While there’s no time of year when it’s wrong to sip rye whiskey, it’s tough to argue the appeal of the spicy, warming spirit during the cool month of November. Falling temperatures and hearty foods pair well with the peppery edge of a well-made rye served neat or on the rocks. You shouldn’t sleep on classic cocktails like the old fashioned or the Sazerac this time of year, either.
As for the price of a good rye, like many whiskey styles, you can end up spending a whole paycheck on a truly memorable bottle or pick up a pretty solid sipper for roughly the cost of a steak dinner. And with rye getting less hype than boubon or scotch, there are still some expressions out there that outkick the coverage — tasting better than the sticker price might indicate. To help you track them down, I opened my tasting diary, picked my personal favorite “good value” ryes (all hovering in the $30 range), and ranked them.
6.) Old Overholt
Like so many whiskeys, Old Overholt is shrouded in legend. It’s believed by many to be the oldest, continually operating whiskey brand in America, going back to 1810. Aged for three years, it’s cheap, subtly spicy, and always there. It’s the kind of bottle you should rgularly keep on your liquor shelf to use in cocktails.
You might not think to give a whiskey at this price point a proper nosing, but you definitely should. You’ll be met not with a pepper bomb, but sweet, creamy vanilla, toasted wood, and rich caramel corn. The first sip yields hints of candied orange peel, spicy pepper, and sweet clover honey. The finish is long, warming, and ends in a surprisingly pleasing hint of white pepper.
While nobody should tell you which whiskeys to sip and which to mix with, this is likely a mixer. While not a harsh whiskey by any means, it shines in a classic rye-based cocktail.
5.) Rittenhouse Bottled-In-Bond
When you crack open this bottle, you might assume you know what you’re in for. It’s 100 proof, but with only 51% rye in the mash bill, it still manages to be mellow and highly drinkable. Made by Heaven Hill, it’s perfect for using as a base for an old fashioned or old pal.
Even though the Pennsylvania style of rye whiskey is usually on the spicier side, the first nosing of this whiskey conjures hints of dried fruits, charred oak, and sweet cream, with very little rye spice. On the palate, is where you get your first real bite of peppery rye. This is paired with rich caramel, honey, and subtle cinnamon. The finish is long, slightly warm, and ends with a pleasant final flourish of pepper.
This is a great whiskey for mixing due to its high alcohol content, but it shines as a sipper poured over a single ice cube in a rocks glass.
Redemption is the kind of rye whiskey you think about when you envision the style. In part because, while you only need over 50% rye in the mash bill to be considered a rye whiskey, this offering features a whopping 95% rye. The brand wanted to create a whiskey that tasted like the rye whiskeys made before prohibition, when mash bills were far less balanced.
This is designed to be mixed, but it has a warming, peppery presence that makes it great for November sipping.
On the nose, you’ll find aromas of dried fruits, cooking spices, charred oak, and a healthy dose of peppery spice. The first sip delivers hints of brown sugar, salted caramel, sweet vanilla, and a kick of spice. The finish is long, very warming, and ends with a good mixture of sweet vanilla and hot, peppery rye.
A fairly young rye, this shines in drinks like a Manhattan or Vieux Carre. It also handles itself well as a warming sipper on a cold, fall night.
3.) High West Double Rye
As the name describes, this is blend of two different rye whiskeys. Both have been aged for at least two (and, at most, seven) years. One comes from renowned rye distiller MGP and the other from High West. The first was distilled in a column still and the second in a pot still. It’s a fascinating entry that’s made plenty of fans.
This highly complex rye whiskey has a nose of sweet caramel, spicy cinnamon, Christmas spices, and subtle pepper. The first sip brings tea-like herbal qualities, along with sweet honey, toasted vanilla, charred oak, and more rye spice. The finish is medium in length, warming, and ends with hints of mint, cocoa, and more spicy pepper.
A ton of work was put into this whiskey. To get the most out of it, you should enjoy it over ice as you watch the leaves fall.
2.) Old Forester 100
While this whiskey is made up of 65% rye, it’s the 20% barley content and the brand’s proprietary yeast strain that gives it its unique, smooth flavor. Based on a historic recipe that was first acquired back in 1940, Old Forester’s rye is so well-rounded, mixable, and highly sippable that it might make you forget about the brand’s iconic bourbon (for a little while).
Before taking your first sip, give this whiskey the nosing it deserves. You’ll be met with aromas of dried orange peel, spicy cinnamon, and butterscotch. The first sip offers up baking spices, toasted vanilla beans, caramelized sugar, and peppery spice.
The finish is long, warming, and ends with a hit of resinous pine and cracked black pepper.
Due to the complexity of this rye, I consider it one of the best bargain rye whiskeys on the market. It’s perfectly suited for drinking neat or on the rocks.
1.) George Dickel
While George Dickel is located in Tennessee, its rye whiskey is distilled at MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Before being bottled it’s chilled and filtered through sugar maple charcoal at George Dickel. This high rye whiskey is made up of 95% rye, 5% malted barley, and no corn.
It’s meant to be complex, robust, and spicy.
A lot is going on with this whiskey. If you give it a proper nosing you’ll be met with subtle spicy rye, followed by charred oak and toasted marshmallows. The first sip yields a great combination of sweet and spicy. The first flavor you’ll find is cracked black pepper. This is followed closely by sweet cream, vanilla, and caramel.
The finish is long, subtly warm, and filled with charred oak and peppery spice.
If you’re only going to sip one of the rye whiskeys on this list, make it George Dickel. It’s spicy, sweet, and perfect for slow sipping.