A Tasty Showdown: Rye vs Bourbon
If you’re an aficionado of American whiskey and other grain-based spirits, you have undoubtedly heard of both rye whiskey and bourbon. If you aren't familiar with them, bourbon and rye whiskey are popular types of American whiskeys that have become known as the representative of their respective regions.
And while both types of liquors are produced from the same primary ingredients (i.e., grains), they have distinct flavor profiles that set them apart from one another. Let's take a detailed look at Rye vs Bourbon
The Art of Rye Whiskey: A Toast to Good Times
Rye is a type of whiskey produced from a mash of fermented grains. It is most commonly distilled from a combination of mostly rye grain with smaller amounts of malted barley and or corn. The term rye whiskey can mean different things depending on where it is made.
For example, Canadian Whisky is considered a rye whisky in Canada although very little rye grain is used to make it. However, in the US, there are strict rules that need to be followed for a whiskey to be referred to as rye whiskey.
Canadian "Rye" Whisky
Canadian-made whiskey is typically made from a blend of grains, with corn being the primary ingredient. It is lighter in flavor and body than other styles of whisky, and the term "rye whisky" and "Canadian whisky" are often used interchangeably in Canada.
Although rye is a component in many Canadian whiskies, it is used in very small amounts, typically just a few percent.
The Revival of American Rye Whiskey
American Rye Whiskey is a type of Whiskey that must have a mash bill of at least 51% rye grains, and the rest of the mash can consist of other cereal grains such as malt barley. Rye must be aged in new charred oak barrels and distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV).
It must also be entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV), and bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV).
Rye Whiskey has a spicier, more intense flavor than Bourbon, and tends to have higher alcohol content. Rye is also generally drier than bourbon, making it a better choice for drinkers who prefer a bolder, spicier whiskey.
Straight Rye Whiskey
You may see rye whiskey bottles labeled "Straight Rye Whiskey". What does that mean? Well, for a rye whiskey to be labeled "straight" it must meet these specific criteria:
- The rye has to have been aged at least two years
- It cannot be blended with any other spirits
Bourbon Whiskey: The Best Way to Warm Up on a Cold Night
Bourbon whiskey is a popular spirit made in the United States. Traditional bourbon whiskey production is typically done in the Southern United States, especially in Kentucky. It must contain at least 51% corn mash and is typically aged in new charred oak barrels and sometimes wooden casks.
The bourbon whiskeys must be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV) and entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV). It must be bottled at 80 proof (40% or higher alcohol by volume) to be called bourbon whiskey.
Traditional bourbon typically has a sweeter taste, with rich flavors of caramel, vanilla, and baking spices. Due to the sweetness, some newer whiskey drinkers prefer bourbon. Some of the most popular bourbon brands include Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Basil Hayden, and Jim Beam.
Rye vs Bourbon: How are they different?
Despite having many similarities, there are a few distinct differences between rye and bourbon. First of all, bourbon is a sweeter tasting whiskey with flavors of honey, vanilla, and nutmeg while rye whiskey has more "bite" and more earthy, peppery flavors with a nice spicy finish.
Secondly, the mash bill (mixture of grains used) is different. In bourbon, the mash must contain at least 51% corn and the rest can be a mixture of other cereal grains such as malted barley, rye, and/or wheat. Rye Whiskey mash must have at least 51% rye grains while the rest can be made of other cereal grains.
Which is the better whiskey? - Rye or Bourbon? The answer may surprise you!
There is no definitive answer to the question rye vs bourbon as it is largely a matter of personal preference. However, both rye and bourbon are delicious options and each has its own unique characteristics that make it a favorite among whiskey drinkers.
Ultimately, the best way to decide which one is better for you is to try them both and see which you like better. Both bourbon and rye are excellent choices for whiskey lovers and are sure to please any palate.
Rye vs Bourbon: How to drink them
When it comes to drinking Rye and Bourbon, there are no hard-and-fast rules. However, many whiskey lovers recommend sipping them neat, or with just a little ice. Some people also enjoy mixing Rye or Bourbon with ginger ale or cola, or using them in cocktails.
No matter how you drink them, Rye and Bourbon are both delicious and satisfying whiskeys that are sure to please any palate.
The Best Rye and Bourbon Cocktails for Your Next Party
Here are a few of our favorite cocktail recipes (besides a whiskey sour) made with rye whiskey or bourbon.
Craft Cocktails: Rye Whiskey Drinks
1 - Manhattan
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 - A Place in the Sun
- 1 oz fresh lemon
- 1 oz fresh orange juice
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- Red wine cordial
3 - Party Cocktail
- 1 oz Calvados
- 1/2 oz Grenadine
- 1/2 oz Orange Juice
- 1 oz rye whiskey
- Ice Cubes
4 - Rye and Dry
- 2 oz Dry Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Orange Bitters
- 1 oz Rye Whiskey
- Ice Cubes
5 - Longshoreman
- 2 oz Rye Whiskey
- 1/2 ounce Averna amaro
- 1/2 oz Punt e Mes
- Garnish: Flamed Orange Peel
Bourbon Cocktails to Keep You Warm This Winter
1 - Kentucky Buck
- 2 oz. Bourbon
- 2 oz. Ginger beer
- 1 oz. Lemon juice
- ½ oz. Simple syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 Strawberry
- Garnish: Strawberry
2 - Mint Julep
- 2.5 oz. Bourbon
- ½ oz. Rich simple syrup
- 8-10 Mint leaves
- Crushed ice
- Garnish: 2-3 leafy mint sprigs
3 - Billionare
- 2 ounces Baker's 107-proof bourbon
- 1-ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 ounce grenadine
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1/4 ounce absinthe bitters
- Garnish: lemon wheel
4 - The Southern Jam
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 5 raspberries
- 1 heaping teaspoon raspberry jam
- Garnish: edible flower and raspberries
5 - The Paper Plane
1 - 3/4 oz bourbon
2 - 3/4 oz Aperol
3 - 3/4 oz Amaro Nonino
4 - 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Is Tennessee Whiskey a bourbon or rye?
First of all, Tennessee whiskey is made with a mash bill of at least 51% corn so it cannot be classified as rye. So the question now becomes, is Tennessee whiskey bourbon?
Like rye and bourbon, it is also aged in new charred oak barrels and follows the same rules on both distilled proof and proof at aging in the new charred oak. The difference is that Tennessee whiskey must be distilled in the state of Tennessee and goes through a process in which the spirit is run through sugar maple charcoal and a wool blanket for filtering.
This process is known as the Lincoln County process. So, does that mean it isn't considered a bourbon? The fact is, there isn't a definitive answer to this question. Some people argue that Tenessee Whiskey is bourbon and some say it isn't. I guess it's up to you!
Final thoughts on Rye vs Bourbon
In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Rye and bourbon are both delicious options, and each has unique characteristics that make it a favorite among whiskey drinkers. No matter how you drink them, rye and bourbon are both sure to please any palate.
So why not try them both and see which one you like better? You may just find yourself a new favorite whiskey!