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Rye Whiskeys That Are Perfect For Late Summer (Including A New Michter’s Release)

Though summer isn’t technically over until September 22nd, we’re inundated with fall-spiced products beginning mid-August (and sometimes even in July). Honestly, we barely feel like summer even started. We certainly aren’t ready for the explosion of pumpkin spice that’s already filling the shelves at our local grocery stores. From candy to candles, it seems like everything is slathered in this overly-saccharine spiced flavor.

What’s the point of this lead-in?

It’s just to say that here at Uproxx, we prefer our spice to be of the rye variety and pretty much only in whiskey form (although we’ll munch on a loaf of good rye bread, too). Instead of falling for the siren song of pumpkin-spice while we’re still in the dog days of summer, we recommend you get yourself a nice bottle of rye whiskey and watch the sunset with a nice dram. It’s way more satisfying and not nearly so cliche.

To help you out, we decided listed some of our favorite summer-fall transition-y rye expressions below.

Basil Hayden’s 10- Year-Old Rye

ABV: 40%

Distillery Name: Jim Beam

Average Price: $56.99

The Story:

Released in May of 2020, this is one of the newest offerings from Jim Beam’s small-batch brands. Previously, the brand released Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye, but this is the first bottle with an age statement. This 80-proof rye was aged for ten years. While its complex and well-balanced, it’s easily sippable and can be enjoyed just as much by seasoned rye fans as those new to the style.

Tasting Notes:

The result of the ten years of maturation is a softening of the spicy rye, giving this offering a much richer, more approachable flavor. Before you even take a sip, you’re met with aromas of peppery rye, subtle toasted oak, and lingering vanilla. The first sip leads you into a symphony of sweet toffee, rich caramel, and warming rye spice. It’s all finished with a flourish of warming cinnamon and smoky wood.

Bottom Line:

This is a great rye for beginners — it’s smoother and more sippable than some of the higher rye offerings.

Old Forester Rye

ABV: 50%

Distillery Name: Old Forester

Average Price: $25.99

The Story:

Old Forester is a huge name in the bourbon world. The brand has been producing high-level bourbon or over 150 years. But, until last spring, it never branched out into rye whiskey. The brand likes to tout itself as the first bourbons to be bottled in a glass bottle. Obviously, they did that more than a century ago, but now they’ve made what they’re referring to as the first-ever “Kentucky straight rye whiskey”.

Tasting Notes:

Made using a recipe from 1940, this rye offering is made up of 65 percent rye, 20 percent malted barley, and 15 percent corn. The result is a whiskey with hints of dried orange peel and caramel on the nose. The first sip yields buttery toffee, subtle banana bread that leads into peppery spice, cinnamon, and various Christmas spices before ending in caramelized sugar and just a hint of rye pepper.

Bottom Line:

This is a complex, high-rye whiskey that should appeal equally to seasoned rye fans and newbies alike.

Michter’s 10-Year Single Barrel Rye

ABV: 46.4%

Distillery Name: Michter’s

Average Price: $149.99

The Story:

Back in July, Michter’s released its 10-Year Single Barrel Rye whiskey for 2020. The brand, more known for its bourbon, is only releasing this expression in limited quantities because of lack of supply due to the ongoing pandemic. This limited number of bottles makes this even more highly coveted than it normally would be. This “Kentucky-style” rye is unsurprisingly fairly high in the corn department and was aged for ten years in toasted, charred barrels.

Tasting Notes:

The result is a highly complex, one-of-a-kind bottle that you should definitely seek out while you still can. It all starts with the nose. Aromas of rye bread, charred oak, and rich caramel are highly nuanced. The first sip brings up images of vanilla bean ice cream, spicy cinnamon, subtle spices, and velvety clover honey. The finish is subtly dry with a long-lasting, warming hint of spicy pepper.

Bottom Line:

If you can get your hands on this bottle, definitely don’t waste it by mixing it. You spent enough on this whiskey that it should be sipped slowly on a cool evening.

Pikesville 6-Year-Old Straight Rye

ABV: 55%

Distillery Name: Heaven Hill

Average Price: $54.99

The Story:

In the 1800s there were two different versions of rye. The first was Pennsylvania Rye and the other was Maryland Rye. Pikesville is a Maryland-style Rye — a style known for its much milder, smoother whiskeys. Originally Pikesville was produced in the late 1800s until prohibition saw the closure of the distillery. After prohibition was repealed, Pikesville was the only brand of Maryland Rye to remain. Years later, this iconic, 110 proof, 6-year-old whiskey is now made in Kentucky by Heaven Hill.

Tasting Notes:

For a rye whiskey with only 51% rye content, this is a highly complex, well-rounded whiskey. Before you even take a sip, you’re met with just a whiff of peppery rye, dried fruits, and smoked cinnamon. The first sip adds caramelized sugar, vanilla, and dried orange peel into the equation. It all ends with toasted oak and malty chocolate and a pleasing hit of heat.

Bottom Line:

While this is definitely a great sipper, you can feel comfortable mixing this whiskey into your favorite rye-based cocktail.

Sagamore Straight Rye

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#sagamorerye

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ABV: 41.5%

Distillery Name: MGP/Sagamore

Average Price: $41.99

The Story:

Sagamore Spirits was officially launched back in 2016 and was named for a nearby thoroughbred horse racing farm. In the few years since, it has gained quite a following for its Maryland-style rye. Like many rye brands, Sagamore sources multiple rye mash bills from MGP before tirelessly blending them together to create the flavor they’re looking for. One mash bill is 95 percent rye, while the two others included are each 51 percent rye. They don’t let anyone in on the actual whiskeys they use and the amounts of each, but that’s all inside baseball anyway.

Tasting Notes:

While this whiskey definitely isn’t overpowered by its rye presence, peppery spice is present on the first nosing. This is followed by candied cherries, rich vanilla, and spicy cinnamon. The first sip brings robust, charred oak, dried orange peel, and sweet caramel. The finish is littered with hints of pepper and warming heat.

Bottom Line:

Pour a glass, drop in an ice cube, and sit back and sip on this high-rye whiskey while you sit near a large body of water.

Russell’s Reserve 6-Year Small Batch

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

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ABV: 45%

Distillery Name: Wild Turkey

Average Price: $41.99

The Story:

Similar to Jim Beam’s small batch series, Russell’s Reserve (named for Jimmy Russell) is Wild Turkey’s higher-end brand. Well known for its bourbon, drinkers shouldn’t sleep on this 90-proof, small-batch rye that was aged for six years. It won a gold medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition for a reason. It’s known for its use of a single rye mashbill and the fact that it’s the only rye the brand makes with an age statement.

Tasting Notes:

Before taking a sip, it’s best to take in some of the whiskey’s aromas. The first sniff brings forth sticky toffee pudding, toasted wood, and just a wisp of peppery spice. Once you take a sip, you’ll be treated to rich vanilla, subtle cloves, cinnamon, and cooking spices along with honey sweetness. It all ends with a crescendo of chocolate truffles, caramel, and a pleasing hint of peppery heat.

Bottom Line:

Don’t waste this gem by using it as a mixer. It’s perfect for slow sipping while you grill up a nice, meaty steak.

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