What is Rye Whiskey

What is Rye Whiskey? Everything You Need to Know About This Delicious Spirit

What is rye whiskey? This is a question that many people have, and it's not hard to understand why. Rye whiskey is a delicious spirit that seems to be gaining in popularity all the time. In this blog post, we will discuss what rye whiskey is, how it is made, and some of the different types of rye whiskey that you can find on the market.


We'll also take a look at the origin of this unique spirit and find out why it has become so popular in recent years.

Rye Whiskey: The Other American Whiskey

Rye whiskey is a unique and delicious spirit that has a long history in the United States. What gives rye whiskey its name, and what makes it different from other types of whiskey? Let's find out.

What is rye whiskey?

Rye whiskey is a type of American whiskey that is made from rye grain. For a whiskey to be called rye whiskey and sold in the United States it has to meet these strict guidelines:

1 - The mash bill that is used to make rye whiskey must contain at least 51% rye grain

2 - The whiskey must be aged in new charred oak barrels

3 - Distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV)

4 - Entered into the barrel for aging at a proof no higher than 125 (62.5% ABV)

5 - Bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV)


One of the things that makes rye whiskey unique is its flavor. It is a spicier spirit than bourbon whisky and has a much drier taste. This makes it a popular choice for people who enjoy strong-flavored whiskies. 


Additionally, rye whiskey tends to have a higher alcohol content than bourbon whisky, so it is perfect for those who enjoy a drink with a bit of a kick.

Canadian Whisky

When you talk about rye whiskey, many people like to talk about Canadian Whisky. Most Canadian whiskies are made with a high amount of rye grain to add flavor so people refer to them as rye whiskies. 


The truth is, in Canada, there aren't strict requirements for a whiskey to be labeled "rye whiskey" like there are in the US. Canadians refer to rye whiskey and Canadian whisky interchangeably so it doesn't have the same meaning as it does in the US.

How Rye Whiskey is Crafted: The Making of a Fine Spirit

Rye whiskey is made from a rye-heavy mash bill, meaning that rye grains make up the majority of the grain mix. Other grains may be present in small quantities, such as barley or wheat. To make rye whiskey, the rye is first milled into coarse flour.


Then, hot water is added to the rye to create a slurry. This rye-and-water mixture is then cooked until the rye grains are fully gelatinized. Once the rye has cooked, it is cooled and mixed with yeast. The yeast eats the sugars in the rye and creates alcohol. The mixture is then distilled and aged in new charred oak barrels.

Straight Rye Whiskey

Straight rye whiskey refers to the type of rye whisky that has not been blended with any other spirits and has been aged for at least two years.

The Birth of Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey was first produced in the early 18th century in Pennsylvania. At that time, the area was still part of the British colonies, and most of the colonists were of Scottish or Irish descent. The Scots and Irish had been using rye to make whiskey for centuries, so it only made sense for them to continue using it when they came to America. 


Rye became the grain of choice for distilling because it was one of the few grains that could grow in the rocky soil of Pennsylvania. It also happened to produce a whiskey with a uniquely spicy flavor profile that many Americans came to enjoy. 


By the time the American Revolution broke out, rye whiskey was well established as the national drink. George Washington even had his distillery at Mount Vernon, where he produced 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey in 1799.


When prohibition went into effect in 1920, production of rye whiskey all but stopped. A handful of distilleries managed to stay in business by producing "medicinal whiskeys" that were dispensed by prescription only. But once prohibition was repealed in 1933, rye vanished from store shelves and bars across America. 


It wasn't until the late 1990s that interest in rye began to stir again. A handful of craft distilleries started producing small batches of high-quality rye, and bartenders began rediscovering classic cocktails like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned that were made with rye. 


Nowadays, there are more brands of rye available than ever before, and its popularity shows no sign of waning anytime soon. 

The Revival of Rye Whiskey: Why It Became So Popular in Recent Years

Rye whiskey has become popular in recent years because it offers a unique flavor that can't be found in other whiskeys. It is made with rye grain, which gives it a spicy flavor that many people enjoy. Additionally, rye whiskey is often considered to be more "rustic" or "earthy" than other whiskeys, and many people find this to be an appealing trait.


Some of the most popular brands of rye whiskey include High West, Old Overholt, Wild Turkey, and Bulleit. These are familiar names to most people but many rye whiskey aficionados prefer to find smaller producers who produce small batches

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between regular whiskey and American rye whiskey?

There are a few key differences between regular whiskey and rye whiskey. First, rye whiskey must be made with a mash bill that is at least 51% rye, while regular whiskey can be made with any combination of different grains.


Second, the production process for rye whiskey is generally shorter than the process for regular whiskey. As a result, rye whiskey tends to have a more intense flavor than regular whiskey.

What is special about rye whiskey?

When it comes to whiskey, there are a lot of different options out there. But if you're looking for something truly special, you'll want to check out rye whiskey. Rye whiskey has a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from other whiskeys.


And because rye is a key ingredient in the whiskey-making process, rye whiskeys tend to be richer and more full-bodied than other types of whiskeys. That's why rye whiskey is the perfect choice for those who want to enjoy a truly unique and flavor-packed experience.

What is considered rye whiskey?

If you ask a regular person on the street what is rye whiskey? They'll probably just give you a blank stare. But if you ask a whiskey aficionado, they'll tell you that rye whiskey is made from a rye mash containing over 51% rye grains. However, there are also other types of rye whiskies, such as Canadian rye whiskey, which is made from rye malt.

Is rye whiskey the same as bourbon?

No! Rye and Bourbon are not the same. Rye is made with a mash bill of at least 51% rye grain while bourbon is made with a high percentage of corn. Rye and bourbon do have many similarities however including their both distilled spirits with a similar distillation process and they are both aged in new oak barrels.


For whiskey drinkers, the big difference is in their flavor profiles. Most rye whiskeys have more spicy notes, hints of lemon zest, and rustic and earthy flavors while bourbon has more of a caramel, sweet flavor.

Is Whiskey spelled with an "e" between the k and the y?

This is an interesting question. The answer depends on where the whiskey is made. In the US, whiskey is spelled with the e before the y, but if it is made in Canada, Scotland, or Japan, it is spelled whisky. If you see a bottle on the shelf that says "whisky" you know it comes from outside the US.

Does rye whiskey have to be aged in new American oak barrels?

Although most of the whiskey made in the United States is aged in new American oak, it is not a requirement that the wood is American oak. Other woods that are used for aging whiskey include maple, hickory, French, and cherry.

If rye has to be aged in new oak barrels, what do distillers do with used barrels?

Used whiskey barrels have many uses. Sometimes wineries will use them to age a special batch of wine or they can be used to make furniture or other wood products.



Rye whiskey is a unique and flavor-packed spirit that has been gaining popularity in recent years. This in-depth guide provides everything you need to know about this delicious drink, from the differences between rye and regular whiskey to the production process and how to find the best brands. 


So if you're looking for something special to add to your liquor cabinet, be sure to check out rye whiskey!


Blog posts

  • Beth Karaoud

Bourbon vs Rye

  • Beth Karaoud

What is Rye Whiskey