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We Tasted A Whole Lot Of New Rye Whiskey ‘Double-Blind’ And Crowned A Winner

New bottles of whiskeys drop pretty much every day. That means that we’re all neck-deep in the latest whisk(e)y boom, whether we know it or not. One of the most interesting sections of that boom is rye whiskey. New and interesting rye whiskeys arrive left and right these days and it can be pretty hard to keep track of them all (it’s tough even if you’re in the industry and it’s your job to do exactly that). One way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to taste through and see what actually rules (and is thereby worth spending your hard-earned cash on).

That’s where I come in. Luckily, I get a fair few whiskeys to taste. For this blind tasting, though, I’m going hard. I’m going to taste ten new rye whiskeys that were released over the last year. The ripple is that I’ll be tasting these “double-blind.” That means I won’t have an inkling of what’s in those Glencairns besides that they’re “rye whiskey” and “newer.” No price tags, no branding, and no PR emails are going to sway my mind and palate during this taste test.

Since this is a “double-blind” taste test, I’m going to jump right in and see what rises to the top. My guess is that the “good stuff” will win out but a cheaper ringer might steal the whole show. Let’s see what happens!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Blind Taste Test Posts Of The Last Six Months

Part 1: The Taste

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Taste 1

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a mix of wicker, old leather, caramel, and vanilla with a hint of dried potpourri. The palate hits pretty sweet with sugar candy on the front of the tongue as more wicker leads to dry spice and soft vanilla cream. The finish circles back to that sweetness with a rock candy vibe with a hint more of that wicker and vanilla.

Taste 2

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

A lot of citruses (orange, grapefruit, pomelo) are rolling around on this nose with floral honey, grainy malts, almonds, and rum-raisin. The taste builds on those raisins with an apple crumble vibe next to dried roses and black pepper with a honeyed mid-palate. The spice kicks up with some fresh ginger, more black pepper, and dark chocolate powder that leads to a spiced, gingery tobacco finish.

Taste 3

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This is completely different with a nose of fresh dill, rosemary sprigs, fennel, and mustard seeds with a hint of leather, moss, butter pads, espresso-infused tobacco, and dried bamboo. The palate builds on that nose with peanut butter cookies dipped into an oat milk latte with a hint of Almond Joy. The mid-palate bursts with oolong tea, olive brine, grapefruit peels, and cherry cough drops. The finish circles back and lets that oolong really shines with old leather gloves and a bitter tobacco leaf.

This is clearly in a different league than the first two.

Taste 4

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Another 180! This opens with a gentle note of what feels like cold leather layered on dry straw, sour candies, and a distant hint of pine boxes full of apple tobacco. The taste opens with a hint of wet wicker next to freshly presses apple cider that feels hazy and a chewy apple tree bark. The mid-palate veers away from the apple toward vanilla candies with a little chew to them, soft winter spice (think nutmeg and clove), and a whisper of quince jam on a buttery brioche.

Taste 5

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

The nose starts with a familiar old leather vibe that leads to dried roses and a hint of beef bouillon cube. The palate starts with a dried apple chip dipped in salted and buttery toffee with vanilla cookies in the background. The mid-palate works away from the sweet vanilla toward soft notes of nutmeg, almond, and apple blossoms.

Taste 6

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Old leather and vanilla pods mingle with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, streusel, and cellar beams on the nose. Rum-raisin kicks off the palate with good doses of nutmeg, clove, and anise leading to a peppery spice matrix. The sip then leans into dry tobacco leaves in an old cedar box and cherry cream soda straight off the fountain as the anise, clove, and nutmeg fuse with tobacco on the slow finish.

Taste 7

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Bright notes of cherry, nutmeg, cinnamon, and even leather dominate the nose. The palate leans into vanilla extract wth a spicy cherry cough syrup vibe. Granny Smith apple cores punctuate the mid-palate as the finish mixes up brown sugar, winter spice, wet wicker, and vanilla tobacco with cherry.

Taste 8

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Wet grains and leather mingle on the nose as dried flowers, lemon marmalade, and cherry pie lurk in the background. Creamy vanilla sauce and eggnog drive the palate with nutmeg and allspice making appearances until caramel corn pops on the mid-palate. That’s countered by fresh ginger spice and black-tea-soaked dates drive the finish toward a woody tobacco end.

Taste 9

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Winter spice and orange zest lead the way on the nose with candied almonds (those red ones) and the slightest echo of tomato paste. The palate leans into dried orange peels next to nutmeg and clove with more of those candied nuts. The finish arrives with plenty of vanilla and brown sugar but the umami promised on the nose doesn’t quite come back.

Taste 10

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Wet straw, sticky oatmeal, raisins, and apple blossoms make for an interesting nose. The palate leans into vanilla cream countered by chili extract with soft oak and caramel rounding out the sip. The finish has a sweet touch of vanilla candy but then just kind of disappears.

Part 2: The Ranking

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

10. Elvis “The King” Rye — Taste 10

Elvis Rye
Grain and Barrel Spirits

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This drop from fall 2021 is all about Elvis in the branding. The actual juice in the bottle is a 95 percent rye (with five percent malted barley) from an “undisclosed” distillery. Those barrels are sent down to Grain & Barrel Spirits in Tennessee where they’re blended, proofed, and bottled.

Bottom Line:

This had a lot of promise on the nose but then just petered out. It felt like a $15… maybe. I’ll put it this way, there was no hesitation in putting this last.

9. Traverse City North Coast Rye — Taste 8

Traverse City Whiskey Co.

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from Michigan is a blend of Traverse City’s own-make (a 100 percent rye) and MGP’s 95 percent rye. The whiskeys are aged for about two years before they’re vatted and proofed down with that clear Michigan water.

Bottom Line:

This is the part of the ranking where “it’s fine” rules the roost. This was just fine but not all that memorable, especially compared to the bangers in the bottom half of this list.

8. Sagamore Spirit Rye — Taste 9

Sagamore Rye
Sagamore Spirit

ABV: 41.5%

Average Price: $43

The Whiskey:

This Maryland whiskey (though part of it is still sourced from Indiana) is two rye mash bills that are put together for maximum ryeness. The low and high rye whiskeys are aged four to six years before vatting. The juice is then proofed with limestone water from a Maryland ahead of the bottling.

Bottom Line:

Again, this was fine but I felt a little let down that the umami on the nose never came back on the palate. That said, this feels like a perfectly workable cocktail whiskey.

7. Frey Ranch Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye — Taste 2

Frey Ranch Rye
Frey Ranch

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from Nevada is a single estate spirit. That means it’s made with 100 percent rye in the mash bill and that rye (Winter Rye specifically) came from the Frey Ranch farmland. The spirit was then aged a few years before only a few thousand bottles were filled.

Bottom Line:

This is definitely where things started getting better. This had real depth and felt like a decent sipper over some rocks. It wasn’t quite as nuanced as the next couple of picks, but there’s more than enough to enjoy here.

6. Broken Barrel Heresy Rye — Taste 1

Broken Barrel Rye
Broken Barrel

ABV: 52.5%

Average Price: $36

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from Owensboro Distilling Co. in Kentucky is another 95 percent rye. In this case, the rye is aged at least two years before blending, proofing, and bottling.

Bottom Line:

I had no idea what this was, but it tasted pretty good today. And when I say that, I meant middle of the road. There were classic rye notes, it was well built, but there was nothing that grabbed or held my attention.

5. Redwood Rocket Top Bottled-in-Bond Rye — Taste 5

Redwood Rocket Top Rye
Redwood

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

This new release from Redwood Empire Distilling out in California is a unique whiskey. The mash bill is not a 95 percent rye. I know, shocking. Instead, we have five-year-old rye made from a mash bill of 87 percent rye, seven percent malted barley, and six percent wheat.

Bottom Line:

This was a pretty good sip all around. I could see drinking this over a rock or two at the end of the day and being pretty happy about it. Still, it was more classic than anything else, which is not a diss.

4. Angel’s Envy Ice Cider Cask Finish Rye — Taste 4

Angel's Envy Ice Cider Cask
Bacardi

ABV: 53.5%

Average Price: $900

The Whiskey:

This rye is an outlier thanks to a very unique finish. The juice is standard, contract-distilled 95 percent rye that spent seven years in the barrel. That whiskey was then transferred into ice cider casks (from Eden Specialty Ciders in Vermont) where it rested for another 364 days. The ice cider casks, which held a dessert hard cider with a lot of sweetness built into the French oak, are then emptied and the whiskey is bottled with a touch of water as-is.

Bottom Line:

There was a lot of apple-ness on this one that could have made it one note. But this really felt dialed into something a bit more than just a spicy apple bomb. There was a delicate interplay here that was very enticing but, in the end, this felt…quiet. And I just was wowed a little more by the next three.

3. Nashville Single Barrel Rye — Taste 6

Nashville Barrel Company

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $115

The Whiskey:

Nashville Barrel is all about the barrel picks for retailers, bars, and whoever comes along (within reason). The juice in this case is 95 percent MGP rye that’s around eight years old. The whiskey went into the bottle at barrel strength without any additional fussing.

Bottom Line:

This felt like everything I could ever want in a classic rye whiskey. It was so tightly dialed into rye whiskey vibes that I just wanted to pour another and not think about anything else. That’s a powerful pull.

2. Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye — Taste 7

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.

Bottom Line:

This beat out the above by being both classic and also having something more happening on the palate that elevated this sip. Overall, this felt the most “rye” on the list while also feeling fresh.

1. Barrell Seagrass 16-Year Rye — Taste 3

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.

Bottom Line:

This was number one from the moment it hit my lips. This is so bold, new, fascinating, and kind of weird in the best way possible. I loved this sip. That said, if you’re looking for classic rye with some spice, check numbers two and three because this ain’t it. This is a wild ride that has no end.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

New Rye Double Blind
Zach Johnston

This was a fun ride. The only disappointment was the Elvis whiskey. The rest were all pretty good overall with the top four each bringing the heat.

As for the number one spot, I can’t deny that I’m always looking for the weird and new and am drawn to it like a fly to a buzzing light. Still, it’s a whiskey that is unique that excites me. I love the classics as much as the next whiskey drinker, but sometimes something comes along that reshapes how you look at a style of whiskey and that’s it, that’s all you want from there on out. Barrell’s Seagrass 16 was that rye for me. It’s spectacular.

In the end, though, you really can’t go wrong with six through two either. They each have their own charms. But if you want something a little otherworldly, Barrell is the pick.

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