No one would blame you for not being able to keep up with all the new whiskey drops these days. It’s endless and fall is a dense time when it comes to new whiskeys hitting the shelves. That’s especially true of American rye whiskeys, a segment growing by leaps and bounds as a whiskey style. Since there’s a nearly endless stream of new stuff right now, I figured I’d take eight rye whiskeys that landed on my desk, basically over the last month or so, and blind taste-test them.
For this blind tasting, I’m looking at the flavor of the whiskeys to rank them. I’m not concerned with the prices or the techniques employed. This is about what tastes good enough to actually seek out. The rest is all secondary to that prime tenant — does it taste good or not? Luckily, I had some killer new ryes to try, so ranking these wasn’t the easiest task I’ve ever had.
Our lineup today is:
- Michter’s Limited Release US*1 Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Barrel no. 22B325
- High West Double Rye Blend of Straight Rye Whiskeys Batch No: 22B16
- Redemption Rye Batch No: 267
- Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Straight Tennessee Rye Whiskey Finished in High Toast Maple Barrels Selection # 008
- Contradiction Rye Batch 60
- Templeton Rye Barrel Strength 2022
- Sagamore Spirit Reserve Series Sherry Finish 2022
- Filmland Spirits Presents Ryes of the Robots Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey
Okay, let’s dive in and see which of these ryes have the strongest noses, the deepest flavor profiles, and actually land their finishes!
Also Read: The Top Five Rye Whiskey from the Last Six Months on UPROXX
Part 1: The Tasting
Dark cherry and butterscotch candies pop on the nose next to sour red wine mixed with mulled wine spices — lots of cinnamon, clove, and star anise — next to tart apple skins, apple bark, and a hint of singed marshmallow between lightly burnt Graham Crackers. The palate leans into spices in a subtle way with a nutmeg/eggnog vibe next to rich vanilla ice cream and smoked cherries with a minor note of fresh pipe tobacco and singed cedar bark. The end adds some dried red chili and sharp cinnamon to the tobacco with a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper and a supple sense of a fresh fruit bowl with a lot of red berries.
This is going to be hard to beat. It’s delicious.
The nose on this is full of berries and orchard fruits with a hint of mint chocolate chip tying it all together as mild notes of sassafras, orris, and allspice linger in the background. The palate pops with the same bright red berries with a sweet and creamy vanilla/caramel vibe next to creamed honey, green tea, and menthol tobacco. The end has a hint of spiciness that’s more nasturtiums than peppercorn with a brief hint of burnt orange and eucalyptus next to a floral honey sweetness.
I’m never a big fan of eucalyptus, but it works here. There’s a nice subtlety to it.
There’s a mild sense of old lawn furniture sitting in partially dry grass on the nose with hints of soft leather and spicy nasturtiums. The palate leans into black peppercorns with a hint of lemon oils, cedar bark, and dried red chili pepper flakes countered by pancake syrup and mild vanilla sauce. The end has a touch of white pepper that leads to mint chocolate chip tobacco (almost like vape smoke) with a hint of humidor and lemon pepper.
This was perfectly fine but felt very much like a cocktail base.
There’s a heavy sense of dark fruits with rum-raisin and dates leading to sweet red berries and a touch of walnut loaf with a hint of bananas Foster with plenty of wintry spice and maybe a touch of sourdough pancake batter. The palate opens with cherry hand pies dipping in powdered sugar icing next to nut and dark chocolate clusters, poppy seed pounds cake, and a hint of salted caramel next to fresh leather. The end circles back around to the fresh and bright berries mild nuttiness and a whisper more of that maple syrup and a hint of cedar.
This is sweeter, sure, but really freakin’ good.
Cherries stewed with cinnamon sticks and star anise open the nose toward old vanilla pods and dried roses with a hint of burnt orange. The palate leans into the woodiness of the spices with a twinge of cedar next to spiced tobacco leaves cut with toasted coconut and vanilla pudding powder. The end creams the vanilla with some honey and layers the woody cinnamon with the spicy tobacco and dips it in salted dark chocolate.
Damn, this was pretty solid all around.
There’s a nice hint of sweet grains on the nose with a hint of caramel chocolate malts next to rum-raisin and a hint of nasturtiums. The palate is pretty washed out until the mid-point when a hint of black peppercorn, soft brown sugar, and floral honey counter sultanas and dates with a good dose of woody cinnamon and allspice. The end mixes creamy vanilla with soft pepperiness for a solid finish full of woody spice and honey-laced tobacco.
This almost didn’t recover from that washed-out flavor on the tip of the taste. Then everything really came together.
The nose is a deep mix of old oak staves dipped in a mash of dates, figs, and prunes with cinnamon, black licorice, and clove next to soft leather pouches full of fresh pipe tobacco with a hint of apricot and blackberry in the mix. The palate opens with soft marzipan laced with orange oils and dipped in salted dark chocolate with sticky toffee pudding, minced meat pieces, orange marmalade, and creamy honey. The end leans into the dark and almost bitter dark chocolate with a hint of espresso bean before a mild sense of old oak leads to a nutty and dark orange-forward finish.
This is another winner. It’s damn tasty.
The nose opens with a nice mix of dark berries and old leather next to cinnamon bark and clove berries with a hint of caramel. The palate starts off pretty thin but ends up hitting a mint chocolate chip vibe and a dash of black peppercorn with a hint of red berries floating in vanilla-laced cream. The end is pretty thin with brief hints of oak staves and cinnamon next to very mild menthol tobacco.
This is really proofed down and it washes out some of the nuances of this one. That’s a shame since there’s some good depth somewhere under all that proofing water.
Part 2: The Ranking
8. Filmland Spirits Presents Ryes of the Robots Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey — Taste 8
Average Price: $59
This brand-new whiskey blends Hollywood B-movies with sourced whiskey is very new. The actual juice is a 95/5 rye/malted barley sourced whiskey from Kentucky. Beyond that, not much is known. Though there’s been an incredible amount of work about writing a script and drawing up storyboards around the release.
Maybe a little more time should have been spent on blending the juice than writing a faux script for the release…?
There’s good whiskey here, it’s just not quite there yet.
7. Templeton Rye Barrel Strength 2022 — Taste 6
Average Price: $69
This yearly release from Iowa’s Templeton Rye is the peak of the brand. The release is a small blend of their best barrels of 95/5 rye/malted barley whiskey barrels. The age of the barrels doesn’t matter as much as the flavor profile, hence this release doesn’t carry an age statement. Beyond that, the barrels are batched and bottled without proofing.
This was fine. There’s a lot of nice nuance at play. Ultimately, I was just thinking about mixing this into a nice cocktail rather than reaching for it as a sipper.
6. Redemption Rye Batch No: 267 — Taste 3
Average Price: $28
This affordable rye is a sourced whiskey from MGP. 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.
This is another whiskey that feels like a very solid cocktail base, rather than something you’re keen to sip straight.
5. High West Double Rye Blend of Straight Rye Whiskeys Batch No: 22B16 — Taste 2
Average Price: $35
High West’s Double Rye is quickly becoming a modern classic. The Utah whiskey is made from a blend of 95 percent rye from MGP of Indiana and two-year rye from High West’s Utah distillery with a mash of 80 percent rye and 20 percent malted rye. All the whiskeys in the mix are at least two years old before they’re blended and proofed for bottling.
This is a really solid pour of whiskey. I think it hits just right as a lower-proof pour. You can sip this on the rocks (maybe with a dash of bitters) and be content. It also makes a great bottle to have on the bar for cocktails.
4. Contradiction Rye Batch 60 — Taste 5
Average Price: $43
This new release from Smooth Ambler mixes some very interesting whiskeys together. The blend is two Tennessee ryes (one 70 percent rye, one 51 percent rye), MGP’s 95 percent rye, and Smooth Ambler’s own rye which has a mash bill of 88 percent rye. Those whiskeys are then blended, proofed, and bottled in the hills of West Virginia.
This is another whiskey that’s really nice. It’s not the most complex one on the list, hence its ranking, but there’s nothing wrong with it. I like it on the rocks and actually finished my bottle last year.
3. Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Straight Tennessee Rye Whiskey Finished in High Toast Maple Barrels Selection # 008 — Taste 4
Average Price: $42 (375ml bottle)
The whiskey is created with a mash of 70 percent rye, 18 percent corn, and 12 percent malted barley. After sugar maple charcoal filtration, that rye is aged for four years in new oak before going into a high-toast, no-char maple wood barrel for another year of rest. Finally, the whiskey is batched from those maple barrels and proofed down for bottling.
This was a clearly solid whiskey all around. It was far fruitier than the others on the list, which gave it away as a Tennessee rye, but whatever. It’s still really well-made and has a great flavor profile. All of that said, I still think I want to roll this into a nice, simple cocktail or sip it on the rocks with a little bitters.
It’s not quite as subtle of a sipper as the next two.
2. Sagamore Spirit Reserve Series Sherry Finish 2022 — Taste 7
Average Price: $79
This is Sagamore Spirit’s signature rye whiskey (95/5 rye/malted barley) that’s aged for four long years. That whiskey is then re-barreled into 132-gallon Pedro Ximénez sherry casks for an additional 18-month-long rest. Finally, those barrels are batched, proofed a tad, and bottled.
This just hit right today. It was deeply flavored and kind of fresh. I didn’t need any water or ice to cool it down. It felt right neat. Though, I imagine this would make one hell of a Manhattan.
1. Michter’s Limited Release US*1 Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Barrel no. 22B325 — Taste 1
Average Price: $199
This rare Michter’s expression is pulled from single barrels that were just too good to batch or cut. Once the barrels hit the exact right flavor profile, each one is filtered with Michter’s bespoke system and then bottled as-is at the strength it came out of the barrel.
This was undeniably the best pour of the panel. There was serious depth but the overall vibe was welcoming and engaging. The flavor profile was distinct and carried you on a journey. The finish was lingering and lush and hit a beautiful end. This is just great whiskey.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
This was a solid lineup of whiskeys. I wouldn’t turn any of them away. Though, it’s pretty clear that eight through three or four are really more of a cocktail base rye whiskey. That’s not to say you can’t pour them on some rocks and have a great time. You can. They’re just not quite as deeply flavored as the rest.
That all said, non of them really come close to that Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye. It’s just goddamn delicious and the one bottle you should be looking for.