What Everybody Ought to Know About Rye Whisky

The popularity of rye whisky has risen once again. Based on the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., the sales of rye have increased by 662 % from 2009 to 2015. The re-emergence of rye’s popularity can be attributed to new age bartenders who started reusing rye for mixing up cocktails.

What Are Rye Whiskies?

Rye whiskies were first produced in the United States as an alternative to whiskies made from malted barley or corn. Historical records show that even George Washington started producing whiskies made of rye since rye was the predominantly grown grain in his lands.

Rye whiskies are like bourbon in terms of production; however, 51 per cent of the ingredients are composed of rye. The other 49 per cent may be composed of different grains and flavouring.

Rye whiskies are generally characterized as having peppery tastes that hits your palate every time you sip. The spicy flavour will depend on how much rye is used in a batch. However, regulations dictate that for a whisky to be classified as rye whisky, it should have a minimum rye content of 51 per cent.

Four Styles of Rye Whiskies

Just like scotch and bourbon, rye whiskies also have different types and flavours to choose from. Rye whiskies can be grouped into two main styles, namely: the Pennsylvania-Style, the Maryland-style, Kentucky Style, and Canadian rye.

  • Pennsylvania-Style: Also known as the Monongahela Style, Pennsylvania rye whiskies are spicier since their ingredients consist of 80 to 90% rye with malted barley to complete the ingredients. Pennsylvania rye whiskies did not contain any corn.
  • Maryland-Style: Maryland rye whiskies have a softer spice to this tase since they are made from around 65% rye, 20% barley, and 15% corn.
  • Kentucky rye: Kentucky rye whiskies are considered the most popular of the four rye styles. The mixture of 51% rye to corn gives this rye whisky style a similar taste to bourbon.
  • Canadian rye: Canadian rye whiskies use a high percentage of rye mash bill, and some distilleries even use 100% rye. The significant difference in Canadian rye production is their usage of both new and old oak barrels for aging.

The Classic Cocktails: The revival of whiskies made of rye came about when bartenders began revisiting classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, which required whiskies made of rye. When bar patrons noticed a hint of the spicy spirit, customers began asking what was used in the cocktails. Eventually, customers started buying whiskies made of rye to have in their homes.

Proper Ways to Drink Whisky Made of Rye

First-time rye drinkers may find this spirit too spicy or peppery for their tastes. It is best to ease into drinking rye.

Order Cocktails: If you find the taste of rye too peppery, then you can order it mixed with classic cocktails such as Manhattan, Sazerac, Waldorf Cocktail, and Whisky Smash. You will not run out of cocktails to choose from. You can always ask your favourite bartender to mix whiskies made of rye instead of regular whisky to create a spicier taste for cocktails as well.

On the Rocks: If you want to soften the spicy taste of rye, you can order your whisky on the rocks. Ice tends towards dull flavours and numb your palate so that the peppery taste will be more subtle.

Adding Water: Adding water to rye whiskies are common in bars. Adding water lets you control the taste and lower the alcohol content of your drink. The best way to mix water with your whisky is to put drops of water using a straw then swirl your whisky until you find the correct balance you are looking for.