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Bourbon Whiskeys That Are Defined By Their Spicy-Rye Flavor

If you’re a fan of spicy whiskey — and we’re talking peppery spice here, not Christmas baking spices — you likely know your way around a nice bottle of rye. But whiskey with such a high rye grain content (+51%) isn’t the ideal sipping experience for many drinkers. Those cracked pepper notes can veer towards tasting herbal, not a flavor many whiskey aficinados expect.

If true rye is a little too much for you but you want a counterpoint to the vanilla and caramel flavors in bourbon, a spicy, high-rye bourbon might hit just the sweet spot. Especially this time of year.

The bottles below are perfectly suited for winter sipping and their spice adds a nice dimension to the most well-known bourbon flavors (vanilla, caramel, oak). Check them all out below.

Redemption High Rye Bourbon

Redemption

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $28.99

The Story:

Redemption is known for its rye whiskey. Its flagship rye is a 95% spice bomb. Its high-rye bourbon is slightly more subdued, with 60% of its mash bill coming from corn and a potent 36% coming from rye. It’s aged for 2-3 years in charred, new oak barrels before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll be met with subtle rye, dried cherries, and a slight herbal quality. The first sip is filled with hints of spicy cinnamon, buttery caramel, milk chocolate — followed by a nice hit of spicy, peppery heat at the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the most well-balanced bourbons on the market. It’s the perfect sipper for the bourbon fan who loves rye or the rye fan who loves bourbon.

Old Forester 100

Old Forester

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $19.99

The Story:

One of the best bargain bourbons on the market, Old Forester 100 is made up of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. While it’s not super high in the rye department, its high proof helps emphasize the robust, spicier side of the bourbon world.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll be greeted with notes of caramel corn, peppery rye, and sweet cinnamon candy. On the palate, you’ll find milk chocolate, baking spices, caramel apple, leather, and a nice kick of black pepper. The finish is long, warming, and ends with a final flourish of that rye spice.

Bottom Line:

This high ABV bourbon is spicy, full of warming heat, and well suited for mixing into your favorite whiskey-based cocktails.

Hirsch Small Batch High Rye

Hirsch

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $45.99

The Story:

If you’re a fan of spicier bourbons, you should know the name Hirsch. Made to pay tribute to the classic A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16-Year-Old, often consider the greatest bourbon of all time, Hirsch Small Batch High Rye Bourbon was launched in 2017. It’s made up of two different mash bills. One with 21% rye and the other with 36%.

Tasting Notes:

This eight-year-old bourbon is high in the pepper department. This is followed by mellow vanilla and toasted oak. On the palate, you’ll be treated to hints of brown sugar, creamy caramel, spicy cinnamon, and cracked black pepper. The finish is long, lingering, and is highlighted by a nice combination of caramel apples and white pepper.

Bottom Line:

This is a fairly new entry in the bourbon world and definitely deserving of your respect. It’s spicy, bold, and is a great warmer on a cold winter night.

Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $39.99

The Story:

If you’re a fan of bourbon, chances are you’ve enjoyed your fair share of Four Roses. Its yellow label is one of the best bargains in the whiskey world and its single barrel is a great pick for fans of spicy bourbon — with a mash bill of 60% corn and 35% rye.

It’s high proof, spicy, and highly memorable.

Tasting Notes:

The complex, bold whiskey begins with a nose of dried fruits, spicy cinnamon, sweet caramel, and subtle cracked black pepper. The first sip yields buttery vanilla, sweet chocolate, and spicy pepper. The last sip is long, dry, and ends with a nice mix of vanilla sweetness and peppery rye.

Bottom Line:

This high proof bourbon deserves to be sipped straight or on the rocks. Enjoy the warmth of the whiskey in front of an equally warming fireplace.

Bulleit

Bulleit

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $31.99

The Story:

Bulleit is one of the most popular bourbons on the market for a reason. This award-winning whiskey is made up of a mash bill of 68% corn, 28% rye, and 4% malted barley. It’s a great combination of spice and heat, paired with a mellow, smooth finish.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find hints of charred oak, toasted vanilla beans, and subtle rye spice. The first sip brings flavors of Christmas spices, buttery caramel, maple syrup, and toasted marshmallows. The following few sips draw out more of that lingering heat, with a subtle combination of treacle sweetness and peppery spice.

Bottom Line:

This reasonably-priced bourbon might as well have been distilled, matured, and bottled to be used as a cocktail base. It shines in old fashioneds and whiskey sours.

New Riff Single Barrel

New Riff

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $49.99

The Story:

New Riff’s flagship bourbon is its single barrel, a high-rye (30%), sour mash whiskey made with a mash bill of non-GMO grains before being aged for four years in toasted and charred new oak casks.

It’s non-chill filtered, brash, bold, and spicy.

Tasting Notes:

Spend a moment to give this bourbon a nosing. You’ll find aromas of charred oak, brown sugar, and just a kiss of cracked black pepper. On the palate, you’ll find hints of wood, sweet cream, toasted vanilla beans, butterscotch, and a final note of peppery spice at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is a complicated whiskey. Although it carries no age statement, we know that it’s around four years old. It’s bold, vibrant, and spicy enough to stand up in your favorite cocktails.

George Remus

George Remus

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $42.99

The Story:

George Remus was one of the most well-known bootleggers during prohibition. This bourbon from Indiana’s MGP pays tribute to the legendary man with its non-chill filtered, high-rye recipe. It’s balanced, rich, and a must-have for spicy whiskey fans.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find hints of maple candy, sugar cookies, and a nice background note of spicy rye. The palate is flowing with flavors of creamy vanilla, buttery caramel, subtle cinnamon, and a final kick of pepper. The finish is long, mellow, and ends with the slow-burn addition of delicate vanilla.

Bottom Line:

MGP is known for distilling rye whiskeys to use in blends so it should come as no surprise that its flagship bourbon is filled with peppery rye.

Basil Hayden’s 10

Jim Beam

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $74.99

The Story:

Basil Hayden’s — along with Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Booker’s — make up Jim Beam’s small batch collection. Basil Hayden’s sometimes plays fourth fiddle (is that a phrase?) to the other three, but its 10-year-old bourbon is a bargain for fans of spicy bourbons with its complex, rich, high-rye recipe.

Tasting Notes:

Take a few sniffs of this bourbon before tasting and you’ll find aromas of toasted oak, creamy vanilla, and peppery rye. The first sip is filled with buttery caramel, sticky toffee, toasted marshmallows, and cracked black pepper. It all ends in a nice, warming finish with just a hint of smoke and spicy pepper.

Bottom Line:

For a ten-year-old bourbon, this spicy, peppery bourbon is a complete bargain. Use it for mixing or sipping. You can’t go wrong.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Old Grand-Dad

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $19.99

The Story:

If you know anything about Old Grand-Dad you may know that it’s a bold, spicy, robust whiskey that isn’t for novices. This is especially true with its 100-proof bonded version. It’s the kind of bottle everyone should have in their liquor cabinets.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll be greeted with hints of sweet corn, charred oak, creamy vanilla, and peppery spice. On the palate, you’ll find notes of treacle, toffee, cinnamon, and more spicy rye. The finish is very long, filled with heat, and ends with a nice caramel and cinnamon finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a true bargain bottle. For 100 proof, you can’t find a better, cheaper alternative. There’s a reason it’s a bartender’s favorite.

Very Old Barton 100

Very Old Barton

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $16.99

The Story:

Very Old Barton comes in a few different varieties. There are 80, 86, 90, and 100-proof versions. We like to bypass all the others and head directly for the high-ABV 100-proof version. This spicy, award-winning whiskey has a strong following due to its high quality and low price.

Tasting Notes:

Spend a moment nosing this whiskey and you’ll find hints of candied orange peels, charred oak, molasses, and a nice kick of pepper. The first sip will fill your mouth with notes of creamy vanilla, rich caramelized sugar, caramel corn, and a hint of sweet cinnamon. The finish is long, warming, and ends with a final flavorful note of cracked black pepper.

Bottom Line:

If you encounter this bottle, grab a few. One sip and you’ll want to find a permanent place for this bottle in your liquor cabinet.

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