Seasonal Spotlight: Whiskies of the World, Part 3 - Rye

Bourbon and Scotch may be the most popular, but the drink of choice for many whiskey connoisseurs is increasingly a glass of classic rye whiskey.

Up until recently, this historic American spirit was fading into obscurity. Liquor stores and bars usually stocked just a few old, dusty bottles. But there has been a miraculous rebirth of the rye category, and drinkers now prize its big, spicy and brash flavors. Distillers are now struggling to keep up with demand.

Rye has a lot in common with other American blended whiskies and bourbon, and the two spirits are usually produced in the same Kentucky distilleries while using similar methods. Both are typically made from corn and rye, but the ratio of ingredients is very different. Rye whiskey is made from at least 51%—you guessed it—rye, while bourbon is made from at least 51% corn. The higher percentage of corn makes bourbon sweeter and smoother. (You can easily taste the difference if you make one Manhattan with bourbon and another with rye.) Both spirits are also aged in new, charred, American-oak barrels.

To make things more complicated, Canadian blended whisky is sometimes also called rye. The distillers to our north use the same grains, but the finished product is usually a smooth blend instead of a straight whiskey.

Whisky from Scotland, Canada and Japan is spelled without an “e.” Whiskey from Ireland and the United States is usually spelled with an “e.”

Now, let's take a look at the best rye whiskies...

  • Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey - Bulleit is known for their high-rye bourbon and it would only be natural for the distillery to produce a straight rye whiskey. This small batch rye was released in 2011 and uses a 95% rye mash with malted barley, producing a smooth, complex whiskey with the distinguishing rye notes.
  • George Dickel Rye Whiskey - From the other Tennessee Whiskey Distillery, George Dickel Rye is a spicy, smoky whiskey that is also produced from 95% rye, 5% malted barley. The charcoal filtering used in its Tennessee whiskey is also employed here, giving it a unique finish from other ryes.
  • Redemption Rye Whiskey - This rye also uses 95% rye and is barreled for at least 2 years in new charred oak and is produced by Lawrenceburg Distillers in Indiana. It is a a perfectly clean rye whiskey that is great on its own or in any cocktail. Redemption also makes a High-Rye Bourbon.
  • Templeton Rye Small Batch Whiskey - Templeton is a small distillery in Iowa that has revived their Prohibition-era recipe for rye whiskey. Templeton uses a high rye content of 90%, distills the whiskey twice in a short column, then in a pot still. It is finished in charred American oak barrels for at least 4 years.
  • Whistle Pig Straight Rye Whiskey - This is a 100% rye is produced in Canada then bottled in Vermont at 100 proof after spending a minimum of 10 years in new American oak barrels. Whistle Pig's 100/100 bottling is joined by the Triple One, which is 111 proof and aged 11 years.


Rye Whiskey Cocktails


The Sazerac

  • 1 Sugar cube
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1.5 oz Sazerac Rye Whiskey
  • .25 oz Herbsaint

Garnish: Lemon peel

Glass: Old Fashioned

Pack an Old Fashioned glass with ice and set aside. In a second Old Fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cube and bitters, and add the rye whiskey. Pour the ice out of the first glass, add the Herbsaint and rotate the glass to coat the inside, discarding any excess. Add the whiskey mixture to the prepared glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

Buillet Rye Smash

  • 2 to 3 Fresh mint leaves
  • 2 Lemon wedges
  • .75 oz Stirrings Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz Water
  • 1.5 oz Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Garnish: Mint sprig

Glass: Old Fashioned

In a shaker, muddle the mint, lemon, simple syrup and water. Add the rye and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with fresh crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.1.5 oz Sazerac Rye Whiskey.

Summer Rye

  • 1.5 oz Sazerac Rye Whiskey
  • .75 oz St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur
  • .25 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
  • .75 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz Fresh Fuji apple juice
  • .75 oz Champagne

Garnish: Apple cubes

Glass: Tumbler

Add all the ingredients except the Champagne to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a tumbler filled with fresh ice. Top with the Champagne and garnish with some apple cubes.


Also enjoy Rye in a classic Manhattan or Old-Fashioned. Enjoy this video of making a Whiskey Smash