ABV: 47.2%

Average Price: $68

The Whisky:

This single rye malt whisky starts off with 100 percent Finnish rye. The spirit is then aged for several years in those cold Finnish winters and bright summers in new American oak barrels. The final product is just proofed and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

This opens very classically with notes of rich vanilla next to raisins and prunes, salted caramel, and a hint of soft oak and maybe a touch of wet rye. The palate turns that wet grain into a sweet brown bread with a rye feel to it as the taste hits on dark berries swimming in cream and honey next to caramel chews covered in dark chocolate. That dark chocolate drives the mid-palate towards a finish that sweet yet spicy tobacco end.

Bottom Line:

This is delicious rye that’s a great gateway to the brand. Try this first to get a baseline, then grab their latest batch releases to really go deep with this single rye malt whiskey.

26. Johnnie Walker High Rye

Johnnie Walker High Rye
Diageo

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $33

The Whisky:

This whisky leans into the moment rye is having worldwide. The blend is 40 percent single malts from Diageo’s stable of distilleries — particularly Cardhu, Glenkinchie, and Caol Ila — and 60 percent rye whisky aged in American oak. Those whiskies are vatted, proofed down, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose feels like the best of both worlds as a twinge of rye spiciness mingles with sweet smoky notes cut with orchard fruit and a hint of vanilla. The fruit drives the palate with tart apples spiked with clove and anise as a buttery caramel sweetens the sip. The finish moves on from that sweet note towards a dry sense of woody spices and a touch of dried and smoked apple slices.

Bottom Line:

Slightly smoky rye whisky is really catching on (again). This brand new drop from Johnie Walker is a must-have for any rye and scotch lover out there.

25. Method and Madness Rye & Malt

Method & Madness
Pernod Ricard

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $105

The Whiskey:

Distiller Katherine Condon created this whiskey using a mash bill of 60 percent rye and 40 percent malted barley. That spirit then spent several years chilling out in ex-bourbon casks before it was proofed and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s this juxtaposition of lemon pepper and a rush of lavender on the nose that’s so pronounced it’s almost impossible to get anything else. The palate veers away from that towards a cedar box stuffed with spicy, dry tobacco leaves dusted with white pepper, cloves, and a dark chocolate powder cut with ground-up dried chili flakes. The mid-palate sweetens slightly with a touch of dates soaked in black tea next to ginger snap cookies.

Bottom Line:

Irish rye is becoming more and more popular. This 2021 newbie really dials in the flavor profile and makes me pretty excited to see what comes next from Irish ryes.

24. Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof

Balcones Texas Rye
Balcones Distilling

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This rye is Texas in a bottle. The expression is made of 100 percent rye from a mix of Elbon Rye sourced from Northwest Texas as well as crystal, chocolate, and roasted rye. The juice is then aged for just under two years in a hot Texas rickhouse and cut with Hill Country spring water and nothing else.

Tasting Notes:

Cherries dipped in chocolate support black tea bitterness, light oak char, and a rush of cracked black pepper. The pepper leads the way as the bitter chocolate leans into an oolong green tea vibe as the sip gains a creamy and buttery toffee taste. The sip then barrels towards its end with a flourish of roasted peanuts and more of that tea bitterness and a final hint of salted dark chocolate-covered raspberry.

Bottom Line:

This is quickly becoming a classic rye. It’s so unique and drinkable. You’d also be hard-pressed to find a rye this confident in its flavor profile. This year’s edition was one that really blew a lot of people’s socks off, finally giving the whisky the attention it deserves.

23. Stellum Rye

Barrell Spirits Company

ABV: 58.12%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This new release from Barrell Spirits Co. blends rye whiskey from Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The core is the classic 95 percent rye from MGP of Indiana that’s cut with more barley-forward ryes from Tennessee and Kentucky. All of it is left at barrel strength when bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with a note of soft leather and … Guinness? … with a touch of apple crumble with plenty of dark spice, brown sugar, and butter. The palate goes full holiday cake mode with even more brown spice, nuts, and candied fruits that lead towards a mid-palate that’s all moist banana bread with walnuts. The finish lets the spice kick up a notch, creating a sharp cinnamon toast feel.

Bottom Line:

Barrell Craft Spirits entered the bourbon and rye game in a big way this year with two “affordable” releases. This rye is a phenomenal mixing whiskey that’ll make any cocktail pop. It’s also blended so delicately that you can easily sip this on the rocks too.

22. JP Wiser’s 18 Year Blended Canadian Whisky

JP Wiser's 18
Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $85

The Whiskey:

This old-school whisky from Canada is a blend of multi-grain and rye whiskies that are at least 18 years old. The whiskies are batched into very small vats, meaning that only 3,500 bottles are released with every edition.

Tasting Notes:

The nose presents as softly floral with a hint of orange oils, vanilla bean, and a touch of green apple peel. That apple shows up on the palate but is more like an apple core or stem with a pine edge that leads towards cinnamon-spiced caramel candies. That sweet caramel fades pretty quickly as the spice attaches to a cedar box full of rich yet dry tobacco.

Bottom Line:

I liked this for the first time this fall (after having tried it several times over the years). It was soft, approachable, and very easy to drink. It was also pretty unique and really stands out even though it’s a “rye” in name only.

21. Sagamore Spirit Distiller’s Select Tequila Finish

Sagamore Tequila Finish
Sagamore Spirits

ABV: 49%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This Maryland whiskey is already great on its own. This one takes that excellent rye and finishes it in extra añejo tequila barrels. That whiskey is then batched, proofed, and bottled to highlight that finishing barrel.

Tasting Notes:

This whiskey opens both floral and buttery with hints of singed dried roses next to buttery toffee, orange oils, and a fleeting hint of roasted agave pinas. The palate starts off with a mix of orange, cinnamon, and honey that leads to mild black peppercorn that feels like an old tequila more than a rye. The florals return. on the mid-palate as savory fruits (think figs) arrive just in time. for the long finish to spicy and orange-infused tobacco.

Bottom Line:

You don’t want to sleep on this tequila-finished rye. It’s bright and sunny while still feeling like classic rye. This feels like a one-of-a-kind bottle that also is incredibly easy to drink.

20. Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye Whiskey

EH Taylor Rye
Sazerac Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $95

The Whiskey:

This rye from Buffalo Trace is a beloved bottle. As with all Buffalo Trace whiskeys, the mash bill and exact aging are not known. It’s likely this is made from a mash of very high rye mixed with just malted barley, maybe. We do know that it is not the same mash bill as Buffalo Trace’s other rye, Sazerac.

Tasting Notes:

This nose is vibrant with hints of freshly plucked pears next to black peppercorns, soft cedar, holiday spices, and a hint of fresh mint chopped up with fresh dill. The palate holds onto that cedar as the pear gets stewed with those holiday spices and the sweetness arrives with a velvety toffee syrup. That sweet end leads back to the spices with the addition of clove and anise as that mint and dill return to calm everything down.

Bottom Line:

This is a great example of a Kentucky rye. It’s fruity, sweet, herbal, and, yes, peppery. But it’s also almost flabbergastingly easy to drink (even neat). If there was ever a time to use the word “smooth,” this is it.

19. Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

Beam Suntory

ABV: 63.7%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

This almost universally beloved rye is made with a 100 percent rye mash bill on the prairies of Alberta. The grist (milled rye grains) is then married with Rocky Mountain glacial water and yeast for fermentation. The spirit is barrelled and left to mature for an undisclosed amount of time. The results are blended and bottled with zero fussing at cask strength, giving this whisky a real depth and sense of those chilly plains, mountains, and glacier-fed waters from Alberta.

Tasting Notes:

Green dill sits next to west cedar bark and rich yet sweet cherry candies on the nose. The taste veers into cream soda vanilla territory while red berries, savory pumpkin, and green peppercorns dominate. The end has this super-refined dark chocolate and brandied cherry vibe that bursts on your palate like firecrackers at midnight on New Year’s eve.

Bottom Line:

This is another stellar rye. It’s straightforward but deeply hewn. While I liked last year’s a little more, this still has a lot to offer. If you snag a bottle, treat yourself to pretty much the best rye coming out of Canada right now.

18. Thomas H. Handy Sazerac

Sazerac Company

ABV: 64.75%

Average Price: $550

The Whiskey:

This is the youngest bottle in 2021’s BTAC. The whiskey was distilled in the spring of 2015 and bottled in the fall of 2021. The mash is mainly Minnesota rye with Kentucky corn and North Dakota barley. The juice matured in warehouses I, K, L, and O on the fifth through seventh floors. Over that time, 31 percent of the juice was lost to the angels.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a rush of botanicals, leaning into star anise, clove, black licorice, and dried-up cinnamon sticks shoved into an old leather tobacco pouch. The palate holds onto that woody cinnamon as touches of green peppercorns pop in the background with a slight hint of rose water, almonds, and bitter citrus pith that leads towards a mid-palate that veers green towards fresh mint stems. That mint mellows out as a creamy nature arrives on the finish with dark cocoa powder that’s just touched by that mint, creating an almost chewy/dusty mint-chocolate-chip quality.

Bottom Line:

I lot of people love this. It’s not exactly for me but I fully appreciate the beauty of this whiskey. All of that being said, this is an incredibly easy whiskey to drink and would probably be a go-to Sazerac mixer if not for the insane secondary market price.

17. Hudson Whiskey NY The xSeries: Cider Cask Rye

Hudson Cider Cask Finish
William Grant & Sons

ABV: 46%

Average Price: Distillery Only

The Whiskey:

This new entry in the xSeries from Hudson takes their standard rye and finishes it with some apple. The juice is loaded into apple-cider-cured barrels for a final maturation before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a lovely and almost warm cinnamon-spiked apple cider next to apple blossoms, apple core, and then a rush of rye grains, rich caramel, fresh apricot, and hints of vanilla. The palate really delivers on the cinnamon sticks soaked in apple cider as the florals drive the taste towards a hint of clove, wet cedar, and chewy apple tobacco. The apricot sweetness pops in on the back end as the apple tobacco marries the hot cinnamon sticks on the almost dry and long finish.

Bottom Line:

It always amazes me how well apple and rye go together and that there’s not more of it (even though there’s another one on this list). I wish there was more of this rye but it’s already gone for the year. We can only hope that Hudson brings it back next year because it’s delicious.

16. Michter’s US*1 Barrell Strength Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Michters Distillery

ABV: 54.6%

Average Price: $131

The Whiskey:

This juice is Michter’s standard rye that’s finished in a second, toasted barrel. In this case, those barrels are air-dried for 24 long months before being lightly toasted and loaded with the rye. The juice then goes into the bottle at barrel strength.

Tasting Notes:

This has a spicy and sweet nose that’s just like a buttery, candied and dried fruit, and nut-filled holiday cake that’s been drenched in good whiskey and left to sit for a month to really amp up those flavors. The taste has a clear sense of dates, creamed vanilla honey, walnuts, wet brown sugar, and a touch of salted dark chocolate with a whisper of bitterness. The mid-palate dries out towards that pitchy yet dry woodpile with an echo of dirt from the bottom of that woodpile on the finish.

Bottom Line:

These toasted barrel finishes are some of the best work happening over at Michter’s right now. Get one of these 2021 releases if you can. You will not be disappointed by the deep yet accessible flavor profile. Then mix up the best old fashioned.

15. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye

Wild Turkey

ABV: 52%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This hand-selected single barrel expression hits on some pretty big classic rye notes. The juice is selected from the center cuts of the third through fifth floors of the Wild Turkey rickhouses. There’s no chill filtering and the expression is only slightly touched by water for proofing.

Tasting Notes:

The peppery spice greets you with a sense of an old barrel, worn leather, and soft vanilla with a light touch of sweetness. The body is svelte with fresh tobacco leaves accenting that hot pepper, mint, and mellowing cinnamon. There’s a musty barrel edge that leads towards a cedar box full of cigars, vanilla beans, and toffee on the long fade.

Bottom Line:

This feels like an easy entry to any list. This whiskey continues to wow year after year and 2021’s edition held that tradition. Sip this one slow and really dig in. Then start mixing some killer cocktails with it.

14. Blue Run Golden Rye

Blue Run Spirits, LLC

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $130

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a sourced Kentucky rye from an undisclosed distillery or distilleries. The batch is a small outing of only 91 barrels that have been vatted and then proofed with that soft Kentucky limestone water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is like thick challah French toast with just the right balance of yolky custard, nutmeg, and cinnamon with a touch of vanilla oils and a hint of soft, worn leather on the nose. That vanilla turns into a thick eggnog pudding with a slight wet straw funk and black-tea-soaked dates with a touch more cinnamon. The mid-palate reembraces the leather with a dried tobacco whisper next to a light grainy warmth and a super soft minerality.

Bottom Line:

This wows everyone I pour this for. And it didn’t even make the top ten this year. That’s how hard the rest of this list goes.

13. Widow Jane Oak & Apple Wood Aged Rye Whiskey

Widow Jane Oak & Applewood Finish
Widow Jane

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This is Widow Jane’s beloved rye that’s finished very uniquely. The rye is loaded into ten-year-old ex-bourbon barrels and then new oak and applewood staves are put right into the whiskey for the final maturation. That’s then vatted, proofed with Widow Jane’s very own mineral water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Apple shines through on the nose with a medley of apple blossoms, unfiltered apple cider, and almost chewy apple tobacco (think shisha tobacco). The palate stews apples in dark holiday spices and saffron as orange oils create a bright counterpoint and the rye sneaks in a very faint smoked grass vibe. Those stewed apples lean into the warmth of the spices a hint of dark chocolate dances with dark licorice root on the slow fade.

Bottom Line:

Apple and rye are meant to be together — this year convinced me of that. This whiskey is just goddamn phenomenal, so easy to drink, and feels like the perfect winter sipper. Those are all wins.

12. Peerless Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Peerless Single Barrel Rye
Kentucky Peerless Distilling

ABV: 53.9%

Average Price: Distillery Only

The Whiskey:

These single barrel releases from Peerless are special one-offs. Basically, when the team decides a barrel is ready (usually around the three to four-year mark), they’ll bottle it with no fussing and sell it from the distillery’s shop. That also makes these exceedingly rare.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all about the bright red berries and cherry with a thin line of old leather that leads to pecan shells, buttered toffee, and a hint of savory fruit (likely fig). The palate takes all of those berries and simmers them down in rum and holiday spices, creating a pie filling vibe as cedar, more old leather, and toffee lead towards a long finish. That finish creates a sort of spiced-berry tobacco chewiness with hints of dry cedar on the back end.

Bottom Line:

These are pretty precious releases. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one, take your time and let it bloom with a little water. Dig deep and you will be rewarded.

11. Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye 4 Year

Willett 4 year Rye
Kentucky Bourbon Distillers

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This fleeting whiskey from Willett is a fascinating rye. The whiskey is a blend of Willet’s high rye mash bill of 74 percent rye, 15 percent malted barley, and eleven percent corn with their low rye mash of 51 percent rye, 34 percent corn, and 15 percent malted barley. That juice is then aged for four years before blending and bottling at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a rush of florals from an apple orchard that leads towards apple and caramel and a hint of buttered popcorn, dry oak, and fresh honey on the nose. The palate luxuriates in stewed and syrupy cherry with plenty of holiday spice and vanilla cream. That spice leads the mid-palate towards a finish full of menthol tobacco, anise, more caramel, and a final hint of Tellicherry black peppercorns in an old cedar box.

Bottom Line:

I snagged a bottle of this this year and it was great as ever. It’s a killer whiskey that works wonders in a Manhattan.

10. Old Forester Single Barrel Rye

Old Forester Single Barrel Rye
Brown-Forman

ABV: 61.5% (varies)

Average Price: $300

The Whisky:

This new release from Old Forester is their signature rye in a single barrel format. It’s bottled without any filtration or cutting with water.

Tasting Note:

The lemon really shines on the nose to the point that it turns into a pudding with hints of burnt sugar and salted caramel backing it up. The palate takes a bunch of cinnamon sticks and soaks them in apple, cherry, and plum juice then dries them out while hazelnut builds to an almost Nutella level and that dried dill just sneaks in. The mid-palate really leans into the cinnamon and hazelnut until bold cinnamon attaches to a dry cedar box for very dry and peppery tobacco that’s just touched with mint.

Bottom Line:

The top ten ryes are all going to be great. Let’s just get that out of the way. This one really leans into the beauty of Old Forester’s vibe while still bringing some deeply unique flavors forward.

9. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Rye

Wild Turkey

ABV: 56.1% (varies)

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This rye is a blend of the best of the best barrels in the Wild Turkey rickhouses. The juice is chosen from four, six, and eight-year-old barrels and blended, then bottled. There’s no chill filtration to clean up the look and there’s no water added to cut it down to proof. This is pure rye in a bottle.

Tasting Notes:

This is a masterclass in what rye spice can be with notes of black pepper and Christmas spices counterpointed by pine resin dank and almost sweet root beer. The palate brings about a velvet texture with notes of vanilla and dark chocolate cake when water is added. There’s a balance of all that spice, wood, resin, and subtle fruitiness that lasts on your tongue and senses for a while, drawing you back for more.

Bottom Line:

This is another one where I tried the 2020 edition against this year’s and I’m not sure that it’s better. What I am sure of is that it is still spectacular.

8. George Dickel x Leopold Bros Collaboration Blend

George Dickel x Leopold Collab Rye
Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $220

The Whiskey:

The blend is built from four-year-old rye made in Denver at Leopold’s distillery. The rye is their Three Chamber Rye. The mash bill is 80 percent Abruzzi Rye and 20 percent Leopold Floor Malt. That’s blended with George Dickel’s un-released new column still rye, which is a 95 percent rye cut with five percent malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this rings like crafty rye with clear notes of bright florals (think lavender and orange blossom) next to an almost woody touch of maple syrup straight from the treetap with a very mild dusting of dark cacao powder and soft leather that really draws you in. The palate delivers on the promise of the nose, with touches of holiday-spiced orange oils and rosewater leading towards light marzipan next to a prickly bramble of berry bushes hanging heavy with dark, sweet, and slightly tart fruit. The florals come in again with lavender leading the way but this time it’s tied to salted caramel-covered dates with little specks of the dried flowers decorating the sweet confection. The mid-palate holds onto the sweet and meaty date while bitter yet floral Earl Grey tea with a healthy dollop of fresh honey leads towards a finish full of more of that powdery dark cacao just touched by dry chili flakes, adding a slight embrace of warmth to the very backend.

Bottom Line:

There’s nothing out there like this whiskey. It has a great story. It’s one-of-a-kind. And it was made by people who care deeply about whiskey. If you can find this, grab as many as you can as this may never be made again.

7. High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram

High West Distillery

ABV: 49.3%

Average Price: $130

The Whiskey:

Each year, this limited drop varies slightly. This release was a mix of MGP rye (95 percent rye) and High West rye (100 percent rye) finished in French oak barrels that held ruby and tawny port. The barrels picked for this batch were between four and seven years old with the older barrels coming from Indiana and the younger ones from Utah.

Tasting Notes:

This bursts forth with bright red berries covered in rich and bitter dark chocolate with sultanas, burnt orange peels, and nutmeg-heavy French toast custard. The palate really holds onto the berries while savory rhubarb cobbler mingles with dates, old leather tobacco pouches, and vanilla pudding with a salted caramel drizzle. The end leans into eggnog spices with a touch of bitter black tea, more leathery tobacco, and a whisper of fresh mint.

Bottom Line:

This is High West’s highwater mark. This yearly drop is much anticipated and this year’s release was a great all-around whiskey (rye or not). It’s also really built to be a great winter rye, which certainly helps me rate it this time of year. That aside, this is the good stuff and worth the hunt to find.

6. Barrell Seagrass Rye

Barrell Seagrass
Barrell Spirits Company

ABV: 59.2%

Average Price: $86

The Whiskey:

The juice in this limited edition bottle is a combination of rye whiskeys from Indiana, Tennessee, and Canada. Those whiskeys were aged in Martinique rhum, rhum agricole, apricot brandy, and Madeira casks before vatting at Barrell in Kentucky. The idea was to harness the flavors of wood that aged juice next to the sea to bring that coastal x-factor into the blending process for this rye whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

The nose presents a balance of sweetness and warmth that leads towards apple and cherry candies, Werther’s Originals, bruised peaches, and a lightly dried rose potpourri in a soft leather pouch. The taste opens with a slight touch of that peach followed by pears and savory melon while a hint of bitter grapefruit arrives on the mid-palate with a note of cinnamon, fennel, and green (almost oily) thyme. There’s a return of the pear sweetness on the backend of the taste but you have to hack through a very warm, dry, and almost chewy woody spice nature. The very end of the slow finish has this almost white grape soda vibe with a hint of cream soda (and maybe a touch of root beer), apple cores with the stem and seeds, and … overused sandpaper.

Bottom Line:

This rye came out of nowhere this year and blew the competition out of the water. It’s one of the most interesting sippers on this list and, again, there’s nothing quite like it (in the best way possible).

5. Jack Daniels’ Single Barrel Rye

Jack Daniel

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This expression is the same process as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye — 70 percent rye mash bill, cave water, starter yeast, sugar maple filtration, new charred oak barrels. The difference is that these bottles are pulled from barrels that were deemed perfect just the way they are. Generally, those barrels are pulled from the very tip-top of the rickhouse — where the air is drier and hotter, allowing a bit more alchemy to happen over the years.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this one reaches into a basket full of red fruits and berries while leaning into a mild tobacco spice, a touch of cedar humidor, and a cinnamon/cherry vibe. That cinnamon amps up on the taste and feels like you’ve dipped it into a jar of Luxardo cherries and then licked that stick while a velvety vanilla cake slowly gets frosted by thick and buttery eggnog frosting. The dry spices amp up on the mid-palate as the cherry somehow gets even thicker, leading to very sticky tobacco that’s laced with spice and cherry.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the most overlooked great whiskeys on the shelf. It’s incredibly easy to drink, priced amazingly well for a single barrel, and always wows when you pour it. If you’re feeling saucy, mix this into your next Manhattan and let shine.

4. Woodinville 100% Rye

Woodinville Whiskey Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

The juice is 100 percent rye with grains sourced locally from the Omlin family farm. The whiskey is barreled in air-dried and toasted barrels but this time they’re heavily charred before the spirit goes in. The barrels are then hand-selected and married to create a pure rye whiskey experience at an accessible 90 proof.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with rushes of cedar, green grass, nasturtiums, and soft leather. The palate feels like common black pepper next to more cedar with a touch of wet chili pepper flesh. The end combines mint, chocolate, and tobacco and packs all three into an old cigar box, and then dusts the whole thing with white pepper.

Bottom Line:

This year’s edition of this whiskey was stellar. It’s so straightforward but 100 percent distinct in every single note it touches on. Sometimes it’s in the confidence of a great whiskey maker that truly great whiskey shines.

3. Sazerac Rye 18

Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $1,400

The Whiskey:

This rye was made back in 2003 from Minnesota Rye, Kentucky corn, and North Dakota barley. The juice spent 18-and-a-half years in warehouses K and P on the second and fourth floors. Finally, it was vatted, proofed with that iconic Kentucky limestone water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with this medley of fresh and earthy honeycombs next to bushels of freshly picked Granny Smith apples sitting in straw baskets with a hint of oily herbs like rosemary and thyme. There’s a heft to the body of this sip that touches on clove and allspice while the sweetness edges towards fresh maple syrup with a touch of butter. The mid-palate veers swiftly away from that sweetness towards an espresso bean bitterness, meaty dates soaked in Earl Grey tea, and milky yet dark chocolate bars sprinkled with smoked salt flakes.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the best American whiskeys there is. There’s no need to say more.

2. Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Years Old

Van Winkle Rye
Sazerac Company

ABV: 47.8%

Average Price: $1,900

The Whiskey:

This is the only non-wheated whiskey in the Pappy line. While we don’t know the exact mash bill, Buffalo Trace does use a rye mash bill that’s very low-rye (some say only 51 percent). Either way, the juice is then barreled and allowed to mellow for 13 years before vatting, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine sweet tobacco leaves spiked with red peppercorns, rich caramel apples, plenty of holiday spices, and walnuts soaked in warm brandy. Worn leather arrives with hints of those fatty nuts and dried fruits next to the sharply spicy pepperiness. That pepper mellows towards a powdery white pepper, with hints of vanilla cream and buttery toffee lurking underneath a touch of dried berries covered in very dark chocolate. The end is fairly warm at first but fades out evenly and slowly, leaving a cedar-y sense of wood and a final whisper of peppery yet dry pipe tobacco with the most distant wisp of smoke.

Bottom Line:

This whiskey is really, really f*cking good. When I tried the release this year, it all sort of clicked for me. There’s nothing quite like this (I know I’ve said that a lot already) but it felt somehow familiar and comforting too. It’s a great trick to play on your senses and really feels like an “experience” when drinking it.

1. Michter’s Single Barrel 10-Year Kentucky Straight Rye

Michters Distillery

ABV: 46.4%

Average Price: $240

The Whiskey:

The point of this Michter’s release was to bring rye back to mainstream prominence. The single barrels are painstakingly chosen by the team at Michter’s and exhaustively tasted until they know they’re right for this release. Because of that, this bottle holds a very special place in whiskey drinkers’ hearts.

That also makes this the bottle of rye that distillers and blenders everywhere aspire to match.

Tasting Notes:

Butter-rich toffee meets marzipan cut with rose water next to black peppery spice, apple-cider-soaked cinnamon sticks, and earthy cedar bark. Bespoke Red Hots mingle with orange oils, more cedar, vanilla pods, and a rush of fresh spicy/sweet chili peppers. The almond edge loses some of its marzipan sweetness and dries out as the cedar marries spicy tobacco. Soft vanilla cream and orange oils linger on your senses until the last.

Bottom Line:

This year’s Michter’s 10 Rye was my bottle of the year. I drank a lot of it. I had access to all these other whiskeys and this is what I went back to the most (outside of Scottish whisky). There’s something about this whiskey that just hits the perfect balance of fruity and peppery rye that also feels engaging and conforming, like sitting down in a cozy pub next to a fire to catch up with an old friend.

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