Rye whiskey is the peppery, hot-blooded sibling of American whiskey and bourbon. It’s defined by the dominance of rye grains — featuring a mash bill (recipe) with at least 51 percent rye, along with grains like malted barley, cereals like corn, and sometimes even wheat. An easy rule of thumb is the more rye in the mash bill, the more spice in the sip.
Rye is a unique spirit in that the burn isn’t so much to be avoided as to be savored. Rather than “smoothness” being the dominant note, there’s an extra layer of complexity to rye that makes it great for sipping and even better for mixing up in a mean cocktail. The addition of rye grains to the mash bill doesn’t only mean heat or peppery spice. There’s also a rich, sweet buttery undertone that can lean either towards burnt cream or fresh spring honey flavor.
The below five bottles of rye below will take you on a journey through the style. They’re the perfect bottles to have on hand if you want to take your guests through the highs of rye whiskey and learn a little something along the way. Let’s dive in!