What Exactly Is Rye Whiskey?

Traditionally, whiskeys distilled from Rye grain are regarded as Rye Whiskey.

Rye whiskey is one of the feisty, original and most popular styles of American spirits. American Rye whiskey must be distilled from at least 51 percent Rye amongst other grains. Presence of Rye brings in all new layers of texture and flavour to your whiskey.

While in Canada, whisky is often referred to as Rye whisky for some historical reasons, although it may or may not actually contain any Rye grain.


Whisky from Scotland, Canada and Japan is written without an “e” and whiskey from Ireland and the United States is generally written with an “e.”

The past, present and future of Rye Whiskey

Historically, Rye whiskey was the prevalent whiskey but it disappeared after prohibition in the United States. It wasn’t until the Rye whiskey revival in the early 2000s that the thirst for Rye whiskey and Rye whiskey based cocktails accelerated.

Tex Ritter even wrote a folk song “Rye Whiskey” after the prohibition to express the state of Rye drinkers, which goes like:

Her parents don’t like me they say I’m too poor

They say I’m unworthy to enter her door

It is a whiskey Rye whiskey Rye whiskey I cry

If I do not get Rye whiskey, well I think I will die

After decades of near-nonexistence, Rye is now officially making a comeback and whisky connoisseurs around the country couldn’t be happier as Rye whiskey is often their preferred drink.

In an age where strong flavours are back in style, Rye is enjoying a new golden era. Rye whiskey is much spicier than their bourbon or wheat or corn counterparts.

Rye whiskey is the whiskey that feels like next level booze. There is a lot more going on in Rye whiskey than your average drink and that can be little intimidating for the novice whiskey drinker.

Here are some of the parameters an American whiskey-maker must follow in order to label the whiskey bottle as Rye:

  • Must use at least 51 percent Rye as the base grain
  • New, charred oak barrels must be used for aging
  • Whiskey must be distilled to no more than 160 Proof (80 percent ABV)
  • Whiskey must be put into the barrel at no higher than 125 proof (62.5 percent ABV)
  • Whiskey must be bottled at a minimum of 80 Proof (40 percent ABV)
  • To call it “Straight” Rye it must be aged at least for two years. The bottle should carry an age statement, if it is aged less than four years. For a bottle labelled “straight Rye” and having no age statement, it must be at least four years old. And also make sure it’s not blended with any other spirits during the process.

Once all the above parameters are met you have your American Rye Whiskey.

Rye is known for its peppery bite, a spicy splash of flavour, wonderful high notes and at the same time deeper, bolder, taste that washes over the palate with every sip.

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