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Bartenders Shout Out The Most Undervalued Rye Whiskeys

Rye whiskey is on the rise worldwide. In the U.S., the old-school whiskey has a lot of incarnations from Maryland to Virginia to Indiana to Kentucky to pretty much every corner of the country. The throughline to all of those rye regions is the law that states rye whiskey must have a mash bill (base recipe) of at least 51 percent rye grain that’s then aged in new American oak. There are more rules, but those are the big ones to know.

All of that means that rye can vary pretty wildly from the spicier peppery versions from Indiana to the more floral rye from Maryland to the fruitier and more herbal versions from Kentucky and beyond. Of course, those are all very broad brush strokes, but that’s what’s great about American rye — there’s something for everyone.

That also means there are tons of undervalued and underappreciated rye whiskeys on the market. To find them, we asked some well-known bartenders to tell us the best undervalued rye whiskeys to drink all year long. Keep scrolling below to see their picks.

Jim Beam Rye

Jim Beam Rye
Jim Beam

Nick du Mortier, lead mixologist at Bar Pendry in Chicago

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $28

Why This Rye?

Unpopular opinion, but Jim Beam Rye is the most undervalued rye. It has the perfect balance of spice that you expect from rye without outshining anything it is mixed with. In terms of cost, it’s hard to beat. Rittenhouse gets a lot of shout-outs as a workhorse rye, but in terms of value, Jim Beam Rye is a better deal.

Knob Creek Rye

Knob Creek Rye
Knob Creek

Lewis Caputa, lead bartender of Rosina inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $37

Why This Rye?

Knob Creek Rye is my pick. It retails around $40 and is definitely a value bottle. The vanilla and caramel notes paired with the peppery rye really make this rye quite the bottle.

Basil Hayden Dark Rye

Basil Hayden Dark Rye
Basil Hayden

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

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

Why This Rye?

The most undervalued rye whiskey is Basil Hayden Dark Rye. It is one of my new favorites. It’s very oaky rye but has some hints of cherry and spice which makes it a great base for any cocktail. It can be enjoyed on ice as well.

WhistlePig Aged 10 Years Rye

WhistlePig 10 Year Old Rye
WhistlePig

Christopher Devern, lead bartender of Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $70

Why This Rye?

Whistle Pig 10 Year is a unique Canadian rye whiskey that stands out to me. It has a unique farmhouse taste that reminds me of tobacco and spices. You’ll find herbal notes of thyme and peppermint. Give this a try in your next Manhattan.

Michter’s US-1 Straight Rye

Michter’s US-1 Straight Rye
Michter

Josh Curtis, bar director at the Malibu Beach Inn in Malibu, California

ABV: 42.4%

Average Price: $48

Why This Rye?

Michter’s US-1 Straight Rye has cinnamon and cherry notes that lean toward butterscotch and even orange citrus. Of course, it still has the notable cracked black pepper, but it’s tempered by the other, sweeter flavors as well.

High West Double Rye

High West Double Rye
High West

Marla White, lead bartender at Lona Cocina & Tequileria in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $30

Why This Rye?

High West Double Rye Whiskey is my pick because you are getting two ryes for the price of one. High West Double Rye Whiskey is actually a blend of two rye whiskeys (one from Indiana and one from Utah) making the perfect combination of flavor with the heat you are looking for in rye. The younger blend of rye whiskey with the clove and cinnamon flavors is blended with a more mature rye whiskey that carries the vanilla and woody richness. With that complexity, it can be enjoyed by itself or mixed into and classic cocktail such as Manhattan and really add flavor value for the drinker.

Templeton Rye

Templeton Rye
Templeton Rye

Jamie Shaw, beverage manager at Stella of New Hope in New Hope, Pennsylvania

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

Why This Rye?

I think Templeton is one of the most undervalued ryes on the market. It’s nice and spicy and has a lot of body to it. But it comes in pretty inexpensive, and it goes with so many different flavors. Overall, it’s very universal and versatile.

Woodinville 100% Rye Whiskey

Woodinville Straight Rye
Woodinville

Federico Doldi, bartender at Gansevoort Meatpacking in New York City

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $40

Why This Rye?

I really love Woodinville Straight Rye Whiskey. I think it’s a perfect balance of wood, cherries, leather, oak, and honey. It really creates an explosion of flavors on the palate.

Old Overholt

Old Overholt
Old Overholt

Nicholas Bennett, beverage director at Porchlight in New York City

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $19

Why This Rye?

Putting its 200 plus year history aside, Old Overholt is a great whiskey that never seems to get the respect it deserves outside of the bartenders I know that swear by it. The nose is very expressive for an 86-proof whiskey. It features minor notes of oak and rye spice that are also present but barely make an impact over the sweet aromas of Graham Cracker and caramel. It makes a great cocktail, a great sipping whiskey, and a great back with a beer all for a very accessible price.

Rittenhouse Rye

Rittenhouse Rye
Rittenhouse Rye

Zach Wilks, bartender at Anthony’s Chophouse in Carmel, Indiana

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $30

Why This Rye?

I’m not sure if I can necessarily say it’s an undervalued rye whiskey as most of the great cocktail bars in the U.S. use it as their go too rye. But I will say for the price it beats out a lot of whiskeys that are two and three times more expensive. Rittenhouse is 100-proof rye from Heaven Hill that has the classic pepperiness that rye is known for, with a bit of vanilla, peach, and banana.

Old Forester Rye

Old Forester Rye
Old Forester

Cassie Stockbridge, bartender at Lobby Bar at The Godfrey Hotel in Boston

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $30

Why This Rye?

The most undervalued rye whiskey is Old Forester Rye in my opinion. It is vastly appreciated by individuals in the food and beverage industry but not so much by the public at large. Old Forester Rye has a unique taste with notes of black pepper and cinnamon stick that rounds out with notes of dried dill and baked apple.

EH Taylor Straight Rye

EH Taylor Straight Rye
Buffalo Trace

John “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick, spiritual advisor at Warren American Whiskey Kitchen in Delray, Florida

ABV: 50%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Rye?

I am surprised that the Colonel Taylor Straight Rye gets overlooked and overshadowed by the better-known Taylor bourbons. This amazing rye has an absolutely perfect blend of vanilla, spice, and caramel. It’s a great sipper and makes a superior Manhattan as well.

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