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The Best Rye Whiskeys We’ve Tested This Year (So Far), Ranked

Some of the most interesting whiskeys on the market right now are ryes. In part, this is because rye whiskey is a very broad category. While “straight” rye comes from the U.S. and is adherent to certain laws that make it a rye (a minimum 51 percent rye mash bill being the core rule), “rye whiskey” can be made anywhere.

Right now, there are exciting ryes coming out of Ireland, India, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, and more. While we’ve tried a fair few, many of them haven’t really hit U.S. shelves. Even Johnnie Walker is aging rye whisky in Scotland to cut into their iconic blends. It’s certainly an exciting time for the category, is what we’re getting at.

Today, we’re focusing on 25 Canadian, Irish, and American ryes that we’ve tasted over the past six months. While many of the rye whiskeys below are new releases or 2021 versions, we’ve also included a few classics that piqued our interest during recent tastings (we’ll make a more formal list of 2021 releases at the end of the year). As always, if any of these pop for you, click on those prices to try them yourself.

25. Bulleit 95 Rye

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $32

The Whiskey:

Indiana’s MGP rye is one of the most popular ryes on earth. Their rye is has a mash bill of 95 percent rye and five percent malted barley. The juice is aged for four to seven years before blending, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This dram opens up with a mix of resinous cedar, sharp rye spiciness, creamy vanilla, and a hint of fresh mint. The taste delivers on those notes while folding in hints of dark cacao (with water added), savory fruits, and a buttery/crumbly biscuit somewhere deep in the bottom of the sip. The end lasts a while and circles back around to that cedar and sap, with plenty more sharp spiciness.

Bottom Line:

This is as good a place to start as any. This is Indiana’s hugely popular MGP 95 percent rye, which helped launch the modern rye movement. While Bulleit is distilling this themselves now in Kentucky, this OG version will always have a place in our rye cocktail-loving hearts.

24. Jim Beam Rye Pre-Prohibition Style

Jim Beam

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This rye was designed by the master himself — Master Distiller and whiskey legend Fred Noe — as a return to the bigger and bolder days of rye before Prohibition defanged a lot of the industry and its recipes. The juice is a throwback recipe to the 1920s version of Beam’s rye, giving the whiskey a fruitier and spicer edge in the process.

Tasting Notes:

Berries mingle with black pepper spice on the nose with a hint of candied cherries. Christmas spices cut with plenty of candied fruit — ripe and tart berries — slide in next, alongside hints of vanilla and toffee as the rye pepperiness powers the sip. As the whiskey builds before the fade, notes of black licorice, fresh mint, and dried flowers arrive and mingle with the rye spice and sweet fruits, lingering just long enough to keep you warm.

Bottom Line:

For this price, this whiskey has no business being this goddamn good. This is a killer workhorse rye to have on hand for mixing and sipping. You really cannot go wrong with this bottle.

23. Redemption Rum Cask Finish

Redemption Rum Cask Rye
Deutsche Family Wine & Spirits

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

Redemption is a Connecticut mainstay that sources its juice from MGP of Indiana. This whiskey MGP’s iconic 95 percent rye mash bill that’s then finished in rum casks in partnership with Plantation Rum. They’re using both Jamaican and Barbadian rum barrels, blended for this fascinating Rum Cask Finish.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a mix of rummy molasses that’s spiced with Christmas spices and vanilla, with a hint of tart fruit and sherried jamminess. The taste doesn’t really deviate too much from those notes and holds onto the molasses, spice, and vanilla while a touch of oak arrives late with a note of citrus. The end is short-ish and really leans into the rummy nature of the spices and sweetness.

Bottom Line:

It’s wild how much different this is than the other MGP ryes on this list. It’s so much more refined and deeply flavored that you’ll likely forget it’s even from Indiana. It’s also a great crossover whiskey that shines beautifully in cocktails or on the rocks as a sipper.

22. Elijah Craig Straight Rye

Heaven Hill

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $34

The Whiskey:

This is a subtle rye whiskey. The mash bill only has 51 percent rye grains next to 35 percent corn and 14 percent barley. The juice is then aged for several years and then blended, proofed, and bottled with no age statement.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real sense of a dark chocolate bar that’s cut with dried chili and a touch of cinnamon that draws you in. The palate mellows that spice into a holiday spice mix while a honey sweetness and texture lead towards sweet cedar and the slightest wisp of vanilla pipe tobacco smoke. The finish takes its time as those spices keep your senses warm and buzzing on the slow fade.

Bottom Line:

I really love the subtly of this rye. In fact, I’d argue this feels almost indistinguishable from a high-rye bourbon if you close your eyes and don’t overthink it.

21. Kilbeggan Small Batch Irish Rye Whiskey

Kilbeggan Rye
Beam-Suntory

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $35

The Whiskey:

First released in 2018, this rye is really gathering steam right now. The Irish juice isn’t adherent to U.S. rye laws, so it’s unique. The mash is pot still whiskey (in name only) with both malted and unmalted barley that’s cut with 30 percent rye grains. The whiskey is then aged at Kilbeggan for an undisclosed amount of time. All of this makes this the first Irish whiskey to use rye grains again since before Prohibition.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a sweet apple depth that’s almost like apple gelatin with vanilla cream on top next to a hint of very fine white pepper, dried lemon zest, and a whisper of oatmeal cookie. The palate expands on the spices of that cookie while leaning into a mild dried floral nature with more vanilla cream really helping the mouthfeel stay silky. The mid-palate sweetens pretty dramatically with the fruit becoming very sweet, kind of like apple gum and crafty cream soda made with real vanilla syrup.

Bottom Line:

It’s pretty rare to get ryes this sweet and fruity that still somehow feel familiar. While I’d argue for this as a cocktail mixer mostly, it’s a very interesting on the rocks whiskey to try when you’re looking for a little something different.

20. Old Forester Rye Whiskey

Old Forester Rye
Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $26

The Whiskey:

Old Forester’s rye is another unique whiskey. The mash bill is comprised of 65 percent rye, 20 percent barley, and 15 percent corn. That super-high barley component (relatively) allows the yeasts to really amp up their sugar consumption in the mash, which then brings out more of the rye flavor while also adding in more of the floral and malty barley notes. The juice then rests in Brown-Forman’s own barrels before it’s proofed to 100 proof and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a very clear floral burst of summer flowers next to lemon drops, and a very sweet but very bespoke root beer vibe. The spiciness of that root beer leaning into the licorice roots and apple-cider-soaked cinnamon sticks while a hint of dill lurks in the background with green peppercorns. The mid-point lets that pepper mellows into a fine white pepper as the spice hits on a touch of star anise and more spicy rootbeer served out of a pine box cup with a final squirt of lemon as a counterpoint to the spicy and sweet juice.

Bottom Line:

This is so funky and weird as a rye whiskey at this price point. I used to not really dig this and then I had it again recently in Kentucky and it finally popped for me. I don’t know… just try it and see where it takes you, especially you dig the spicier aspects of root beers.

19. 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 anyway. 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 climate-controlled 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 finish drives home the woodier aspects of the spice but leaves you with a dried straw feel.

Bottom Line:

This is another whiskey you should have on your bar cart for mixing up cocktails. It feels like classic rye that has a little more depth than, say, an average MGP one.

18. Balcones Texas Rye

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 could have easily been in the top five. It’s so damn unique and delicious. Folks are (finally) starting to pick up on the greatness of this Texas Rye and you’re seeing it pop up more and more on “best” lists this year. As early Balcones adopters, we say it’s about time.

17. Lot 40

Corby Spirits and Wine

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

Lot 40 is Canada’s Hiram Walker Distillery’s signature rye. The mash bill is 100 percent rye with 90 percent comprising of standard Canadian rye and the remaining ten percent malted Canadian rye. The recipe goes back to the 1700s and keeps things simple in aging, proofing, and bottling — allowing the rye grains to take center stage.

Tasting Notes:

Orange soda leads towards a clear note of dill and… it works! This is really unique. The taste is this mix of rich toffee, creamy vanilla, and soft cedar. It’s ultra-velvet and has this light touch of powdery spice and cacao on the very end that hints back a dried dill mixed with burnt orange peels that sort of close the circle.

Bottom Line:

Orange and dill. I will never get over those notes working together. This Canadian rye really does shine as a cocktail base or on the rocks. It’s also pretty easy to find these days, making it very attractive for anyone looking to break away from MGP rye.

16. Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye

Catoctin Creek Distilling Company

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $44

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 s”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:

If you want to get into the history of American whiskey, you have to start in Virginia with a rye whiskey. This is a super approachable place to start thanks to the low ABVs. But don’t let that fool you, there’s a lot going on with this whiskey and it’s worth taking the time to really dig in with some water and ice in your glass. After that, move on to cocktails.

15. 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. 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:

This is very gimmicky but I can’t deny that the whiskey delivers. I also like that WhistlePig has been crucial in highlighting the beauty of Alberta’s rye whisky to the masses. Lastly, this is a reasonably priced WhistlePig that you can actually find (a rarity for the brand). That makes this a winner all around.

14. Blue Run Golden Rye

Blue Run Spirits, LLC

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $132

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:

It’s hard to deny the quality of this rye. It’s just beautiful to drink. I guess that’s a testament to the rest of this list.

13. Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

Beam Suntory

ABV: 65.1%

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 continues to wow. While it’ll be a little harder to find (I actually came across a single bottle on top of a fridge at a gas station in very rural Kentucky a couple of months ago), it’s worth the effort. This might be the best Canadian rye on the market right now that’s actually still labeled as “Canadian rye” openly.

12. Sagamore Rye Port Finish

Sagamore Spirits

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $74

The Whiskey:

Taking spicy rye and finishing it off in port barrels adds a wonderful dimension to Sagamore’s famed rye expression. The port counterbalances the heat with a fruity nature that ebbs towards sweet, adding depth to the American grain spirit. It’s worth noting that this was awarded the “World’s Best Rye Whiskey” at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirit Competition.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted here with notes of buttery toffee, rich and meaty plums, and a matrix of baking spices. Sharp and sweet dark cherries and red berries come into play alongside a caramel smoothness. Then a bitter note comes in as the port fruitiness fades and rye spice rises. Finally, that sweet, plummy port nature takes over towards a dry-ish, warm end.

Bottom Line:

Maryland is the second stepping stone for anyone looking to retrace the history of America’s whiskey. This throwback rye recipe is amped up by a port cask finish that makes a lot of sense and helps this expression rise above the pack. Sip it, mix it, pour it over some rocks — you can’t go wrong.

11. Russell’s Reserve Rye Single Barrel

Wild Turkey

ABV: 52%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This hand-selected single barrel expression hits on some pretty big classic rye notes (“classic” is becoming a theme here, as anticipated). 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 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 is where I start to really hate rankings. On any given day, this could be top five or top three, or maybe top 50. There’s so much variation at play and this is a great whiskey all around and really great rye. While I like sipping this one on some rocks, I have to say: it makes one hell of a Manhattan.

10. George Dickel x Leopold Bros Collaboration Blend

George Dickel x Leopold Collab Rye
Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $110 (MSRP)

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:

This new rye that marries Tennesse whiskey to Colorado craft is a welcomed addition to the category. While this shines in cocktails, I did enjoy it as an everyday sipper with some rocks.

9. Knob Creek Rye

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $36

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). This rye, however, is batched and proofed at a higher ABV, 50 proof, allowing more of the barrel to shine through.

Tasting Notes:

The taste has this beautiful balance of peppery spice with vanilla cream, bright cherry, and eggnog spice that almost feels like a high-rye bourbon — kind of like a sibling to Old Grand-Dad. There’s a musty chocolate edge near the end and the finish leaves you with a fine tobacco spicy buzz. 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:

This is actually open on my cocktail cart right now. It’s great. Mix it. Sip it over some rocks. Fall in love with it! The best part? You can get this anywhere for a fair price.

8. Wild Turkey 101 Rye

Wild Turkey 101 Rye
Campari Group

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

Wild Turkey’s signature rye benefits from the brand’s signature move in making all their whiskey. The juice is matured for around six years in heavily charred “alligator” barrels. That heavy char and longer aging imbues a lot into the whiskey before it’s batched, lightly proofed down to the trademark 101 proof, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s this opening of cedar that leads to, I swear, firecracker black powder. There’s also a sense of savory fruit (think pumpkin) on the end of the nose that works nicely with that black gunpowder and cedar. The taste is a cream vanilla — nearly a mint ice cream — with hints of Christmas spices next to sweet yet spicy caramel apples.

Bottom Line:

This is probably the rye I drink the most. One aspect of that is that it’s dirt cheap. Another aspect is that you can get it anywhere and anytime for, again, a fair price. Also, I really like the new 2021 design on these bottles.

7. 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, 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:

I just tried the 2021 version of this and it was stellar. That sticky tobacco vibe you’re left with is so distinct and unique. The biggest win for this bottle, though, is that you can actually find this on shelves at its MSRP. From here on out on this list, that aspect will be pretty dicey.

6. High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram

High West Distillery

ABV: 49.3%

Average Price: $122

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:

If you’re going to get one High West this year, this is the one. It’s delicious, unique, and just accessible enough while still being so rare as to wow your friends.

5. Barrell Seagrass

Barrell Seagrass
Barrell Spirits Company

ABV: 59.2%

Average Price: $85

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:

For a minute, this was my favorite rye of the year. Then I tried a lot more and this is now a top-five for 2021. All of that aside, this is so distinct and new that it’s almost impossible not to love. And with Barrell Spirits dropping so many releases per year, this is the one you should be hunting down.

4. Sazerac 18

Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

MSRP: $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:

Here come the Buffalo Trace picks. This year’s Sazerac BTAC really surprised me. It’s kind of everything you want in a classic, well-aged rye whiskey while still being fresh and new and … sensuous. This bottle really does grab your attention while taking you someplace great.

3. Woodinville 100% Rye Whiskey Finished With Toasted Applewood Staves

Woodinville 100% Rye Applewood
Woodinville

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

Woodinville’s 100% Rye is a multi-award-winning whiskey. A couple of years ago, they created this distillery-only expression of that rye that celebrates Washington state’s biggest crop: Apples. They added toasted applewood staves into the finishing barrels and just let it rest until it was just right. That whiskey was then vatted, proofed, and bottled for the distillery store.

Tasting Notes:

The whiskey opens with a medley of dark berries, tart and sweet apples, kiwi, and the dry staves of a thin wooden gift basket. Hints of cloves spiked into orange peels drive the palate as a dusting of white pepper leads towards a moist apple pipe tobacco that smoothes out with a hint of vanilla cream pie with a lard-infused crust. The mid-palate lets that vanilla cream settles as the apple tobacco spices up towards a warming finish that settles into tart apples dripping in sweet caramel with a buttery base and a small flake of finishing salt.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t being made anymore and that’s a shame. If you do find a bottle on the secondary market, snatch it up. It’ll be the best rye you drink in a long while.

2. Michter’s Singel Barrel 10-Year Kentucky Straight Rye

Michters Distillery

ABV: 46.4%

Average Price: $230

The Whiskey:

This release is in the same selection process as the ten-year bourbon above. However, because the point of Michther’s was to bring rye back to mainstream prominence, this bottle holds a very special place in whiskey drinkers’ hearts. This is the bottle of rye that distillers are still chasing to this day.

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.

Bottom Line:

$200 for a bottle of rye might seem outrageous. But this rye is phenomenal. And it’s worth noting that’s the MSRP price and not the hyped, secondary market price. All of that aside, I’ve often argued that this is the rye all others should be measured against. So grab a bottle and see what you think.

1. Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Years Old

Van Winkle Rye
Sazerac Company

ABV: 47.8%

Average Price: $1,875

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 to meet legal requirements). 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 cedary sense of wood and a final whisper of peppery yet dry pipe tobacco with the most distant wisp of smoke.

Bottom Line:

I got to try this year’s release and, yeah, it’s beyond great. It’s hard to advocate for a whiskey that’s insanely over-hyped and, therefore, costs over ten times its MSRP. That being said, this really is very delicious. It’s a real shame this is so fleeting for the average consumer.

Good luck out there on our hunt for this one, folks. If you nab a bottle, I envy you. All rye lovers do.


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