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Mar 3, 2011 06:21 AM

Your thoughts on Rye Whiskey

Getting tired of Martini's and thought Manhattans might get me through the rest of the winter. My issue is that I am not very knowledgeable about Rye. What are the good ones at the various price points? What ones are to be avoided like the plague?

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  1. I asked a similar question a couple of weeks ago and got some good help....

    1 Reply
    1. re: jackbauer

      Thanks, and I'm not that far from you (RI)

    2. I'm a huge rye fan, though I'm more interested in drinking it neat than in cocktails. Here are some of my favorites:

      Budget: Pikesville, Rittenhouse 100, Wild Turkey 101, Sazerac. All of these come in at the $10-$25 range with Pikesville being the cheapest. These are great cocktail ryes but also ryes with a lot of character that I really like to sip. For a milder rye flavor, Russel Reserve is very good in cocktails.

      Premium: High West, Whistlepig, older Rittenhouse, Sazerac 18, Thomas Handy, Old Potrero. These weigh in at over $50 and are more for sipping neat. High West has a number of different ryes, all wonderful. Sazerac 18 is amazingly complex, Thomas Handy is a powerhouse, Whistlepig has a distinct, briny flavor and Old Potrero is a spicy kick in the teeth. Most of these range between $50 and $75, though High West has some cheaper products and the old Rittenhouses (they have 21, 23 and 25 year olds) are over $100.

      Avoid: Jim Beam, Old Overholt, R1. All of these are Beam brand ryes that are cheap, but they tend to lack the distinctive rye qualities I enjoy; they tend to be overly sweet and lack character. I also don't like some of the new younger ryes being marketed such as Templeton, Copper Fox and Redemption.

      7 Replies
      1. re: sku


        I don't know about where you are, but R1 is $50 here.

        You understand that Copper Fox Rye is not a typical Rye but is made using the same process as their Wasmund's single malt - malts smoked over apple and cherry wood then aged for a short time over apple and oak chips to speed up the ageing process.

        I haven't had the rye but I have had Wasmund's - and while it was a rather unusual flavor profile, I found it interesting. I would like to try it again sometime, as well as Stranahan's which is another unique whiskey I have tried once.

        1. re: ncyankee101

          Thanks NCyankee, you're right about R1. I lumped it in with the other Beam ryes, but it is more expensive than the others, though I can find it for $30-$40. All the more reason not to buy it.

          I think Wasmund's malt is "interesting." I think the rye is just plain bad. Stranahan's, as you may know, is also a malt whiskey and not a rye.

          1. re: sku

            Ah I see you did know. Being the respected critic you are, I had figured as much but was stating that more for the general readership here ;-)

            I am aware about Stranahan's, I just meant it was similar to the Wasmund's in the respect of the malts being smoked and having a unique flavor profile. I have only tried each once at the local whiskey bar, and would love to get ahold of an entire bottle of each but they are hard to find in this area, and not cheap.

            1. re: sku

              "Stranahan's, as you may know, is also a malt whiskey and not a rye."

              I apologize if this seems obvious, but can a malt whiskey not also be a rye? If your base was malted rye, would it not satisfy both categories?

              1. re: alphanumeric

                Yes, alpha, you are technically correct, but usually the shorthand "malt", at least in whiskey circles, refers to malted barley, which is what Stranahan's is made from. A whiskey made from malted rye, of which there are a few such as Old Potrero, would more likely be referred to as "rye malt" or "single malt rye."

          2. re: sku

            For the longest time I thought I'd been a rye fan, because I enjoy Canadian whiskies. Then I had a Wild Turkey and 7 on a plane a few years ago, since they'd run out of Maker's Mark. It was unexpectedly foul tasting, to the point where I couldn't even finish it.

            Is Wild Turkey more to the taste of ryes than are Canadians?

            1. re: RelishPDX

              Wild Turkey makes both bourbon and rye. I would be surprised if you got Wild Turkey rye on an airplane. It was probably bourbon.

              Canadian Whisky is often called "rye" but it's a misnomer since many Canadians no longer contain much rye at all (though some still do).

              American rye tends to be very spicy, like bourbon but a bit less sweet. Canadian Whisky, at least those available in the US, tends to be light and sweet.