Rye is traditionally a lighter American whiskey with a high-rye mash bill (meaning a more significant percentage of rye in the grain bill, thus a drier and spicier flavor). If you've never had rye, it's worth giving. And now that there's such a wide selection, you no longer have an excuse not to try it.
If you're looking to dip your toes into the world of rye, below are some of my favorites that won't break the bank (drink up!).
What is Rye Whiskey?
Rye whiskey involves a lot of craftsmanship. It uses rye as a primary grain, which produces a spirit with a spicy kick that’s very different from other whiskeys and bourbon. In addition to differences in corn content, rye tends to be aged longer, which results in a bolder flavor that’s also less sweet than many other American whiskies.
Before bourbon, rye whiskey was the most popular type of whiskey in the United States. While bourbon is mainly derived from corn, rye contains at least 51% rye. Both are aged in new oak barrels for a minimum of one to two years and can extend to a few more.
How Does Rye Taste?
You can expect a spicy, peppery burst of flavor with every sip that is a trademark of rye whiskey. It definitely has some burn, but it’s also a bit more savory as compared to bourbon. This is all thanks to mainly having rye grain in its malt bill.
Some rye has a bit more punch while others are a bit more mellow, but it’s always balanced by a bit of honeyed sweetness. You might encounter rye whiskey that’s harsh and leaves your throat burning or one that’s thin and a bit dry.
Overall, Rye has a unique flavor profile. Rye itself is a rather distinctive grain that gives the whiskey a unique, robust taste that may linger on the palate with a vibrant spiciness even after maturation in charred wood.
The Best Rye Whiskey Under $50Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
For fans of Woodford Reserve and rye whiskey, this is one you shouldn’t miss. The mash bill for Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey includes 53% rye, 33% maize, and 14% malted barley. The low rye grain percentage allows the whiskey to retain the trademark features of Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon while increasing the spicy and floral components of the whiskey.
The scent of cinnamon, vanilla bean, and cypress leads to a magnificent semi-sweet palate packed with dried cherries, caramel, gingerbread, and apple pie in Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. The malted chocolate and baking spices add a lovely spiciness to the aftertaste.Bulleit Rye
What's not to love about Bulleit Rye? At an 80 proof / 40% ABV, it's strong enough to be sipped straight or on the rocks, but you can also get creative. Recently winning "Best Rye for Cocktails" at the American Distilling Institute awards in 2014, you'll find this rye in all kinds of whiskey cocktails (our favorite is probably the Manhattan ). This entry-level product is excellent for someone looking to explore different styles of whiskey.
The bourbon of the same name often overshadows it, but this high-quality rye is surprisingly good. Most impressively, it's easily approachable for some who might typically steer clear of brown spirits. The spicy entry quickly mellows with notes of leather and vanilla, making it great for mixing or sipping on the rocks. If you'd like to try something different than typical whiskey or bourbon, give Bulleit Rye Whisky a try!High West Double Rye!
This bold blend of two-year rye whiskey, wedded to the heartier flavors of sixteen-year rye, is bursting with savory notes of mint, dill, star anise, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and chamomile tea. The palate still has lots of spice to it, with the green taste of Jolly Rancher candies, lemon pith leaves, and honey still lingering in the background. Overall it’s incredibly smooth with both youthful excitement and mature complexity.
Gorgeous packaging? Check. Distinct, versatile flavor? Check. Bold, complex taste? Check. You already know this brand’s great because all the ingredients are listed on the bottle. High West Double Rye Whiskey is delicious and easy to enjoy right out of the bottle, but it also works equally well layered with cola or mixed with ginger ale for an after-dinner drink.Sazerac
Perhaps you've tried the famous Sazerac cocktail; this is the whiskey that goes in it. Its aroma is enticing, with notes of vanilla, caramel, spice, and fruity tart. This rye whiskey is said to be made from a mash of 51% rye, 39% maize, and 10% malted barley and aged for up to six years in newly tilled Kentucky limestone stream waters before being married into barrels carefully selected for taste maturity.
Expect notes of rye, citrus, and dried fruits to fill the aroma, while on the palate is a chewy caramel, vanilla, spicy rye, and candied citrus, and finishes with a touch of dried fruits.
Bottled at 90 proof, it's highly drinkable by itself, or for mixing layering it with other sipping rye whiskeys like Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, or Pritchard Hill. The bigger bottle of this is perfect for the fall parties. This makes the perfect hostess gift for anyone who loves drinking, dining with friends and family, wine tasting, or drinking cocktails.Balcones Texas Rye
There are presently no other ryes on the market like Texas Rye. Rich chocolate flavors are interspersed with just the right amount of rye spiciness, making it perfect for rye connoisseurs. It's even more astounding that it does all of this with less than two years of maturing. This is a feat accomplished by just a few whiskeys, but Texas Rye is a standout.
This rich and powerful rye, produced by one of the top distilleries in Texas, is exactly what you'd expect from a whiskey created only from rye. On the nose, you'll detect traces of charred oak, sourdough bread, black tea, and cracked pepper. On the palate, you'll find creamy butter toffee flavor. It boasts a perfect combination of spicy and chocolate flavors that will have you coming back for more.
Whiskey connoisseurs will enjoy this one for its richer flavor.Russell’s Reserve Rye
Russell’s Reserve is a small batch premium American rye whiskey crafted by Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell. Bottled at 90 proof, the unique tasting spirit has a crisp, lively taste that they say is the perfect six-year-old rye whiskey.
Russell’s Reserve 6-Year-Old Rye is a genuine American classic whiskey, bottled at 90 proof and crafted with the same level of commitment and expertise as found in all other Russell’s Reserve products. This small-batch rye features crystal clear overcoats and deep amber colors produced by the third and final distillation caramelization.
Lastly, consumers enjoy a crisp, lively taste that they believe to be the perfect six-year-old rye. Hay, vanilla, and a hint of wood fill the nostrils as the whiskey warms up. There are faint bubblegum notes and the sweet caramel chew with a vanilla coating that carries over to the palate as well. For those quick-to-try whiskey lovers who appreciate masterful craftsmanship, this full-flavored rye is the perfect fit.Cutwater Spirits Black Skimmer Rye Whiskey
Black Skimmer Rye by Cutwater Spirits is the latest addition to their award-winning line of spirits.
This one is made from a blend of straight rye whiskeys with honey, almond, black pepper, and a smidgen of clove. Featuring notes of honey, almond, and baking spices, this 90-proof rye riff is a well-rounded sipper.
Cutwater Spirits carefully crafted, selected, and blended this rye, and you will undoubtedly enjoy its smoothness. Take it neat and enjoy with friends.Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select Rye Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Special Release Barrel Proof Rye is a limited edition release first released in 2020. Since 1866, Jack Daniel's distillery used a different grain bill for the first time than the standard 80/12/8 mash bill.
Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Special Release Barrel Proof Rye exceeds expectations in every way. The sip is strong and has a rich, creamy texture thanks to its substantially higher proofpoint. It’s got a noticeably spicy rye flavor that’s balanced by its sweet undertones. It's a welcome feature that lets this rye stand out from other rye mash bill ryes on the market.
The Single Barrel Special Release Barrel Proof Rye is an excellent value at $65 a bottle.Knob Creek Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey
For less than $40, this is a budget whiskey that's hard to top. You get an easy sipping rye that isn’t excessively sweet and holds back on being extremely rye forward. The lower price range allows this to easily be used in cocktails, just as it does for pouring a glass neat.
Bottled at 100 proof, this one is bold but still very palatable. It’s very flexible and can be enjoyed however you want it - straight, on the rocks, or in cocktails. This undoubtedly has a classic flavor with added heat and strength.
There’s no doubt this rye is one of the most known whiskeys of all time, with its broad notes of herbs, strong rye, refined wood, and hints of vanilla in the background.Michter's US*1 Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey
Michters claims to be America’s oldest whiskey maker. In 1753, the initial distillery was built up by the Swiss Mennonite, Schenk brothers, Johann and Michael, in Pennsylvania, utilizing rye from their grain fields at Schafferstown.
This one is a straight rye whiskey from the Michter's Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. Each bottle of their superb rye is sourced from a single barrel, underscoring the level of craftsmanship involved.
It is pretty mild on rye spice on the nose - notes of brown sugar, baking spices, cinnamon, raisin cake fill the air. But on the palate, it is a different story. Despite being low proof, there is a lot of rye spice on the palate. There’s also a lovely combination of caramel and milk chocolate, fudge, crème brulee, dates, and vanilla.
This is a superb whiskey that’s really flavorful. Michter's single-barrel straight rye whiskey is a delightful treat whether you take it neat or in cocktails.10th Mountain Rye
This golden amber-colored whiskey is distilled with a 95 percent rye mash bill and stored in new oak barrels for two winters. It has a complex aroma that includes hints of cinnamon and oak, black fruit, and faint caramel. This one surprises a lot of folks as it's pretty malty on the aroma, albeit the low malt content. Similar to a Scotch. However, it's unmistakably a rye whiskey on the palate - spicy and full-bodied with a hint of toffee. There's a lingering delicate aftertaste of spice, oak, and cracked pepper.
This is a superb whiskey in many ways, but it is most delicious neat or in a Manhattan, as the rye spiciness and sweet apple overtones complement the cocktail perfectly. Not excessively spicy, it's a pleasure to drink, and it's a steal at this price. Fans of Malt whiskey would also appreciate this.Devils River Rye Whiskey
Devils River Whiskey is a Texas-based whiskey brand named after a river whose waters are used to manufacture numerous brown spirits. The label is relatively new and first appeared in 2017 with what came to be an award-winning bourbon.
Crafted to answer the people’s call for more rye whiskey, here comes Devils River Rye Whiskey, the spicier sibling of Devils River Bourbon. It comprises a mash of 51 percent rye, 45 percent corn, and 4 percent barley, which results in a highly balanced flavor profile.
It’s a perfectly well-balanced whiskey with just the proper amount of flavor-forward rye. On the nose are spicy aromas of rye, pepper, and oak, balanced by a somewhat rich sweetness of caramel, brown sugar, and orange zest. Incredibly smooth, a touch sweet, and a bit spicy, you won’t want to miss this.Templeton 4 Year Old Rye Whiskey
Templeton's four-year-old whiskey first appeared in 2006 and is still available today. This product was based on a nearly century-old recipe developed by Alphonse Kerkhoff in Templeton, Iowa.
Templeton 4-year-old Rye Whiskey is light and refreshing. The sugary sweet aroma coupled with the unique wintergreen note characterizes and enchants this spirit's flavor. This Rye Whiskey is ideal for anybody looking to branch out from regular bourbon.
This is definitely one of Indiana's most delicious rye whiskies, and it’s perfect for sipping neat or in Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, and all of your other favorite cocktails.Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
From one of the most renowned whiskey companies comes Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. It’s light, approachable, and bottled at 94 proof.
With a mash bill of 51% rye, 35% maize, and 14% malted barley, this traditional formula conforms to the post-Prohibition standards that fueled the style's renaissance. Because of its high corn content and lack of rye, "bourbon-like" may best be described as Elijah Craig Rye's taste. Fans of bourbon will ease into it relatively quickly, but rye whiskey enthusiasts will like its smooth and excellent flavor as well.
Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey is well-balanced and accessible, displaying Elijah Craig's meticulous attention to detail. It’s a real crowd-pleaser.
Pinhook Vertical Series Tiz Rye Time 4-Year-Old
Pinhook creates a new batch of bourbon and rye each year; each release's whiskey is intended to showcase the best expression of Pinhook's barrels at the moment. Blends and proofs change from batch to batch to better exhibit each release's individual qualities, and each release may be regarded as a whiskey vintage.
It's tough not to fall in love with this rye. The aromas of tangerine peel, cinnamon stick, and toffee lead to a taste of dried apricot, molasses, toasted cedar, and clove in this 97 proof straight rye whiskey.
It’s got an excellent rye spice balance, making it a great sipper and perfect rye for Manhattans. Have it as a prelude to dinner for happy hour. What we know is you won’t regret getting this bottle.