We Asked Bartenders To Name The Absolute Best Rye Whiskeys To Drink This Fall

We have the perfect prescription for the upcoming end-of-summer blues: rye whiskey. That’s right, feel free to move on from your summery gins, tequilas, vodkas, and rums and right into spicy, peppery rye whiskeys. We’re calling it right now — rye whiskey will be the spirit of fall 2019. Get on board or look like a chump come October.

To truly embrace this seasonally appropriate spirit, you should know at least one fact about it. You know how bourbon must contain at least 51 percent corn? Well, rye whiskey must contain at least 51 percent rye. Simple enough, right? From there, you’ll see mash bills that push the spirit in all sorts of different directions, but you’re definitely going to get at least some level of peppery spice from the rye.

During the craft whiskey boom, the style has gained rapidly in popularity — with large and small distilleries in Canada and the US trying their hand at the spirit. To help you navigate the new expressions hitting the market, we decided to ask some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to rye whiskeys for fall sipping.

Widow Jane American Oak Rye

Seamus Patrick Banning, bartender at Messina Social Club in Philadelphia

Widow Jane American Oak Rye is a perfect drop for the fall. The combination of maple, autumnal stone fruit, southern white flower and spice on my nose is a dream on a chilly night. Aged and rounded in Widow Jane 10-year first-fill bourbon casks, with a few fresh-cut oak staves added, make it a beautifully balanced, warm rye.

Take it easy and sip this one slowly, you’ll want it to last. I’ll take mine neat, by a fire pit with friends.

Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Reserve Rye

Alli Torres, bartender at Refinery Rooftop in New York City

The new release of Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Reserve Rye stole my heart. I typically veer from sweeter things, but there’s something about this flavor I simply cannot resist. I’ve been turned onto Basil Hayden’s for quite some time and I love the idea of blending Black Strap rum into the finish to add a deep molasses flavor to its strong and spicy rye structure. This makes it perfect for fall cocktails.

I’ve fallen head over heels for this one, for sure.

Dad’s Hat Rye

Jenghis Manning-Pettit, lead bartender at B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore

My favorite rye for fall drinking is Dad’s Hat Rye. Although it’s aged for less than a year, it’s aged in quarter casks and blended with older stock, so you get notes of dried fruit and an incredible vanilla note not found in whiskeys without long age statements and intense price tags.

Because the whiskey is still technically young, you have these notes sitting on top of an otherwise pretty straightforward, spicy rye. It’s a truly unique profile. At 90 proof, it’ll get the chill off your bones quickly, so you can keep sipping in comfort. This is a great fall warmer—even over ice.

Rittenhouse Rye


Drew Hairston, beverage director at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC

Rittenhouse is the best rye whiskey for mixing cocktails because it is great quality, high ABV, and won’t break the bank. It’s been in my well for years. However, if I’m sipping rye neat or on the rocks, High West Midwinter Night’s Dram is amazing. The baking spice and dried fruit notes coming from the port cask finish are remarkable and have been copied by a lot of big companies with their new rye offerings. I think this rye does it best.

Angel’s Envy Rye

Chris Heinrich, head bartender at Tre Rivali in Milwaukee

When it comes to a rye whiskey for the fall season, I’m going to point you directly to Angel’s Envy Rye. It’s finished in Caribbean rum casks for 18 months. That’s a wonderfully long time for this spicy angel to pick up those sweet and wonderful baking spice flavors and aromas that absolutely define the season.

Highwest Campfire

Hilary Chadwick, director of food & beverage at Viviane in Beverly Hills, California

I love breaking out the Highwest Campfire when the weather gets a little cooler. It truly reminds you of sitting around a campfire if you’re in the mood for something a bit roasty-toasty and smoky. The blend also has bourbon and Scotch, but it’s the peppery rye that takes center stage.

Sazerac Rye

Melissa Carroll, bar manager at Fisk & Co. in Chicago

Fall always has me cracking open a bottle of Sazerac Rye. With notes of bitter orange peel, light vanilla, and a touch of breakfast black tea it gives me the same feeling as its namesake, the nostalgia of enjoying New Orleans on a crisp fall day when you can smell the aging leaves and enjoy a hot toddy with just a touch of honey.

Old Overholt Rye

Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC

I really enjoy Old Overholt. I love bonded ryes. The spice makes a delicious Hot Toddy and the proof makes it a great couch sipper when the weather gets chilly.

Lock, Stock and Barrel 13-year Rye

Douglas da Cruz Jr, bar manager at Nico Osteria in Chicago

Lock, Stock and Barrel 13-year Rye. It is 100% rye-aged for 13 years in new charred, American oak barrels with 50.65 ABV. This whiskey has notes of pecan shells, wood spices, vanilla, leather and a touch of dill notes on the nose. There are hints of caramel, but the whiskey is not too sweet.

It’s full-bodied but not creamy or sticky.

Pikesville Straight Rye

Rodrigo Retamoza, assistant manager at The Living Room at the W Hotel in Los Angeles

For me, it’s all about Pikesville Straight Rye. Aside from the kick of the rye grain flavor, it’s also layered with vanilla and baking spices which gets you in that fall spirit.

High West Double Rye

Travis Sanders, Bartender at Pennyroyal Bar in Seattle

High West Double Rye. As a blend of a two year and sixteen-year rye, it has a really unique mix of flavors that play well together in a cocktail or by itself. Give me a double on the rocks on a good autumn day and I’m happy.

Willett Rye

Jeremy Allen, general manager and lead bartender at MiniBar Hollywood in Los Angeles

If you’re in a “treat yourself” mood, get the stepstool out and get the Willett Rye off the top shelf. We stock the standard 4 year, which is alive in your mouth, and we keep one or two rarer and older bottles hidden in the back, for our special friends.

Michter’s Rye

Max Green, managing partner at Blue Quarter in New York City

Michter’s Rye is a great choice for fall. Spicy and dry with subtle fruit notes, this whiskey is everything you would want when whipping up an autumnal cocktail or two. It’s equally outstanding sipped neat or on the rocks.

WhistlePig 10-Year-Old Rye

Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty Grill in Carlsbad, California

It would be tough to say no to a nice neat pour of WhistlePig 10 Year Old Rye on a cool fall evening (or Sunday morning watching some football). This still has plenty of “Rye kick,” but the 10 years in barrel really helps it go down.