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10 Best Rye Whiskey for an Old Fashioned Cocktail (2024)

Best Rye Whiskeys for an Old Fashioned Cocktail

Last Updated on April 14, 2024 by Lydia Martin

If you have a soft spot for drinking Old Fashioned, you know that bourbon whiskey is the most common base liquor for the cocktail. But do you know that the peppery and spicy notes of rye whiskeys also work beautifully in an Old Fashioned?

Level up your cocktail recipe by using the best rye whiskey for Old Fashioned. Read on for our full reviews.

Top 10 Best Rye Whiskey For Old Fashioned 

10. Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses Single Barrel(best rye whiskey for old fashioned)

Average Price: $49.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 50% 

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

Four Roses single barrel rye whiskey is an affordable and delectable option for classic cocktails.

The rye-forward flavor profile of Four Roses is powerful enough even after dilution, so it can be a really satisfying liquor base. 

Four Roses Single Barrel has a complex, smooth and delicate taste. It is a popular spirit for mixed drinks because its high-rye content and taste of plum, cherries, and black pepper mix well with sugary drinks.

9. Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

Average Price: $19.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned: 

Old Overholt straight rye whiskey is great entry-level whiskey for a classic cocktail. It has a balanced taste of peppery spice from typical rye that swirls around a smoother body.  

If you are budget-conscious but do not want to compromise the taste of your Old-Fashioned cocktail recipe, you can rely on Old Overhold straight rye whiskey.

It has a balanced sweetness and a touch of vanilla and finishes with a hint of white pepper spice. 

8. Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky

Lot 40 Canadian Rye

Average Price: $39.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

Another go-to-option for your favorite cocktail is the Lot 40 Canadian rye whisky. The high-proof whisky contains powerful notes of rye, zesty and baking spice.

While this rye whiskey is tasty to drink straight or on the rocks, using it as a base for mixed drinks brings out more of its dried fruit notes.

Rye whiskeys must be made from a mash bill that contains 51% rye grain [1] and other grains like corn and malted barley.

The high rye content of Lot 40 Canadian whisky does not fade away when mixed with different flavors. 

7. WhistlePig Rye 10 Year

WhistlePig Rye 10 Year

Average Price: $86.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 50%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

WhistlePig is a good value bottle with high ABV and great flavor that works well in cocktails. Made from 100% rye, WhistlePig is one of the small batch rye spirits with bold flavors. 

WhistlePig Rye 10 Year has rich flavors of vanilla, caramel, rye, and mint.

On the nose, it has notes of allspice, anise, orange peel, and a long warm finish. Its full-bodied flavor and holiday spice do not fade easily when diluted. 

6. High West Double Rye Whiskey

High West Double Rye Whiskey

Average Price: $37.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 46%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

High West double rye is one of the spiciest spirits you can use as your cocktail base. It has a signature bite that is minty with some cinnamon notes and wildflower honey sweetness on the finish.  

High West’s double rye stands on its own may it be served neat, with a splash of water, on the rocks, or as a cocktail drink. 

Read: Basil Hayden Dark Rye Whiskey Guide

5. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye

Average Price: $39.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 45.2%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

If you want your classic cocktail to be on a spicier edge, Woodford Reserve Rye is one of the best whiskeys you can try.

A bottle of Woodford will surely elevate your cocktail because the grain spices balance the taste of cherry and sugar.

On the other hand, the bitters complement the richness of tobacco.

4. Wild Turkey 101 Rye

Wild Turkey 101 Rye

Average Price: $38.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 50.5%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

Wild Turkey 101 rye has an almost smoky flavor that pairs well with the sugar and bitters of the mixed drink. A lead bartender in Sweet Liberty uses the distilled spirit to elevate the taste of their mixed drinks. 

Unlike the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep, Wild Turkey 101 Rye by Eddie Russell has rich notes of vanilla, honey, and caramel with a long and lingering finish. 

3. Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye 4 Year

Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye 4 Year

Average Price: $70.80 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 55% 

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye 4 Year is a single barrel offering whiskey with a heavy dose of pepper and citrus.

Bourbon is a bit sweeter than rye whiskey, so if you want a mixed drink with a kick of spiciness, Willet Family Estate can be a good option. 

2. Sazerac Rye Whiskey

Sazerac Rye Whiskey

Average Price: $33.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 45%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

Sazerac whiskey is packed with orange, lemon zest, oak, baking spices, and hints of vanilla. The spirit harmonizes well with different mixed drink recipes and can handle little dilution with ice.

Sazerac Rye is a pride of Buffalo Trace distillery, and its mellow taste dances on the tongue. 

1. Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey

Knob Creek Straight Rye

Average Price: $37.39 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 50%

Why It’s Best For Old Fashioned:

Knob Creek whiskey is a high-proof spirit that pairs the traditional rye spice and sweetness. It helps level up your classic mixed drinks by giving them spiciness, rich baking spices, and undertones of oak and vanilla.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is rye whiskey better for Old Fashioned than drank neat?

The preference for using rye whiskey in an Old Fashioned versus drinking it neat is subjective and depends on individual taste preferences.

Rye whiskey typically offers a spicy and robust flavor profile, with notes of pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, which can add depth and complexity to an Old Fashioned cocktail.

When mixed with sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus, rye whiskey can create a balanced and flavorful Old Fashioned that highlights its spicy undertones.

However, rye whiskey can also be enjoyed neat, allowing drinkers to savor its bold flavors and appreciate its distinctive character without any additional ingredients. Whether rye whiskey is better suited for an Old Fashioned or enjoyed neat ultimately depends on personal preference and the desired drinking experience.

What’s the most affordable rye whiskey for Old Fashioned?

The most affordable rye whiskey for making an Old Fashioned will vary depending on factors such as location, availability, and individual budget constraints. However, some popular and widely available options for affordable rye whiskey that are commonly used in cocktails like the Old Fashioned include:

Rittenhouse Rye: Rittenhouse Rye is a versatile and budget-friendly rye whiskey that offers a bold and spicy flavor profile, making it well-suited for mixing in cocktails like the Old Fashioned. It is often praised for its value and quality, making it a popular choice among bartenders and home enthusiasts alike.

Old Overholt Rye: Old Overholt Rye is another affordable option that delivers classic rye flavors at an accessible price point. While it may not have the complexity of some higher-end rye whiskies, Old Overholt Rye provides a solid foundation for crafting flavorful and satisfying Old Fashioned cocktails without breaking the bank.

Jim Beam Rye: Jim Beam Rye is a budget-friendly rye whiskey from a well-known distillery that offers a balanced and approachable flavor profile. It provides a smooth and spicy base for Old Fashioned cocktails, making it a popular choice for those seeking an affordable rye whiskey option.

What characteristics should I look for in Rye Whiskey for an Old Fashioned?

When selecting rye whiskey for an Old Fashioned, consider the following characteristics:

Spice: Look for rye whiskies with a pronounced spicy character, as this will add depth and complexity to the Old Fashioned cocktail. Notes of pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and other baking spices can enhance the flavor profile of the drink.

Balance: Choose rye whiskies that strike a balance between spice, sweetness, and bitterness. A well-balanced rye whiskey will complement the other ingredients in the Old Fashioned cocktail, resulting in a harmonious and enjoyable drinking experience.

Proof: Consider the proof (alcohol content) of the rye whiskey, as this can impact the overall flavor and intensity of the Old Fashioned. Higher-proof rye whiskies may provide more robust flavors and stand up well to dilution from ice and other ingredients in the cocktail.

Value: Take into account the price and value of the rye whiskey, especially if you plan to use it for mixing cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

While some higher-end rye whiskies may offer additional complexity and refinement, there are many affordable options that deliver excellent quality and flavor for cocktails. Choose a rye whiskey that offers good value for money and meets your budgetary needs without compromising on taste.

Should I use 100% Rye Whiskey for making Old Fashioneds?

While 100% rye whiskey can provide a robust and distinct flavor profile, many bartenders and enthusiasts prefer a balanced blend of rye and other grains for a more nuanced and approachable Old Fashioned.

Are there any specific age statements to consider when choosing Rye Whiskey for Old Fashioneds?

Age statements can indicate the maturity and complexity of the whiskey, but they’re not necessarily a determining factor for making a great Old Fashioned. Choose a rye whiskey that suits your taste preferences and budget.

What price range can I expect for Rye Whiskey suitable for Old Fashioneds?

Prices for rye whiskey vary depending on factors such as brand reputation, age, and production methods. Expect to find quality rye whiskies for Old Fashioneds across a range of price points, from mid-range to premium.

Can I substitute Bourbon for Rye Whiskey in an Old Fashioned?

While rye whiskey is the traditional choice for Old Fashioneds, bourbon can also be used to create a delicious variation of the cocktail. Experiment with both to discover your preferred flavor profile.

Final Thoughts 

You can try different rye whiskey for Old Fashioned, but Knob Creek is the best rye whiskey for the cocktail. 

The 100-proof whiskey is aged in charred American oak barrels for a robust flavor that pairs well with the sugar cubes and bitters. Each sip seemingly gives more depth to discover. 


  1. The Serious Eats Guide to Rye Whiskey
  2. Why Old Overholt Bonded Whiskey Is the Perfect Rye for Cocktails
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