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10 Best American Rye Whiskey Brands: Listed (2024 Updated)

Best American Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey, known for its bold and spicy characteristics, has become popular among those who prefer to drink their whiskey straight.

However, there are several types of rye whiskeys that you can choose from, making it challenging to find the best American rye whiskey. 

Don’t fret. We’ve rounded up the best rye whiskeys that liquor experts and bartenders recommend. 

10 Best American Rye Whiskey To Sip 

10. Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

hand holding Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

Average Price: around $19.99 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 40% ABV 

Why We Like It: Old Overholt straight rye whiskey is a favorite among budget-conscious drinkers and bartenders.

This brand boasts it was America’s most popular spirit following the end of Prohibition [1]. 

This rye whiskey starts with a sweet and creamy cereal flavor, then gets a touch of vanilla and white pepper with a bracing finish. 

While it’s often associated with Boilermaker, this rye spirit is versatile enough to be used in various ways, including a fine Manhattan or a peppery Old-Fashioned. 

9. Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof 

man holding  Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof Pot Still Whisky

Average Price: around $40 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV 

Why We Like It: Balcones Texas rye 100-proof whiskey has a huge fanbase due to its rich and spicy flavors, with hints of tobacco.

A glass of this rye whiskey plus a few ice cubes allows an excellent sip. Originating in Texas, Balcones whiskey features a mash bill composed of 100% rye grains. 

Some notable ingredients include Elbon Rye from the north of Texas, which comes in different varieties like crystal, roasted rye, and chocolate. 

8. Sazerac Rye 

Bottle of Sazerac Rye on top of a Wooden table

Average Price: around $30 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 45% ABV 

Why We Like It: This rye expression is a great pick for those who love Sazeracs because of its vibrant and flavorful characteristics. 

It’s filled with orange and lemon zest notes, baking spices, and vanilla.

This spirit is a delightful addition to the classic New Orleans cocktail, made with Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe.

Expert Tip: When making a Sazerac, make sure to add the lemon zest. The rye adds a bit of citrus to the drink, which complements the candied notes in the whiskey.

7. WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye

WhistlePig PiggyBack 6 Year Old Rye Bottle with liquor shelves background

Average Price: around $49.99 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 48.28% ABV 

Why We Like It: WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye is an affordable whiskey expression from WhistlePig, known for its expensive rye whiskeys. 

This is a good value bottle filled with plenty of flavors with a higher ABV.

PiggyBack Rye has a minimum of six years of aging, resulting in a bit of heat that disappears soon after. Some of the prominent flavors are orange and grapefruit.

We suggest drinking PiggyBack with a large ice cube or sipping it neat, topped with a couple of drops of water.

6. Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey

Pikesville Straight Rye 110 Proof Bottle on Top of a Wooden Barrel

Average Price: around $49.99 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 55% ABV 

Why We Like It: Heaven Hill’s Pikesville is a one-time Maryland rye whiskey that’s now aged for six years. This drink has a layered nose with an intense palate.

This expression is a powerful and nuanced rye whiskey with hints of spice, banana peel, and charred oak.

5. High West Double Rye Whiskey 

High West Double Rye Whiskey Bottle

Average Price: around $37.99 /750ml 

Alcohol Content: 46% ABV 

Why We Like It: This Double Rye from High West is a great option for those passionate about rye whiskey, as it is heavily infused with spice.

This High West whiskey expression blends two types of rye whiskeys aged at least two years. And as per the experts, it’s twice as spicy as the average rye.

This spirit is best mixed with classic cocktails, like the Old Fashioned or Amaro. It can also be enjoyed straight up with a splash of water to lessen the heat.

4. Nashville Barrel Company Small Batch Rye Whiskey

Nashville Barrel Company Small Batch Rye Whiskey Bottle and a Glass

Average Price: around $59.99 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV 

Why We Like It: This new Tennessee brand is made from barrels sourced from Indiana but blended in Nashville.

We like the second batch of this rye whiskey, a pleasant sipping drink made with four and eight-year-old MGP whiskey. 

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.”

— W.C. Fields, American Comedian

But overall, almost any Nashville Barrel Company expressions are worth buying besides this Small Batch Rye, so we recommend trying these expressions.

3. Michter’s US-1 Kentucky Straight Rye

Bottle of Michter's US-1 Kentucky Straight Rye

Average Price: around $45 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 42.4% ABV 

Why We Like It: Michter’s US1 expressions are made with some of the finest single barrels and are still being refined by Master Distiller Dan McKee. 

If you like your drink a little spicy, Michter’s US-1 Kentucky straight rye can be your go-to option because of its peppery notes with hints of butterscotch, citrus, and oak.  

2. Redemption Rye

Close Up Shot of Redemption Rye Bottle

Average Price: around $31.99 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 46% ABV 

Why We Like It: While a standard rye whiskey in the US typically contains 51% rye grain, Redemption went further and created a signature bottle with 95% rye.

The combination of the grain’s rich and flavorful characteristics and the sweet vermouth’s creamy and fruity notes make this rye whiskey an ideal Manhattan mix. 

1. Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye Whiskey 

man holding bottle of Basil Hayden's Dark Rye Whiskey 

Average Price: around $56.99 /750ml (MSRP)

Alcohol Content: 40% ABV 

Why We Like It: This is a rich, creamy rye whiskey made with Canadian and Kentucky rye. It’s also infused with California port, adding a dark fruit flavor to the finish.

Although this isn’t your typical rye whiskey, it’s great for drinking straight or in a cocktail such as Manhattan or Boulevardier. 

It has the signature rye spice, though it’s more focused on holiday spices than black pepper.

This bottle should be considered by anyone who’s new to the genre or looking to branch out. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the best American rye whiskey to drink straight?

Choosing the best American rye whiskey to drink straight depends on personal taste preferences and individual preferences for flavor profiles.

However, some popular options known for their smoothness and complexity when enjoyed neat include WhistlePig 10 Year, Pikesville Straight Rye, and High West Double Rye. These brands offer a balance of spicy rye character, sweet undertones, and smooth finish, making them excellent choices for sipping neat.

What’s the best American rye whiskey for beginners?

For beginners exploring American rye whiskey, it’s often recommended to start with a more approachable and milder option that still embodies the distinctive characteristics of rye.

Bulleit Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, and Old Forester Rye are excellent choices for beginners due to their smoothness, balanced flavors, and affordable price points. These brands offer a gentle introduction to the spicy and complex nature of rye whiskey without overwhelming the palate.

What’s the best American rye whiskey for Old Fashioned?

When crafting an Old Fashioned, it’s essential to choose a rye whiskey that can stand up to the cocktail’s bold flavors while adding depth and complexity. Some top picks for an Old Fashioned include Rittenhouse Rye, Sazerac Rye, and Redemption Rye.

These rye whiskies offer a robust and spicy character that complements the sweetness of the sugar and the bitterness of the bitters in the cocktail, resulting in a perfectly balanced and flavorful drink.

What makes American rye whiskey different from other types of whiskey?

American rye whiskey is distinguished by its unique mash bill, which contains a high proportion of rye grain (at least 51%) alongside corn, barley, or other grains.

This high rye content gives American rye whiskey its characteristic spicy and robust flavor profile, with notes of pepper, cinnamon, and herbs. In contrast, bourbon whiskey, another American whiskey style, primarily uses corn as its dominant grain, resulting in a sweeter and smoother taste profile.

Additionally, the aging process and production techniques may vary between rye whiskey and other types of whiskey, contributing to further distinctions in flavor and aroma.

Why is American rye whiskey considered one of the best?

American rye whiskey is considered one of the best due to its bold flavors, versatility in cocktails, and the craftsmanship of distillers producing high-quality expressions.

What are some popular brands of American rye whiskey?

Popular brands of American rye whiskey include WhistlePig, Bulleit, Rittenhouse, High West, and Pikesville, among others.

How do I choose the best American rye whiskey for me?

When choosing the best American rye whiskey, consider factors such as flavor profile, age, price, and personal taste preferences.

Can American rye whiskey be enjoyed neat or in cocktails?

Yes, American rye whiskey can be enjoyed neat to savor its flavors or used in a variety of cocktails, from classic rye-based drinks like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned to innovative creations.

In A Nutshell 

For those branching out or curious about rye whiskeys, you won’t go wrong with Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye expression. 

Its blend of Canadian and Kentucky whiskey– fortified with a percentage of port wine [2]— is well-balanced, creating an impressive and delicious spirit. 

But you have many options to try, and we recommend any spirit on this list. These expressions have something to offer– catering to different preferences and drinking styles.  

References: 

  1. “The people’s will”: Canadians and the 1898 referendum on alcohol prohibition
  2. Port Wine
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