Bartenders Tell Us Their Favorite Rye Whiskeys For Fall

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Rye whiskey has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years. But what do we actually know about this less-hyped spirit? The rules for distilling it resemble those of bourbon whiskey, with a different mash bill. Bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn, while rye must be made with at least 51% rye (it often also contains corn, as well as malted barley). It’s spicier and more robust than its bourbon counterpart and is perhaps more well-suited for fall imbibing because of these qualities.

The recent popularity of rye has led to a wave of new options in the marketplace. To figure out the best rye whiskeys to try this fall, we asked our friends behind the bar. Who would know better than them? You can check out all of their choices below. As always, if you don’t see your favorite brand, let us know in the comments.

Jack Daniel’s Rye

Will Benedetto, cocktail curator at In Good Company in New York City

“Depends on what you want to do with your rye! For mixing into cocktails, I’ve really been enjoying Jack Daniel’s Rye. It behaves much differently than most ryes but compliments a number of other spirits and mixers. For sipping, I’m a huge fan of Rittenhouse Rye.”

Willet Rye

Nahm Kim, mixologist at Sunda in Nashville

“What’s the best rye whiskey to drink this fall? Willet Rye. I sleep with a bottle next to my bed. Try it and soon you will too.”

Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye

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Russell's reserve 6 year rye, an excellent rye.

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Josh Cameron, head bartender at Boulton & Watt in New York City

“I drink Russell’s Reserve’s six-year rye this time of year. Those few extra bucks are worth it for the quality of the whiskey. It’s great in boulevardiers and old fashioneds, but best, in my opinion, with a rock or two and the window open.”

Rittenhouse Rye

Homero Villarreal, beverage manager at LH Rooftop in Chicago

“The best Rye for fall is none other than Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse Rye has smoothness as well as enough heat to keep you warm this winter with its 100 Proof label.”

Whistlepig 10 Year Rye

Sam Cable, head bartender at P.S. Speakeasy in Kansas City, Missouri

“Whistle Pig is the easy answer here. 10 years old. 100 proof. 100% rye mash bill. Those are some ideal numbers followed up by a better-than-ideal whiskey.”

Sagamore Cask Strength Rye

Anastasia Sasewich, head bartender at Bar Moxy in Chicago

“Lately I’ve really been enjoying Sagamore Spirit’s Cask Strength Rye. I tend toward big, flavorful spirits for sipping and this rye has a ton of dark chocolate aroma, and a really bold, vanilla-driven finish but it’s still smooth and approachable for a rye.”

Peerless Rye

Todd Thrasher, Potomac Distilling Company and Tiki TNT in Washington, DC

“Kentucky Peerless Rye from Peerless Distilling Co. is top notch. I visited their small distillery in Louisville a couple years back and was really inspired by what they were doing as I began to plan for my own distilling venture. They treated me really well and I’ll always remember them for that. What I dig about them is the history. They brought back their ancestors’ distillery 50 years after it shut down.”

Pikesville 6 year Straight Rye

Logan Demmy, bar manager at The Citizens Trust in Columbus, Ohio

“Pikesville six-year Straight Rye Whiskey has become my go-to as the weather cools off. I’m not always looking for a 110 proof whiskey, but Pikesville really hits home”.

Wild Turkey 101 Rye

David Mor, beverage manager at Cindy’s in Chicago

“Wild Turkey 101 Rye—it’s underrated, juicy and rich, and at a solid price point. Disregard your preconceived notions on this juice; it’s quite lovely.”

Woodford Reserve Rye

Jason Rodriguez, beverage director at HALL NYC

“The Rye that Woodford is producing has an amazing mash bill that doesn’t come across too strong but is the perfect balance and very approachable for all. I honestly enjoy it neat or on the rocks as all of the accents of the rye truly come through as well as notes of clover, mint, and honey with a beautiful green apple finish make it the dream rye to enjoy not only during the fall/winter season but also throughout the year. Throw it in a Manhattan or any classic cocktail and you honestly have yourself a home run! One of the top of my list for sure!”

Knob Creek Rye

Lauren Kritt, head bartender at the HarbourView Inn in Charleston, South Carolina

“That’s a tough one. I think I would have to go with Knob Creek. It’s one that goes with every season. I can turn it into a fruit concoction with some lemonade and rosemary, drink it neat when it’s cold, or make a refreshing Old Fashioned on ice.”

High West, A Midwinter Night’s Dram

Jeremy Williams, lead mixologist at Lumber Baron Bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan

“High West’s Mid-Winter Nights Dram. This should be what all lovers of Rye Whiskey are talking about. It has an amazing blend and cask finish line up. First of all, it blends a six-year rye with a 16-year-old rye, then the whiskey is put into European oak, then into port wine casks. The result is a deep dark mahogany colored rye that has notes of robust winter spice, figgy pudding, complex wood notes, rich red wine, and dark fruit. If you’re wondering if it’s hard to get… it is.”

Rabbit Hole Rye

Ben Rouse, bar lead at Henley in Nashville

“Rabbit Hole Rye Whiskey is incredible right now! It has the perfect complexity balance and the spice is prevalent from start to finish but not overwhelming. It’s like that first pot of fall chili, perfectly warm spice from the first bite to the last. Drink this one neat, it will warm your soul.”

Templeton Rye

Jules Elkovich, Sommelier at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in Uncasville, Connecticut

“Templeton Rye is a delight. It’s a clean rye with nuances of caramel, spice, and butterscotch. if this recipe is good enough for Al Capone, it’s certainly good enough for me.”

Sazerac 6 Year Rye

Sean Stangle, bartender at Estiatorio Milos in Las Vegas

“Rye, also known as ‘Bourbon’s angry better lookin’ brother,’ always wants attention, and deservingly so. I don’t often serve or really enjoy rye neat, or without being part of a well-made cocktail. When part of a mixed drink, I think it may be my preferred spirit. Any Manhattan or Sazerac made with Sazerac Rye (six-year) is going to be special. The mash bill combined with the aging process is basically built for proper mixology.”