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The 10 Best Rye Whiskeys You Should Be Drinking Right Now

Even amidst a larger boom in whiskeys, rye stands out as a category in the midst of a renaissance. It seems like there’s a great new rye dropping every week. Which is great for rye enthusiasts, but damn near impossible to keep up with (even when you’re in the industry). We thought we could help — at least a little — by calling out the partcular ryes we think you should absolutely be drinking right now.

The 10 rye whiskeys below are either new drops from this year, late last year, or reissues/yearly releases that we think are still worth drinking too. I’ve pulled tasting notes from my books and ranked these based on taste alone. Look at it this way: the bottom few selections are perfectly good ryes that fit more as mixers than sippers. The top five or so are all bangers that work as unique sippers, each with different attributes that help them pop. My advice is to read through the tasting notes and find something that speaks to your palate, then dive in.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months

10. Old Potrero Straight Rye (Reissued in 2022)

Old Poterno
Hotling

ABV: 48.5%

Average Price: $72

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a bit of a throwback with a West Coast vibe. The juice is 100 percent rye whiskey made at Anchor Brewing in Portero Hill, one of San Francisco’s most iconic spots for booze. As of this year, the spirit is being distilled on the waterfront in San Francisco but still carries that Anchor Brewing heritage. With that move, the bottle also got a brand new design that leans into San Francisco’s sea-faring history.

Tasting Notes:

Rich is the adjective that comes to mind on the nose, as oily vanilla pods mingle with dense and moist sticky toffee pudding with a rich and buttery caramel sauce, plenty of mulled wine spices, and a light kick of sweet oak. The palate has a ginger snaps/pecan sandie feel with a fair amount of dried ginger and cinnamon sticks dipped in cherry syrup. That sweet and spicy mid-palate leads toward a finish that’s slightly dry with a sense of wicker next to spiced tobacco leaves.

Bottom Line:

This runs a little spicy, making it perfect as a mixer. The boldness of this rye means that it’ll really stand up in a Sazerac or boulevardier. It also makes for a bold and spicy highball with some nice fizzy water and plenty of ice. Maybe add an orange peel to help it pop.

9. Redemption Rye (Summer 2021)

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

This affordable rye is a sourced whiskey from MGP and has become a yearly standard or must-have, especially for mixing cocktails. 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:

I swear this gets better every year I try it. The latest drop is the same recipe but feels that little more refined thanks to Carpenter’s continual growth as a master blender. All of that aside, this is a quintessential mixing rye. It works wonders in any cocktail or highball.

8. Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof (Summer 2021)

Balcones Texas Rye
Balcones Distilling

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This rye is Texas in a bottle. This 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:

While we haven’t reached the ryes I’d line up for every year when they drop, this one is close. This is unique rye that remains an outlier batch after batch. Now the question is this: Is this getting better every year? Or is my palate getting more accustomed to it every year? Either way, it’s great rye that shines as both an on-the-rocks sipper and a killer cocktail base. I’m always looking forward to the next batch.

7. Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye Whiskey (December 2021)

Pursuit United Rye
Pursuit United

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This release is a blend of whiskeys from Kentucky and Maryland (which is the source of America’s rye whiskey heritage). The Kentucky rye is from Bardstown Bourbon Company (a 95-percent rye), which is contract distilling and aging whiskey for Pursuit United. The other rye is from Maryland’s famed and beloved Sagamore Spirits (a 52-percent rye), which makes some of the best ryes in the country. Kenny Coleman and Ryan Cecil took barrels from each warehouse and masterfully married them to create this expression with a touch of water to bring the proof down a notch.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a big Kentucky rye vibe of cherry syrup spiked with loads of cinnamon and nutmeg next to an almost buttery note that’s part brown sugar streusel and part caramel candy beside a slight hint of leather. There’s also a touch of vanilla extract lurking in the background of the nose. The palate is so soft and builds from that cherry spiced syrup towards a hint of wet wicker to an apple tree that ends on the stems and core of an overripe Granny Smith. The finish takes its time and has a light touch of dark spice that’s more on the sweeter side than “hot,” while the apple gets woodier and hints at the brown sugar and vanilla very late.

Bottom Line:

This late drop from last year is still a must-try in 2022. This is also the last rye on the list that I’d lean more towards recommending as a mixer than a classic sipper. I think this is perfectly fine on the rocks, but really makes for a better Manhattan base.

6. Four Gate Whiskey Company Batch 7 “River Kelvin Rye” (December 2021)

Four Gate River Kelvin Rye
Four Gate Whiskey

ABV: 56.6%

Average Price: $175

The Whiskey:

Four Gate is one of those brands that whiskey nerds will rave about while the rest of the whiskey-drinking world remains in the dark. This expression is a seven-year-old MGP 95 that’s bottled as-is from the barrels. This is on purpose, as Kelvin’s team plans to release this rye again with two different finishings throughout the rest of 2022, making this expression a launching pad.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a hint of lemon custard and orange oils that leads towards dried mint leaves and a bit of dill on the backend of the nose. The palate lets that orange shine as soft notes of vanilla smooth everything out and makes way for freshly cracked black pepper and candied lemon rinds with a hint of a cigar humidor. The pepper and vanilla work in tandem to bring about a finish that’s very bright with more lemon candy bespeckled with black pepper and a spicy tobacco vibe.

Bottom Line:

If you can get your hands on this one, you’ll be in for a treat. It’s complex yet classic. It’s spicy yet soft and sweet. There are real layers to this whiskey that are worth taking your time to dig into with a little water or a rock. Still, that “classic” vibe holds this one back ever-so-slightly from the bangers on the rest of this list.

5. George Dickel x Leopold Bros Collaboration Blend (October 2021)

Dickel Leopold Rye Collab
Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $115

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, with a mash bill of 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 this time. That note is tied to salted caramel-covered dates. 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 is where things get great. This is a wildly unique and delicious whiskey. It’s also kind of fun to drink as you go back and forth on the nose and the palate, finding new notes and flavors, adding a little more water, and really taking your time to dig in. While all of that sounds a tad pretentious, this whiskey is anything but. It’s easy-going while still offering all that depth.

4. Sazerac Rye 18 2021 BTAC (November 2021)

Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $1,899

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:

Last fall’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release is still pretty present in whiskey conversations, even in the spring of 2022. This whiskey is straight fire. It’s classic but bold in all the right ways. This is a big whiskey that feels personally built to bring you comfort. While it’s wildly overpriced on the secondary market, it’s worth at least trying to get a sense of just how amazing rye whiskey can be.

3. Cascade Moon 13-Year-Old Rye Whisky (December 2021)

Cascade Moon 13 Year Rye
Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $540

The Whiskey:

This whiskey dropped at the very end of December 2021. The juice in the barrel is rye whiskey that spent 13 years chilling in the cool Cascade Hollow warehouses in Tennessee. The barrels were then hand selected by Cascade Hollow’s general manager and distiller Nicole Austin for their perfection. They were then proofed down only just to 100 proof and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is incredibly fresh with bursts of green apple, freshly cut sweet grass, citrus oils, roses, and fresh cinnamon sticks. The palate leans into the green apple with a tart edge as the spices kick up with a wintry vibe before a savory note arrives with a hint of dill, anise, and maybe some rosemary. On the mid-palate, the citrus comes back with a bright orange and grapefruit touch that turns into wet black peppercorns, white moss, and an echo of dried green tea leaves. The finish lets that green tea vibe settles into the earthiness and savory herbs as the sip slowly fades out, leaving you with a whisper of dried wicker deck furniture.

Bottom Line:

This and the next two entries could’ve all been number one. This is a fantastic rye in every respect. It’s nuanced, feels new, and delivers serious flavors. This really feels like Nicole Austin dropping the mic on a second great rye in just a few months’ time (the Leopold Bros. collab above being the other mic drop).

2. Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Rye (March 2022)

Michters Distillery

ABV: 55.8%

Average Price: $130

The Whiskey:

Like Michter’s beloved bourbon, this too is pulled from single barrels that were just too good to vat or cut with water. The juice — released in early March of 2022 — is bottled as-is at a slightly higher proof than when it went in the barrel.

Tasting Notes:

That dark cherry note is still there on the nose but this it’s supported by a butterscotch candy and a mulled wine spice mix that’s heavy on the cinnamon. The palate evens out with this creamy vanilla foundation that’s touched with eggnog spices next to a slight note of smoke — as if someone lit the vanilla husks on fire and let them smolder — while the cherry leans into a spicy tobacco warmth. That spicy tobacco drives towards a Tellicherry black peppercorn, adding to the woody depth of the dry and warm finish, bringing about a true Kentucky hug.

Bottom Line:

This is the rye I pour for people who aren’t sure if they like rye. This feels classic in a way that’s not basic. It’s elevated and refined. And it’s just plain delicious. That’s hard to beat.

1. Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label 16-Year-Old Seagrass (January 2022)

Barrell Craft Spirits Seagrass 16 Year
Barrell Craft Spirits

ABV: 65.41%

Average Price: $250

The Whiskey:

Last year’s Barrell Seagrass Rye was beloved across the whiskey world. This year, Barrell upped the ante by releasing a special edition that’s a 16-year-old version of that same whiskey. This whiskey is made from a 100 percent Canadian rye that’s finished in Martinique rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy casks. Those casks are vatted at Barrell’s warehouse and bottled as-is at a very high ABV.

Tasting Notes:

You’d never guess this was a high-ABV whiskey on the nose, which is a wild one. There are hints of mustard seed, fresh dill, flat-leaf parsley, rosemary sticks, and fennel that lead to crusty rye bread with a slab of salted butter, chewy tobacco leaves, espresso cream bitterness, and a black potting soil vibe. There’s also a hint of spicy cornbread in there somewhere too. The palate opens with crunchy peanut butter cookies with dark chocolate drops next to black olive brine, oat milk lattes, fancy Almond Joys, grapefruit pith, and a touch of cucumber. The mid-palate leans into the sweet spice and citrus as the finish mellows and dries towards lemongrass, peanut oil, and dried black tea leaves layered into a stack of fresh tobacco leaves.

Bottom Line:

This might be my favorite whiskey of the year (overall) at this point. It’s just f*cking incredible, fresh, and new. It feels like it’s respecting the variation rye can have while pushing the style in a new direction. It’s worth every penny of that $250 price tag.

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