New Rye Whiskey Brands Dominate Shelf Space
Rye whiskey’s increasing popularity means it’s more visible and available on the market. Any good bar menu is sure to have a few offerings, while distilleries are popping up all over the northeast part of the US. If you’re completely unfamiliar, how do you know what is a good rye whiskey?
What Is Rye Whiskey?
Rye whiskey has been around since George Washington distilled it at his home, and popularity soared until prohibition. Palates and tastes changed, and people stopped preferring the warm, spicy bite of rye whiskey and turned to lighter, sweeter European liquors. Lately, though, rye whiskey’s popularity has skyrocketed. To say it’s making a comeback would be a bit of an understatement.
In order to be labelled as rye whiskey, several specific parameters need to be met. Rye whiskey has to be distilled with a minimum of 51% rye and be aged in new, charred oak barrels. There are specific alcohol by volume for distilling, barrelling, and bottling. By the time it’s ready for you to drink, it will be around 80 proof, or 40% abv.
Rye whiskey is similar to bourbon except that when distilling bourbon, corn is used instead of rye. As you can imagine, this difference affects the taste. Bourbon has a sweeter flavor while rye whiskey is much spicier.
What to Do with Common Rye Whiskey
Any rye whiskey is going to be warm, spicy, and pack a bit of a punch. Generally, you can use rye whiskey anywhere you can use bourbon, depending on what kind offlavor you’re looking for. Bourbon tends to be a little more mild while a rye whiskey will make any drink more intense.
You can drink rye whiskey straight, on the rocks, or in a mixed drink. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that most classic whiskey cocktails that are now commonly made with bourbon were originally made with rye. Rye whiskey cocktails typically go down a little slower than ones made with bourbon, but they’re becoming more and more popular.
Brands of Rye Whiskey
There are a lot of rye whiskey brands out there. Some are coming out of small, local distilleries popping up in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Kentucky. Others are being produced by well known brands anxious to get in on rye whiskey’s rapidly growing popularity.
The best rye whiskey is that one that tastes the best. Each has subtle flavors and notes that make it unique. Here’s a partial list of rye whiskey brands worth checking out:
- WhistlePig – WhistlePig was started by a former Maker’s Mark distiller who now makes this award winning rye whiskey on Lake Champlain.
- Journeyman Distillery Last Feather Organic Rye – Give this one a try if you’re looking for some complex flavors. It offers hints of beer, cinnamon, cream, smoke, and pine.
- Bulliet Rye Whiskey – With notes of caramel, cherry, vanilla, and and toffee, Bulliet Rye Whiskey adds a bit of sweetness to the otherwise spicy kick of rye.
- Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye – This smooth rye is required tasting. See why is was awarded Best Whiskey of the Year in 2016.
- George Dickel Rye Whisky – Aged for 5 – 6 years, this is one of the milder rye whiskeys available. If the idea of a spicy drink with a kick and a burn intimidates you, give George Dickel a try.
- Dark Horse Distillery “Reunion” Rye Whiskey – Alternatively, if you want something potent and a bit rough with a hint of cinnamon and clove, try Dark Horse Distillery’s “Reunion” Rye Whiskey.
If you’re not sure what kind of rye whiskey to try, or if you just really don’t know where to start, some bars that focus heavily on whiskey will offer a whiskey flight. You can get a sampling of about five or six different rye whiskeys and choose which one you like best. Rye whiskey has really taken off and distillers and bartenders are doing amazing things with it. It just might be your new favorite drink.