Rye whiskey is gaining a lot of attention again, so we are seeing more and more come to market with some exciting results.
At its heart, rye whiskey must be made from at least 51% rye grain. Ryes typically have a drier, spicier, slightly grassier finish than their sweeter bourbon cousins. For American ryes, they are distilled at a maximum of 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume or ABV) and asged in charred, vigin (or unused) oak barrels. If it was barreled at 125 proof or less for at least two years and not blended with other spirits, then it can be labeled a "straight rye." Straight ryes are a fantastic way to experience what rye can add to your home bar or your favorite whiskey cocktails.
Rye was one of the first American whiskeys since rye grows well in otherwise poor soil and was already familiar to the Eastern European immigrants who helped settle the early eastern states and territories. Well before we were a bourbon-producing country, rye was our distinctly American spirit. If you are already a fan of cocktails like the Manhattan, Whiskey Sours, or the Old Fashioned, rye was the whiskey on which they were based. Going back to your roots is always good, so spend some time getting acquainted with these American classics.