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Photo via Hawthorn Beverage Group.

5 Rye Whiskeys to Try

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Them good ol’ boys were drinkin whiskey and rye Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die, This’ll be the day that I die.” —“American Pie,” Don MacLean

Rye. It’s one of the quintessential American whiskeys, a part of our history going back to the founding of the United States. George Washington distilled it, different regions had different styles, an…

Them good ol’ boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die,
This’ll be the day that I die.”
—“American Pie,” Don MacLean

Rye. It’s one of the quintessential American whiskeys, a part of our history going back to the founding of the United States. George Washington distilled it, different regions had different styles, and the world’s earliest whiskey cocktails—the sazerac, old-fashioned, whiskey sour, and manhattan, among others—were made with it. But after Prohibition, rye faded into obscurity, to the point where many people, including knowledgeable whiskey drinkers, didn’t know exactly what it was. Was rye a whiskey (the Don MacLean song “American Pie” probably contributed to the confusion on this point)? Was it Canadian whisky? What did it taste like?
Fortunately, with the revitalization of cocktail culture and the burgeoning interest in small-batch distilleries, rye is making a comeback. For a whiskey to be labeled “rye” in the US, it has to be made from at least 51% rye mash, be aged in new charred-oak barrels, and be bottled at no less than 80 proof. Aside from these guidelines, distillers are basically free to make rye however they like, whether riffing off a pre-Prohibition recipe or making up one on their own. For this reason, and because no one *really* knows exactly what the original styles of American rye tasted like, there’s a wide variety of ryes on the market. Chances are, if you enjoy drinking whiskey, there’s a type of rye out there that’s perfect for you. So where to start?
Here are five to try to introduce you to the world of rye:

templeton ryeTempleton Rye

During Prohibition, the town of Templeton, Iowa, was famous for its bootlegged rye whiskey, a favorite of Al Capone and his gangster buddies, which was served in speakeasies throughout the mid-west. The current incarnation of Templeton’s rye whiskey claims to be based off the original Prohibition recipe—a slightly questionable assertion, but either way Templeton Rye is still deserving of Capone’s moniker for it: “The good stuff.” Light, smooth, and perfectly balanced, Templeton has hints of honey that set the stage for the peppery kick that rye is known for. But by far the best thing about Templeton is the finish: long and sweet, with a bright pop of peppermint. It can easily be enjoyed straight-up or on the rocks, but mix it in a classic Prohibition cocktail like the scofflaw and you might be surprised by the sweet results. An extremely accessible rye whiskey that’s well worth the price of a bottle.

bulleit rye
Photo by Patrick Truby via Flickr.Bulleit Rye

Bulleit Rye

And now for something completely different. Bulleit produces a “straight” rye, meaning it’s not balanced with corn like Templeton Rye is: it’s 95% rye and 5% malted barley. It’s a very aggressive, spicy rye that burns like cinnamon-flavored Red Hots on the way down and finishes quite dry. This is a great rye to familiariz…
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