As fall sets in and days get shorter and colder, it’s an excellent time to bring out the rye whiskey. The drier, spicier, and more herbaceous flavors just seem to lend themselves to the change of seasons from warm to cold. However, many Bourbon drinkers tend to gravitate toward a sweeter flavor profile and sometimes recoil at rye’s more assertive characteristics. We’ve had many Bourbon drinkers tell us they don’t like rye. We brought in our CYTIES Whiskey Specialist Chris Blatner, aka Urbanbourbonist, to explain why if you’re a Bourbon drinker and don’t think you like rye, there’s something for you on the list below. These seven options are all distilled from unique mash bills that deliver an excellent rye drinking experience and provide some familiar flavors that will appeal to a diehard Bourbon drinker.
Journeyman Distillery Last Feather Rye
Mash bill: 60% organic rye / 40% organic wheat
Wheat is a popular secondary flavoring grain in Bourbon (Weller, Maker’s Mark, Larceny) but isn’t used very much in rye whiskey. Journeyman Distillery goes all-in on wheat with its flagship product Last Feather. The wheat offers sweeter flavors of banana and berries to complement the rye’s mint and black pepper notes. Buy this bottle for a clean and mellow pour.
Old Forester Rye
Mash bill: 65% rye / 20% malted barley / 15% corn
Old Forester made a splash with this budget-friendly whiskey in 2019 and took a unique approach to the mash bill with more malted barley than corn in the secondary grains. The high malted barley content results in a whiskey with sweet floral aromas and flavors of apple, brown sugar, white flowers, bubblegum, pine, and licorice. Buy this bottle if you want a workhorse that can stand up in any cocktail, on ice, or simply neat.
Chattanooga Whiskey 99 Rye
Mash bill: 60% malted rye (2 types) / ~35% corn / ~5% malted barley
Tennessee High Malt is Chattanooga Whiskey’s original take on whiskey-making. They use a variety of malted grains to add a depth of flavor not found in other whiskeys. 99 rye uses two types of malted rye and malted barley to deliver a vibrant and complex profile. Cola, spice cake, and toasted rye flavors dominate in this whiskey. Buy this bottle if you want something that offers a reimagining of what rye whiskey can be.
Pinhook Rye'd On
Mash bill: 60% rye / 20% corn / 20% malted barley
Pinhook’s first rye distilled from their own proprietary mash bill also takes advantage of a high malted barley content and an equal amount of corn to deliver a flavor profile that diverges from the dry, spicy character of many ryes. It has bold aromas of mint, juicy peach, and apricot that lead to flavors of cherry, warm baking spice, and melted brown sugar. Buy this bottle to be your daily drinker.
Dad's Hat Bottled-in-Bond Pennsylvania Straight Rye
Mash bill: 80% rye / 5% malted rye / 15% malted barley
Dad’s Hat pays homage to the deep history of rye in Pennsylvania by crafting a style that does not use any corn. Many of the rye’s herbal and spicy qualities come through in this whiskey with mint, fresh-cut grass, and black pepper. Sweeter flavors also develop with orchard fruits, dark cherries, and chocolate coming through. Buy this bottle for a bold pour to warm you up on a cold night.
Wilderness Trail Rye
Mash bill: 56% rye / 33% corn / 11% malted barley
Wilderness Trail sits just slightly above the ‘barely legal’ threshold for its rye, opting to go with a lower rye content to offer a harmony of sweet to spice. Flavors of cinnamon-sugar, sweet oak, and spiced fruit play against florals, grass, and smoked rye. Buy this bottle for the most balanced pour on the list.
High West Bourye
Mash bill (blend): Straight Rye Whiskey – 95% rye, 5% malted barley + Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley + Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley
This is the list’s wild card; it’s neither a rye nor a Bourbon, but a blend of straight whiskeys. One rye and two Bourbons, all aged at least 10 years, are blended together to create such a unique expression I had to include it. This blend really allows all of the whiskeys to shine through with spiced tea, red hot candies, chocolate, oranges, and toasted nuts. Buy this bottle to please both the Bourbon drinker and the rye drinker with the same pour.