Unlike Scotch or Irish Whiskeys, American Rye is undeniably American, being one of the country’s earliest spirits after Applejack. It's also far more old-school than Bourbon, no matter how much the Bourbon folks will try to tell you otherwise.
And then, perhaps most important, there’s the flavor. Made from at least 51 percent rye (a grass grown as a grain), Rye Whiskey is drier and less sweet than Bourbon and has a knockout blend of fruit and spice components — often with dashes of vanilla and leather thrown in — that make any Rye-based cocktail more complex. Plus, with its comeback a relatively recent occurrence, we can’t help but root for the underdog.
So please, feel free to stock your shelves with Irish, Scotch, Tennessee, and Kentucky Whiskeys. Far be it from us to dissuade you from expanding your selection. But if we can choose only one from the Whiskey pantheon, Rye it is and will ever be.
Rye Whiskey in a Nutshell
→ Defining features: Spice and fruit.
→ Flavor profile: Spicy, fruity, dry, and less sweet than Bourbon. Some Ryes veer toward heavier spicing; others are more subtle.
→ Why we chose it: It’s America’s first Whiskey (go red-white-and-blue!) and it adds more complexity to mixed drinks than Bourbon. Emblematic drinks: Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep (though Southerners will call this treason).