Did you furrow your brow in contemplation when your bartender asked you what brand of rye you wanted in your Old Fashioned? Or did a “Straight Rye Whiskey” label catch your eye in the aisle of your favorite liquor store?
Don’t be intimidated by rye. Just like bourbon, bonded whiskey, blended whiskey, wheated whiskey, or Tennessee whiskey, among others, rye is a subset in the whiskey universe. Of course, the spicy spirit must meet a number of standards to receive its rye designation.
Let’s dig in, because every rye is a whiskey, but not every whiskey is a rye.
To be classified “whiskey” or “whisky” (the spelling generally used in Scotland, Canada, and Japan), the spirit must be:
- fermented grain mash
- distilled at less than 190 proof
- stored in oak barrels with no minimum time requirement
- free of neutral spirits
The “whiskey” category is big and broad, with a number of aforementioned designations. Think of whiskey as a universe, with numerous satellites in orbit that meet the “whiskey standards,” but are also their own distinct expression, including blended, wheated, bourbon, Tennessee, rye, and more.
Rye Whiskey Standards
According to the Code of Federal Regulations (5.143), Rye Whiskey must meet all of the aforementioned “whiskey standards,” as well as:
- made from a mashbill of at least 51 percent rye grain
- distilled at 160 proof (80 ABV) or less
- aged in charred, new oak barrels
- barreled no higher than 125 proof
- bottled at 80 proof or higher
Rye Whiskey must be made from at least 51 percent rye, while the remainder of the mashbill usually comes from corn, wheat, or malted barley. Bourbon, on the other hand, must be made from a mashbill of at least 51 percent corn, while wheated whiskey must be made from at least 51 percent wheat.
Straight Rye Whiskey Standards
Straight Rye Whiskey must meet the standards of “Rye Whiskey,” as well as:
- aged for a minimum of two years
- pure (no color/flavor additives other than water)
Favorites & Cocktails
Of course, ryes have varied aromas, tastes, and finishes, depending on mashbill, aging, and more. Typically, the spirit features tasting notes of fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, oak, and more, with a distinct peppery bite from the rye mashbill (some bite harder than others).
Because of its aroma and taste, Rye is an essential element of a number of classic cocktails, including the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Hot Toddy.
Outsider loves a wide range of Ryes. Some of our favorites include:
- Old Forester Straight Rye Whiskey | 100 Proof
- Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky Bonded | 100 Proof
- George Dickel Rye Whisky | 90 Proof
- Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey | 114 Proof
- Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey | 90 Proof
- Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Rye | 112.2 Proof
- WhistlePig Single Barrel Rye | 128 Proof
- Willet Family Estate Straight Rye Whiskey | 111.5 Proof
- 2 oz. Old Forester Rye
- 2 dashes Angostura Orange bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura Aromatic bitters
- 1 tsp. simple syrup
- 1 marachino cherry
- 1 orange peel
- 1 large ice cube
- 2 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes bitters
- maraschino cherry