Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and passed, but if you still haven’t found the perfect presents for your family and friends, don’t panic. While shipping issues can make or break a gift exchange, there are myriad show-stopping rye whiskeys that can be found at your local liquor store and are sure to impress your most discerning giftees.
Characterized by its amber hue and distinctive notes of spicy pepper and caramel, rye whiskey has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years leading to an explosion across the category. So whether your Secret Santa recipient is a newbie or a pro; cocktail lover or straight sipper; there’s something here for everyone on your nice list. Read on for the seven best rye whiskies to gift this holiday.
- Best budget rye: Alberta Premium Rye Whiskey
- Best splurge rye: Cascade Moon 13 Year Old Rye Whisky
- Best rye for beginners: Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye
- Best rye for whiskey geeks: Frey Ranch Straight Rye Whiskey
- Best rye for cocktail-lovers: Rittenhouse Straight Rye Bottled-In-Bond
- Best rye for the boss: Buzzard’s Roost Cigar Rye
- Best cask-finished rye: Penelope Bourbon Tokaji Cask Finish
Best Budget Rye
A unique Canadian whisky at a very attractive price point, Alberta Premium Rye is ripe with cranberry, oak, and cherry aromas alongside caramel and cinnamon on the palate. Using proprietary enzymes to aid in its fermentation, this 100 percent unmalted rye shows unexpected tasting notes and would shine in any cocktail. This bottle makes for the perfect last-minute host gift.
Average price: $25
Best Splurge Rye
This whiskey makes up for its lack of wallet-friendliness with exciting, unexpected flavors and a truly captivating story behind them. A 13-year-old expression in a series of limited-edition, experimental whiskies from George Dickel, Cascade Moon is aged in India for four years before moving to Tennessee, where it spends an additional nine years in barrel. The result is a rye featuring dried fruit and toasted nut aromas alongside a vibrant palate of spiced cherries.
Average price: $300
Best Rye for Beginners
Looking to convert the bourbon drinker in your life into a rye fan? Start with Woodford Reserve. This Brown Forman–produced 53 percent rye shows attractive notes of caramel-covered apple on the nose, followed by spiced banana cake richness on the palate. A well-concentrated sip with a profile not unlike Woodford Reserve’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon, this is sure to satisfy anyone who’s just getting into the rye category.
Average price: $37
Best Rye for Whiskey Geeks
For something a little different, travel west to Nevada’s Frey Ranch distillery. The small but mighty operation grows all of the grains used in its mash bill on-site and distills, ages, and bottles every expression. The care that goes into each bottle can be tasted in every drop — notes of herbs and black pepper spice intertwining with vibrant red fruit flavors. This would make a welcome addition to any aficionado’s collection.
Average price: $66
Best Rye for Cocktail Lovers
For the die-hard Manhattan fan in your life, Rittenhouse Straight Rye is a no-brainer. Its palate — serving a robust depth and stunning combination of charred oak and spice notes — is lively, concentrated, and ready to mix with your favorite modifier. This has long been a go-to pour for bartenders, so try it in a Boulevardier or Sazerac and prepare to be impressed.
Average price: $27
Best Rye for the Boss
Cigars and whiskey have long been popular gifting choices for the boss, and with this bottle, you can kind of combine the two. Buzzard’s Roost Cigar Rye is the perfect marriage between American oak barrels and Kentucky-grown tobacco leaves. Its mash bill of 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley gives this rye musky potpourri aromas and herbaceous, red berry notes on the palate. A gentle smokiness on the nose makes this a thoughtful gift for stogie smokers and Scotch sippers alike.
Average price: $70
Best Cask-Finished Rye
Barrels that once housed Tokaji, the famed Hungarian sweet wine made from botrytized grapes, lend this whiskey its aromas of honeysuckle and spiced golden raisins. The full-bodied rye is aged for six years before spending 11 months in ex-Tokaji casks, and the result is a decadently sweet whiskey with a creamy texture and notes of hot honey on the finish. If you spot this bottle at your local liquor store, snatch it up for that special someone.
Average price: $80