The country is currently in the middle of a whiskey revolution. Sales have skyrocketed in recent years, and the thirst for all kinds of whiskey doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Under the umbrella that is whiskey, one of the most popular kinds is bourbon. But bourbon’s cousin, rye whiskeys, aren’t too far behind. The main difference between a bourbon and a rye whiskey is the grain used to make it. Bourbon is made from at least 51% corn. A rye is made from – not surprisingly – at least 51% rye grain.
So if you are into bourbon but have never tried a rye, or just curious about how they taste, I’d start with these three:
Rittenhouse Rye 100
Rittenhouse Rye 100 is a classic. When you buy a bottle you’ll notice it says “bottled in bond” on it. That’s basically just a short way of saying this whiskey was aged and bottled according to U.S. government rules. The saying is honestly kind of archaic and you don’t see it printed on many labels (even if they are bottled in bond).
This is a good whiskey to drink straight, on the rocks, or mixed. WIth that, here are the notes I took when tasting:
Nose: It has a strong caramel smell that hits your nose right away along with a little vanilla. I also get a little oak smell as well. Overall a very pleasant smell.
Taste: Right off the bat you’re hit with a strong rye taste, accompanied by quite a bit of spice, as well as a hint of caramel and vanilla. A splash of water gets rid of some of the spice.
Finish: A bit harsh, but nothing too extreme. There’s also a heavy dose of a sweet, sugary taste that lingers for quite a while.
Overall: It’s a very good whiskey. It’s no wonder it is very popular with rye whiskey enthusiasts and has won quite a few awards including the best whiskey in the world in 2010.
Russell’s Reserve Rye 6 Yr.
I’m a big fan of Jimmy and Eddie Russell. They are the master distillers at Wild Turkey. And they did it again with this one, the RRR6. Let’s just say when you have nearly a combined 100 years of experience in distilling whiskey, those whiskeys tend to come out pretty tasty.
Age: 6 years
Nose: You’re slapped right away with a strong rye smell, followed by hints of caramel and some honey.
Taste: The very first thing I noticed was how smooth it was. After I got over that, I tasted hints of vanilla, caramel, rye, and even some wood. When I added a splash of water it brought out some spice.
Finish: The woody flavor takes over during the finish, with maybe a little rye. It lingers before slowly fading away.
Overall: From everything I’ve read, many think this rye is among the best. And I would have to agree. Wild Turkey makes some good stuff, and this is right there with some of their other products.
Willett Straight Rye Whiskey
The Willett Distillery is one with a rich history, which started shortly after the civil war. The family owned distillery upholds that tradition today, and they uphold it very well. This Willett Straight Rye Whiskey, aged three years and bottled at cask strength is one bottle you may not want to pass over.
ABV: Depends on bottle/cask. This bottle: 56.3%
Age: 3 years
Nose: Definitely a little burn (though, I guess that would be expected at over 110 proof) as you take it in. I can also sense some floral notes along with rye and cinnamon.
Taste: You can’t miss the rye. That’s one of the first things my tongue noticed. The floral notes and cinnamon come back in the taste as well. Overall, it’s very balanced. When I added a few drops of water, the taste really didn’t change much, it just diminished the flavors a little. But not in a bad way.
Finish: The finish lasted a while. It was also – the best way I can describe it – warm. Very pleasant all the way through the finish
Overall: This is a surprisingly easy drink for 112.6 proof. Another win for Willett.
Everyone’s tastes are different and, quite frankly, subjective. You may get different tastes/smells than me. But overall, I think these three rye whiskeys are great choices.