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The Best Warming Rye Whiskeys For Fall, According To Bartenders

Cool fall weather calls for warming whiskeys. And there’s no better whiskey to help scare away that autumnal chill than a spicy, warming rye. While whiskey actually cools you down, the sensation of warmth is high with rye whiskeys (especially those with higher levels of rye in their mash bills), thanks to commonly-occurring red, white, and black pepper flavor notes.

To find the best examples of this style, we went to the bar pros, asking them to name complex, well-balanced rye whiskeys well-suited to warm you up this fall. If any of these jump out at you, click on those prices to give them a try.

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Rye

Knob Creek Rye
Knob Creek

Christopher Rodriguez, lead bartender at Lucy Bar in Yountville, California

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $30

Why This Whiskey?

The best rye whiskey to warm you up is Knob Creek Rye. It is 100 proof and delivers the feel of warmth when drinking neat or hot totty. It’s spicy, sweet, and complex.

10th Mountain Rye

10th Mountain Rye
10th Mountain

Austin Sheffield, bartender at 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grille in Beaver Creek, Colorado

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $40

Why This Whiskey?

This whiskey combines excellent flavors and spice with the incredible legacy of the 10th mountain Division that trained in the very mountains we call our home. Without these guys, there would be no Vail Valley or Beaver Creek to enjoy 12 months a year and you have to pay respect to that.

Whistlepig Piggyback

Whistlepig Piggyback
Whistlepig

Lauren Navarro, head bartender at Apothecary 330-A Cocktail Bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

ABV: 48.2%

Average Price: $70

Why This Whiskey?

Whistlepig PiggyBack 6 Year Rye is my selection. I feel like it’s Whistlepig’s best-kept secret. It’s spicy with subtle citrus and goes down super smooth.

Frey Ranch Rye

Frey Ranch Rye
Frey Ranch

Brendan Pineda, manager and buyer at Plumpjack Wine & Spirits in San Francisco

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $60

Why This Whiskey?

Frey Ranch Rye out of Fallon, Nevada has been sustainably growing grains on their farm longer than Nevada has been recognized as a state. They are a true farm-to-bottle company. Their 100 percent Rye has notes of ginger, caramel, pepper, and honey. It’s a full-bodied whiskey that is smooth enough to drink neat or hold up in a cocktail and really feels like fall in a glass.

Exclave Rye

Exclave Rye
Exclave

Nicholas Karel, director of bars, lounges, and beverages at Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $45

Why This Whiskey?

This local whiskey is the perfect fall sip to warm you up. Notes of vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, and clove make it a great spirit for the season.

FEW Rye

FEW Rye
FEW

Lauren Parton, General Manager of Devereaux in Chicago

ABV: 46.5%

Average Price: $55

Why This Whiskey?

One of my favorite ryes is by FEW. They’re local to us, but after ten years in business, you can find them in more and more places. It’s got the delicious, sweet notes balanced out with that warming spice that I want from a rye whiskey.

Angel’s Envy Rye

Angel's Envy Rye
Angel

Robbie Robinson, bartender at The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $95

Why This Whiskey?

A great rye whiskey to warm you up this fall is Angel’s Envy Rye. This particular rye is finished in Caribbean rum casks, which gives it a much different taste compared to many ryes.

On the nose, you will pick up on sweet caramel, maple syrup, and orange zest tones. The palate is almost like sipping on a Werther’s Original candy. It’s sweet, smooth, but at 100 proof it still boasts enough kick to keep you feeling warm inside.

Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye

Basil Hayden's Dark Rye
Jim Beam

Robert Kidd, head bartender at Le Cavalier in Wilmington, Delaware

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $45

Why This Whiskey?

Basil Hayden’s makes a great dark rye. It’s rich with notes of molasses and dried fruit. The rye brings in some outstanding spice notes and the molasses really adds some sweetness to balance the spice. Overall, it makes for a great rye to enjoy on a cold night.

Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond

Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond
Rittenhouse

Mickey Mullins, bar manager at The Bower in New Orleans

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $30

Why This Whiskey?

The best fall rye whiskey I reach for is Rittenhouse Rye. This one packs a punch while still being able to blend with other spirits. Rittenhouse also lends itself well to be mixed into classics like an old fashioned or Manhattan. This spirit is warm on the nose all the way through to the finish.

Pinhook Kentucky Straight Rye

Pinhook rye
Pinhook

Roger Eyles, general manager and sommelier at Mister Mao in New Orleans

ABV: 48.5%

Average Price: $40

Why This Whiskey?

Pinhook 2-Year Rye Whiskey is my go-to on a fall night. It’s not super-aged so you can still enjoy the rye taste. It’s also not too bready or spicy and is subtle yet assertive.

High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram

High West Midwinter
High West

Christy Bradley, spirit guide at Virgin Hotels in New Orleans

ABV: 49.3%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Whiskey?

I love High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram. They start the aging process in new charred white oak and finish it in French oak port barrels. It overloads the sense with baking spices, caramel, and molasses. It reminds me of Christmas.

Hillrock Double Cask Rye

Hillrock Double Cask Rye
Hillrock

Darron Foy, bar manager at The Flatiron Room in New York City

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $115

Why This Whiskey?

Made by the legendary Dave Pickerel, this rye benefits from a second casking in French Sauternes wine barrels, which adds a sweeter note to the rye. It’s spicy with clove and pepper rounded off with honey and a light nuttiness.

Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye

Hochstadter's Rock and Rye
Hochstadter

Mallory O’Meara, author of GIRLY DRINKS: A World History of Women and Alcohol

ABV: 42%

Average Price: $30

Why This Whiskey?

I’m not a big rye drinker, so if I’m grabbing something rye-like to sit in front of the fire with, it’ll probably be a glass of Hochstadter’s Rock and Rye. The honey and orange make it taste cozy and warm.

Laws San Luis Valley Straight Rye

Laws Rye
Laws

Doug Fisher, beverage director at Morris American Bar in Washington, DC

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $50

Why This Whiskey?

My go-to bottle for a post-shift drink this fall is the San Luis Valley Straight Rye from Laws Whiskey House. It has a lovely bouquet of orange spice, a rich mouthfeel, and a pleasant peppery finish that showcases the 100 percent rye mash bill. Everyone I’ve introduced it to has fallen in love with it and you can understand why.

Whistlepig 12 Year Old World Aged Rye

Whistlepig Old World Rye
Whistlepig

Nicholas Bennett, beverage director at Porchlight in New York City

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $149

Why This Whiskey?

It might be a little pricy, but I would recommend the WhistlePig 12 Year Old World Rye. The juice has 95 percent rye in the mash bill so it’s packing a lot of flavor. Then WhistlePig finishes the whiskey in Madeira, French Sauternes, and port casks at the WhistlePig Farm. The Madeira finish highlights peach and mint. The French Sauternes and port finishes bring out maple sugar, salty caramel, and winter berries.

I love a whiskey that doesn’t punch you in the face with every flavor it has and I feel like I can find something new and warming every time I pour from this bottle.


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