We went looking for the best rye whiskey because we love its spicy complex flavors.
Rye whiskey first became popular in the 18th century due to the blooming rye market, but its sweeter cousin bourbon later overshadowed it. As it frequently happens, what was once considered old-fashioned is now modern again, and rye whiskey has come back to steal the spotlight and win the hearts of many whiskey lovers.
Regardless of whether you’re new to it or a long-time admirer, finding the best rye whiskey might be challenging. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide that will walk you through 12 excellent whiskeys. We’re sure you’ll find the right one with our help.
Since this was the final release in the Kentucky Owl Rye series, many agree that “save the best for last” applies here. The 112.8-proof rye is described as very sweet and full-flavored, making it perfect for the holiday season.
Aged between 10-13 years, this whiskey has a full flavor and excellent texture. Notes of brown sugar, rich oak, and roasted almonds contribute to the sweeter taste of this batch. The finish is strong and smoky, with a kick of spice at the end. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side that’s perfect for any special occasion or a holiday, this is the way to go.
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This 95.6-proof rye with a full, rich texture will impress even the pickiest audience. Aged for 13 years, this whiskey carries sweet notes of vanilla, roasted nuts, cinnamon, and fresh wood. Its aroma reminds some of bourbon due to the high content of corn but leaves you with a spicy aftertaste typical of rye.
This Van Winkle Rye is perfect for those that enjoy a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. It’s smooth, drinkable, and will leave you wanting more after each sip. Since it’s aged for at least 13 years, this is one of the oldest ryes available, making it even more special.
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With 95% rye and 5% malted barley, this whiskey is everything you need if you like bold, full flavors. It earned the title of a “straight rye whiskey” because it was aged for at least two years in a charred new oak barrel. This 92-proof rye starts you off with notes of cinnamon and oak and finishes with a solid and spicy taste that entices you to have more.
In addition to enjoying it neat, this whiskey can be an excellent component of your cocktails, thanks to the high rye content. If you’re a Manhattan fan, Redemption is a must-have.
Learn more about Redemption Straight Rye Whiskey here.
If you’re looking for a rye with a story, this is it. The Roadstock Rye was aged in an 18-wheeler driving across America on Route 66. Just before leaving Whistle Pig in Vermont, half of the whiskey was transferred into Bordeaux blend casks. Upon arriving in California, the balance of whiskey was put into Imperial Blonde Ale, Experimental Ale, and Imperial Stout barrels. Upon returning to Vermont, whiskey was mixed and bottled with a rubber tire top.
A unique mix of beer and wine gives this 86-proof whiskey an exceptional, fruity taste. Due to the delicate notes of butterscotch, caramel, and red wine, this whiskey doesn’t have a bold finish typical of a rye.
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Having earned the Best American Rye Whiskey Award in Los Angeles, the Sazerac Straight Rye is one of the most popular whiskeys of this type. As its name suggests, it’s the best choice for making the New Orleans signature cocktail, Sazerac. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it neat.
The lively notes of lemon and orange in combination with vanilla and cloves give the whiskey a sweet aroma that finishes with a bold kick of dried fruits and rye.
This whiskey excels in consistency and flavor, which is why it’s a favorite to many.
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After spending four years in an oak barrel, the whiskey is transferred to another oak barrel for additional six months. Thanks to this process, the rye whiskey has a sweet aroma with orange peel, caramel, and toasted coconut notes.
Its sweet flavor may remind one of bourbon, but it has a much stronger finish. The 96.6-proof rye finishes off with a bold and ashy taste of roasted nuts. If you’re looking for a strong but well-blended combination of fruity and nutty flavors, this might be the best rye whiskey for you.
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Two straight rye whiskeys are married to create this bold and spicy piece of perfection. A sixteen-year-old whiskey made with 80% rye is combined with a six-year-old containing 95% rye. The result is a strong flavor, even texture, and a smooth finish.
Notes of mint, cinnamon, and fennel dominate the whiskey, complemented with sweet vanilla, caramel, and wood that lower the spiciness and emphasize the rye.
Whether you want to add it to your cocktails or drink it neat, this whiskey is a perfect combination of two different ryes.
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For those that don’t enjoy the typical, intense burn of a rye whiskey, this “light” 80-proof is a perfect choice. Aged for 10 years, the whiskey features a light aroma with a dash of rye spice. Fruity notes of apple mixed with vanilla and toffee are noticeable right after the first sip. Then the ashy and bold oak aroma appears, creating a perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness.
The finish is short and not as strong as with other rye whiskeys. If you’re new to the rye whiskey world, this should be your first choice. Due to its fruity flavor, it’s an excellent addition to summer cocktails.
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This whiskey is first aged in new charred oak for six years, then finished for around one year in toasted oak barrels originating from Vosges, France. This gives it a smoother aroma with orange peel and coriander notes. It’s a blend of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, which is why the whiskey has a long and smooth finish.
Fruits, spice, and sweetness are perfectly combined in this exceptional whiskey. Mango and graham cracker notes are complemented by caramel, cocoa, and nuts, with a dash of butterscotch. The whiskey has a slightly syrupy texture.
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This 80-proof rye whiskey features a sweet and minty flavor. The nose has a sweet note that might remind some of the holiday season, featuring sugar, white mint, and Christmas spice. Upon the first sip, you’ll feel a tangy sensation on your tongue, typical of a rye. Later on, sweet aromas of vanilla, toffee, and butterscotch will appear, contributing to the smooth texture.
The short finish revolves around oak and cinnamon, leaving a pleasant aftertaste. This whiskey resembles bourbon in its sweetness, so if you’re looking for a more typical rye flavor, this might not be the best option.
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For decades, whiskey was produced in a three-chamber still that extracted all aromas and oils from the grains. This manufacturing process stopped after World War II, and the still became a part of a tradition. Leopold Bros. used old manuscripts to recreate the three-chamber still and use it to produce this exceptional whiskey.
The production process makes this whiskey one of a kind. Well-balanced aromas of citrus and peaches combined with cinnamon, caramel, and chocolate notes contribute to the creamy texture. The finish is spicy with an aftertaste that leaves you wanting more.
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Mitcher’s prides itself on a centuries-long tradition since it was initially founded in the 1750s. This whiskey is straight rye that has been aged for over a decade before being put in a beautiful Diva bottle.
It features a creamy texture with hints of orange peel, toffee, oak, and a touch of apple aroma. The long finish emphasizes the rye and its spiciness. You can also taste the oak that, combined with the tangy rye, leaves a pleasant aftertaste.
Multiple flavor profiles are best experienced if the whiskey is consumed neat.
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A Good Rye Whiskey Is an Excellent Sensory Experience
A mix of texture, flavor, strength, aroma, age, and ingredients is what makes a great rye whiskey. In the end, it all comes down to your personal preferences and expectations. This guide encompassed a wide range of aromas, strengths, textures, and production processes to help you dive deep into the rye whiskey world.
We hope you’ve managed to find the best rye whiskey for you or your loved ones with our assistance.