With its warming notes of baking spices, rich caramel, and herbs, it’s no wonder that rye whiskey is a popular choice for winter sipping. This spirit perfectly captures the cozy vibes of curling up by the fire with a good book, making the holiday season an ideal time to find a special bottle to gift — or keep for yourself.
Though bourbon continues to be the darling of the American whiskey category, rye has also boomed in popularity over the past several years. And with the ever-increasing number of impressive options on shelves, the spirit shouldn’t be overlooked as a gifting option. From classic expressions that can help build the perfect Manhattan to more experimental bottlings that tinker with unique aging regimens in exotic casks, there’s a bottle out there for every type of whiskey drinker.
In honor of the season, we rounded up some of our favorite ryes to help your friends and family achieve peak winter bliss. Here are the seven best rye whiskeys to gift this year.
Best Budget Rye: Old Forester Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Best Splurge Rye: Hinterhaus Distilling Trapper’s Oath 18 Year Rye
Best Rye for Beginners: Elijah Craig Straight Rye Whiskey
Best Rye for Geeks: Old Potrero 6 Years Old Straight Rye Whiskey
Best Rye for Cocktail Lovers: Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey
Best Rye to Impress: Angel’s Envy Finished Rye
Best Limited-Edition Rye: A Midwinter Night’s Dram Act 11
Best Budget Rye
This bottle offers an impeccable value at its price. Its mash bill — 65 percent rye, 20 percent malted barley, and 15 percent corn — is relatively rye-heavy for a Kentucky-crafted bottle, giving it a delightfully expressive profile. It opens with aromas of dried bananas and fresh bread on the nose, and the palate delivers rye’s signature spicy kick. At an average price of $26, this bottle is a home-bar all-star that can be sipped neat or used in a wide range of cocktails.
Average price: $26
Best Splurge Rye
This rye veers off the spirit’s typical path. Aged for 18 years and finished in stout casks, it carries aromas of tart cherries and flavored bubblegum that really pop in the glass. The palate has rich notes of toasted bread, strawberry jam, and cherries. It’s an incredibly well-balanced option at 49 percent ABV, making it well worth the price tag.
Average price: $130
Best Rye for Beginners
The mash bill for this Heaven Hill-produced bottle comes in at just 51 percent rye, making it the perfect introduction to the spirit for beginners. While it still maintains rye’s signature spicy kick, it also offers a soft and subtle cereal note on both nose and palate with complementary aromas of toasted oak and herbs. Encourage your bourbon-adjacent friends to try it in a rye Old Fashioned, and watch them be converted to the rye fan club.
Average price: $33
Best Rye for Geeks
This bottle’s for the loved one who keeps both craft spirits and beer close to their heart. Its San Francisco-based distillery was founded in 1993 by Fritz Maytag, the same pioneer who started the craft brewing movement with his purchase of Anchor Brewing in 1965. After reviving Anchor’s iconic steam beer, Maytag set his sights on recreating the original whiskey of America, using copper pot stills and a mash of 100 percent rye malt. The result is a rich rye with a weighty texture and a spicy finish. And as the much-beloved Anchor Brewing shut down this year, there’s no better time to celebrate its history with a thoughtful gift that reaches into the brewery’s past.
Average price: $65
Best Rye for Cocktail Lovers
Though this bottle boasts the name of a popular rye cocktail on its label, it has a well-balanced flavor profile that lends itself a vast array of drinks. The palate offers a heavy dose of spice with hints of tropical fruit and grain, as well as a rounded texture that can add depth to even the simplest concoction. It’s perfect for a Manhattan, Remember the Maine, and, of course, its namesake New Orleans classic.
Average price: $32
Best Rye to Impress
This whiskey’s distinct characteristics are immediately apparent on first pour. Angel’s Envy sets itself apart by aging this rye in rum casks, lending aromas of maple syrup, brown sugar, cloves, and cinnamon to the nose. All of these notes are intensified on the palate, resulting in a truly impressive expression packed with character. Sipping this spirit neat evokes the feeling of lighting a winter-spiced candle, so the holiday season is naturally its time to shine.
Average price: $90
Best Limited-Edition Rye
This limited-edition rye from Utah’s High West Distillery was literally created for cold-weather sipping. A Midwinter Night’s Dram aims to deliver the nostalgia of the season in the glass with a delightful mix of sweetness and spice. The mix of straight rye whiskeys is finished in ruby and tawny port barrels, and comes in at 49 percent ABV. The nose brings ample fruitcake notes including allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and the influence of the port barrels is apparent on the palate with chocolate, cooked figs, dark cherry, and baking spices all coming through beautifully.
Average price: $150