Rye gives the whiskey a spicy, strong flavor with a distinct herbal or spicy note. Rye whiskey is the oldest type of whiskey and was one of America's most popular spirits before Prohibition due to its strong character traits. In fact, rye whiskey has been around longer than bourbon whiskey, but it has displaced the strong-bitter rye whiskey from the market as number one. Thanks to the use of rye, a rye whiskey is spicier but drier than its counterpart, bourbon.
Also in our Rye Whiskey Shop you will be offered spirits of the category "Rye Whiskey". Here you can choose from whiskeys of different brands and buy your Rye Whiskey. To enter the world of rye whiskey we recommend our Winchester Rye Whiskey Extra Smooth and for true lovers of the strong dry whiskeys we suggest our Montana Straight Rye Whiskey.
Below you will learn more about the history of rye whiskey, what is meant by it, what types there are, how it is made and how it is drunk.
"Rye" Whiskey - History
If you ever look at the history of rye whiskey, you will see how closely it is related to the beginnings of the USA. It will show you how quickly you can get wealth and fame, but also how quickly you can lose it. It all began with the immigration of the Scottish and Irish settlers, who did not want to do without their much-loved whiskey even in their new homeland. But since barley, which they needed for their whiskey production, did not grow so well in their new homeland, they used rye, which was thriving well. But they also cultivated corn for the bourbon typical of America.
At that time, people named the whiskey made from rye after the place where it was produced. Examples of this are the whiskeys called Manongahela, Pennsylvania and Maryland whiskey, which were particularly popular among Americans. The exclusive use of rye and barley for the production of whiskey was regulated by law in 1779.
Distilling was done in small stills using home distillation methods. The result was a whiskey that had a high proportion of rye malt and probably tasted like a spicy vodka. This rye spirit was rarely stored; it was usually drunk young. Since the whiskey was transported to the buyers in wooden barrels, it was found that the wood of the barrel made the distillate milder in taste. This led to the fact that circa since the year 1820, the whiskeys were increasingly stored.
Especially the Monongahela whiskey from the Monongahela area was historically important, because 100 percent rye was used for its production. The good water needed was supplied by the Monongahela River, along which many rye whiskey distilleries had settled. This rye whiskey was considered the best whiskey in the world in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Even George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, owned a successful distillery in Mount Vernon and produced rye whiskey. But it was also he who, with the help of the military, put an end to the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 due to the taxation of spirits.
Although rye whiskey was very popular among Americans, during Prohibition they preferred lighter alcoholic beverages such as blended whiskey, gin and rum. It was the Jim Beam Company, founded by the German Jakob Boehm, that ensured that rye whiskey survived by producing its Old Overholt Rye Straight Whiskey, which you can also get in our Rye Whiskey Shop. It wasn't until the 2000s that the renaissance of rye whiskey began. Many young people drank drinks with the rye whiskey, thus contributing to a six-fold increase in the production of this spirit between 2009 and 2014.
Today, the selection of whiskey brands in the category of rye is still relatively manageable, but the trend is increasing. All whiskeys offered in our Rye Whiskey Shop are from well-known brands and of high quality. Among others, Jim Beam, Old Overholt, High West, Hudson, James E. Pepper, Knob Creek, Koval, LOT No. 40, Minor Case, Pikesville, Rebel Yell, Redemption Whiskey, Rittenhouse, Riverboat, Slyrs, Stauning, Templeton Rye, The Gospel, WhistlePig, Winchester, Woodfoord Reserve and Yello Rose. In our Rye Whiskey Shop you can choose from all these brands and buy Rye Whiskey.
What is meant by a "Rye" whiskey?
Decisive for the classification of a whiskey into the category "Rye" is how and from what it is made. An American whiskey that is distilled from 51 percent or all rye and that does not exceed an alcohol percentage of 80 percent during production is a rye whiskey. In addition, it must be stored for at least two years in new, mostly white oak barrels. In terms of taste, it is much spicier, drier and more bitter than the "normal" whiskeys. Unlike bourbon, however, the vanilla and caramel notes are not as pronounced. With the Rye, notes of grain, pepper and grass are noticeable. Although it has a slight astringency, the Rye does not appear bitter.
Canadian whiskey rye is a bit different. To be called Rye Whiskey, unlike its American counterpart, it does not require a single grain of rye for its production. Centuries ago, Canadian whiskey was generally made from rye, which means that Canadian whiskey and rye were identical. At that time, the whiskey also received its name "Canadian Rye". Although the Rye is distilled today in Canada largely from wheat or corn, it may continue to bear the name "Rye".
The reason for this is that to this day there are no restrictions in the legal regulations regarding the name "Rye". Therefore, it may be possible that a Canadian Rye does not contain any rye at all. Therefore, you should pay attention when buying if you value a Canadian Rye. Often, the rye content is very low or it is a blend of Rye and normal whiskey. However, there are also Rye, which were produced from 100 percent rye, such as the LOT No. 40 Canadian Rye, which you can also find in our store. Canadian Rye is predominantly medium-bodied, sweetish and has spicy pepper aromas and salty notes.
Whiskeys of the category "Rye" are today again increasingly produced in distilleries, and not only in the U.S. and Canada. The growth of the area of rye whiskeys, which can be seen on the whiskey market, already indicates that the somewhat distinctive rye whiskey is not only appreciated by whiskey lovers who want to perceive the rye from a drink. Often, the rye whiskey is described as "whiskey for whole guys".
Rye whiskey - its production
The production of rye whiskey is very similar to the production of the other types of whiskey. Again, it requires several steps, namely malting and kilning, fermentation, distillation and aging in wooden barrels. However, these can vary a little depending on the producer or country of origin. To make an American rye, you need at least 51 percent rye, as well as other grains such as 39 percent corn and ten percent barley, water and yeast. However, there are also whiskeys that are distilled from 100 percent rye.
Step 1 - Malting and kilning
In the production of whiskey, one of the most important steps is the malting of the grain. During malting, the grain is brought to germination in a controlled manner and then stopped again at the right moment. For this purpose, the grain is usually spread out on the malting floor and moistened with water for two to three days to reach the germination phase. During germination, enzymes are formed which, on the one hand, initiate germination and, on the other, break down the cell walls. This leads to the formation of dextrin, which is soluble starch, from which in turn malt sugar (maltose) is formed, which can then be distilled into alcohol.
To prevent all the starch from being broken down, the maltster stops the germination process after about a week by drying the green malt with hot air. This can also come from coal, wood or peat fires, which are responsible for the popular, intense, tart, smoky aromas of whiskey. The drying process is also known as kilning. Once the kilning process is complete, the dry malt is ground, which means it is ground into "grits."
After milling, the grits are first soaked in 60- to 70-degree water, often spring water, for mashing in a mash tun called a mash tun to flush out the fermentable sugars. After the water is extracted, the remaining grain mash is again mixed with hot water, but now at a temperature of 70 to 80 degrees. In a third process, the cereal pulp is mixed with water of a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius. In order for the sweet water to be further processed, the emulsion is filtered after this procedure.
Step 2 - Fermentation
Fermentation is the transformation of sugar into alcohol. For this purpose, the sweet water cooled down to 18 to 20 degrees Celsius is put into a fermentation tank (washback) made of wood or stainless steel and yeast cultures are added. The yeast bacteria then trigger the fermentation process. During this process, the sugar is converted into alcohol, which can take approximately 48 to 72 hours. After the yeast cultures have died, a "wash" (beer) with an alcohol content of eight to eleven percent remains. This liquid forms the basis for the distillation of the whiskey.
Step 3 - The distillation
For the distillation of rye whiskey, the column distillation process in column stills (columns made of steel) is usually used. This has the advantage that in the column still process, the mash can be brought steadily into the still. Distillation usually takes place two or three times. After the first distillation, the distillate has an alcohol content of around 20 percent, after the second distillation it is 60 to 70, and after the third, the end product can even have up to 94.8 percent by volume.
This high alcohol content is achieved by the rectification column, which is equipped with several bubble trays. In order to obtain the purest possible alcohol, the condensation water in the bubble trays is continuously drained off with holes. The first column of the column still is the analyzer. In this column, the mash is removed downwards over several levels, and this while steam is rising in it.
The rectifier is the second column and is used for rectification, that is, the condensed alcohol obtained from the mash passes through it. The alcohol circulates until the desired alcohol strength is reached. However, the temperature decreases somewhat with each distillation column section or rising level. The actual condensation takes place in the higher and cooler column section. Therefore, the higher the liquid, the higher the alcohol content.
Step 4 - Barrel aging
Rye whiskey's barrel aging also plays a role in its production. Just like its other American competitor, rye whiskey is stored in freshly burned out oak barrels. During the aging process, the rye not only takes on the barrel flavors, but it also acquires its color. Whiskey made from rye only has to comply with a prescribed barrel aging period of six months before the rye is bottled in bottles designed by the manufacturer.
The situation is different for whiskeys in the "straight rye whiskey" subgroup. They must be stored for at least two years for aging in wooden barrels, also called barrels. Only in a few distilleries is a rye stored longer than two years. It is a basic rule that the age of Straight Rye whiskey must be stated on the bottle label if the spirit has an age of less than four years. If there is no age indication on the bottle of a Straight Rye, then it was aged in the barrels for more than four years.
Whiskeys of the category "Rye" - the taste and the color spectrum
When comparing the taste of a Rye whiskey to its counterpart, Bourbon, the Rye presents itself spicier, drier and sharper with a strong character. The taste buds are already challenged with the ostensible dry spiciness of a Rye. It is probably not recommended for whiskey drinkers who prefer smooth and mellow whiskeys. However, once you get used to it, you can already discover quite a bit. Here are a few examples of rye whiskeys that you can get in our Rye Whiskey Shop:
Why not try the "1776 Rye Whisky", distilled from more than 90 percent rye and matured for four to five years, from the legendary James E. Pepper brand, which is one of the oldest whiskey brands. This Rye spoils your nose already after opening the bottle with a strong spicy bouquet with notes of eucalyptus and wood flanked by dill aromas. On the palate, it is full-bodied, strong and creamy, with chocolate notes as well as a hint of caramel.
LOT No. 40 Canadian Rye Whisky, made from 100 percent rye by the Hiram Walker Distillery in Canada, proves that medium-bodied rye whiskies are also available. On the nose, this rye reveals notes of plum, cinnamon paired with aromas of spice and mint and a hint of smoke. In the mouth, it comes across as medium-bodied and sweet with spicy flavors of pepper and some salt.
The straight rye whiskies from the Tempelton Rye Distillery in Iowa in the USA are also whiskies, some of which are limited and have been rated with five stars. After opening the bottle, they exude an elegant aroma with notes of apples and orange peel, but also a spicy scent of butterscotch, green apples, cherries with a hint of vanilla. But also a pleasant spicy bouquet is possible depending on the product. The palate is spoiled by Tempelton Rye either spicy with notes of dried apricots and oranges or soft with fruity flavors like melon and toasted oak. However, a flavor explosion of rye paired with butterscotch and toffee can also unfold in the mouth.
Particularly aromatic, yet with the tart spiciness typical of rye whiskeys, come the handcrafted whiskeys of the "Knob Creek Kentucky" brand. The nose is drawn to an intense aroma of notes of herbs, rye and vanilla, paired with oak aromas. On the palate, they show soft, warm and spicy, with notes of rye, with hints of oak flavors and vanilla.
The "Old Overholt" of the Jim Beam brand not only embodies the archetype of American rye whiskey, it is also said to be the "best rye whiskey in the world". It is fruity on the nose with notes of fresh strawberries and baked apple, but presents itself on the palate with flavors of spices, rye and ripe apples.
These are just a few examples of our product portfolio of the category of rye whiskeys, from which you can choose and buy your rye whiskey in our Rye Whiskey Shop. Even multiple award-winning rye whiskeys are included.
The color spectrum of the rye whiskeys ranges from light and dark amber to gold, rich radiant gold as well as rich gold with amber accents to copper, mahogany and saffron.
"Rye" whiskey - the drinking culture
After being displaced and disregarded by bourbon for decades, rye whiskey has been back since the 2000s. The historic spirit made from rye can now be found in every bar, restaurant, pub, liquor store and even in many domestic living rooms. This shows that rye whiskey is not only popular among bartenders, whiskey connoisseurs and whiskey experts, but also among whiskey beginners.
Rye drunk neat
Of course, you can also enjoy a Rye neat. For a long time, whiskey connoisseurs have appreciated the intense character of rye whiskey. If you want to drink the whiskey neat, you should know that a high-quality rye fully develops its aromas at a drinking temperature of 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. At a drinking temperature of about four to ten degrees Celsius (refrigerator temperature), the perception of the flavors changes, that is, the lower temperature locks in some flavors but allows others to come to the fore.
For example, larger flavor molecules resulting from storage, such as nut, spice and chocolate flavors, recede into the background. Smaller molecules representing floral and savory flavors come to the fore. It is also interesting to note that cold whiskey has a dual effect in the mouth: On the one hand, the perception of sweetness, bitterness and umami is reduced, and on the other hand, the salty and sour flavors become more recognizable. The rye whiskey appears more piquant.
Drink Rye with water
You should know that the taste of the whiskey is further improved by adding a little water. If you add a few drops of water to the whiskey, especially the one at cask strength, preferably with the help of a special pipette, it will unfold its richness and complexity of flavors much more. To do this, please use only a few drops of not too cold, low-mineral water. Optimally, this water, according to whiskey experts preferably spring water, has room temperature. The few drops of water open up the whiskey and elicit undiscovered aromas from it under the often high alcohol content. The flavors can be better discovered by the reduced alcohol content. By the way, this has also been scientifically proven.
Rye on the rocks
The variant of drinking Rye Whisky on ice, i.e. "On the rocks", has also become established. The ice and the melted water cool down the temperature of the whiskey and change the taste. The drink becomes milder, is not as strong and therefore easier to drink. A Rye on the rocks is an optimal companion when it comes to a relaxing evening at work.
Rye as a cocktail or long drink
But not only pure, but also as an ingredient in a long drink or cocktail, the Rye Whisky makes a good figure. In a Manhattan Cocktail, Whisky Sour or the forefather of all cocktails, the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail, a Rye may not be missing already according to the tradition. In contrast to the milder Bourbon, bartenders like to use the spicy, stronger, tart Rye from the premium segment for their cocktails. But rye whiskey is also ideal for a stirred whiskey cola with ice.
To ensure that the flavors of the rye whiskey are transported to the taste buds of the nose and mouth, be sure to select a suitable glass. To enjoy a rye whiskey, you should choose a "tumbler," which is a short, thick-bottomed glass that is as wide as it is tall. A tumbler holds not only the whiskey, but also the ice to chill the spirit. Because this type of glass has a thick bottom, the ice doesn't melt as quickly and the whiskey stays cool longer. Drinks such as whiskey cola are of course served in long drink glasses and cocktails in cocktail bowls or glasses.
For all the uses mentioned here, you can use the whiskeys of the Rye category, which you can find in our Rye Whiskey Shop. Whiskey connoisseurs should not renounce the full-bodied, complex flavors, however, as our high-quality Rye Whiskeys open up new worlds of taste. In our Rye Whiskey Shop you can buy the Rye Whiskey that suits you. Try it and taste the Rye pure, with water, on ice, as a cocktail or as a long drink.
Although the history of rye whiskey dates back to 18th century America, it was not until the 2000s that this whiskey experienced its renaissance. Rye is a spicy, dry whiskey with a slight spiciness that is very popular both neat and in cocktails and long drinks, and not only among whiskey lovers. To distill a rye, at least 51 percent rye and 49 percent other grain such as corn, barley or wheat are required. Also water, yeast, craftsmanship and a lot of patience. Rye whiskey is aged in new, freshly burned-out oak barrels for at least six months to two years. These whiskeys receive a note of their age on the label of the bottle. All longer aged rye spirits lack this indication, so you can tell that this whiskey matured longer than two years. The forefather of whiskeys, rye has re-established itself on the whiskey market in culinary terms and has prevailed over its counterpart, bourbon, and other whiskeys, which is arguably unique.Rye whiskey is produced primarily in North America, which explains the spelling "whiskey" with an "e". Similar to bourbon, there is a requirement for rye whiskey to use at least 51% of the main grain. However, unlike corn, as in bourbon, rye is used in the production of rye whiskey. This gives the whiskey a spicy, strong flavor with a distinct herbal or spicy note. Just like its other American competitor, Rye Whiskey is stored in freshly burned out oak barrels. In fact, rye whiskey has been around longer than bourbon whiskey, but the latter has displaced the strong-bitter rye whiskey from the market as number one.
Whiskey connoisseurs should not renounce the full-bodied complex flavors, however, as our high quality Rye Whiskeys open up new worlds of taste. To enter the world of Rye Whiskey, we recommend our Winchester Rye Whiskey Extra Smooth.