Rye 101

Last Updated: July 17, 2024

Whiskey’s dark, spicy cousin, rye is characterized by its amber color and distinctive flavor. The latter comes courtesy of a mash bill of at least 51 percent rye, giving the spirit a zesty accent. It can also have notes of vanilla and caramel, due to aging in charred new oak.

There is no minimum aging period for rye, but spirits labeled “straight rye” require at least two years in barrels. As with bourbon, if it’s aged for fewer than four years, straight rye will have an age statement on the label. Ryes are no more than 80 percent alcohol by volume, or 160 proof.

Templeton, Redemption, Bulleit, Whistle Pig, and Dad’s Hat produce popular ryes. The spirit can legally be produced anywhere in the country.

Rye can be consumed straight, on the rocks, or in classic whiskey cocktails such as the Old Fashioned or Manhattan. The Sazerac traditionally featured brandy, but modern bartenders make it with rye. Check out the stories below to learn more about this spirit, and how to put it to use in your home bar.

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