Top Ten: Rye Whiskey
Its that time of the year again folks, where the Gents get locked away in Bourbon Gents HQ and are not released until a Top 10 has been finalised. This time though, it was different, Mr Pie was putting his case forward to post a Top 10 of Rye Whiskey on a Bourbon website.
The tension was unbearable, the Queensberry rules were quickly read and, in time honoured tradition, were dismissed and a good old-fashioned scrap developed. In the Gents minds the fight which ensued was a cross between The Rock vs Vin Diesel and Maximus Decimus Meridus vs Tigris of Gaul, when in reality it was probably more like the Oliver Reed v Alan Bates fight scene in Women in Love (look it up, parental guidance is recommended). In a step-over arm-lock camel clutch hold Mav finally gave in, and so Top Ten Ryes it is.
Deciding on any Top 10 in the world of whiskey is, as you can imagine, extremely difficult and of course very subjective but above all it is a personal choice. We do not like to include anything that we haven’t tasted and thus we have used a combination of our website scores, individual scoring metrics and the old memory bank to decide on our list. There are still several American and Canadian Rye’s out there that we haven’t managed to track down and we are in no doubt these would be contenders for this Top 10. Booker’s, Knob Creek Cask Strength, Peerless, Colonel E H Taylor Jr, Lot No. 40, Hockstadter’s Family Reserve and Masterson’s 10 to name but many.
So strap in, brace yourself, because here comes the Bourbon Gents Top 10 Rye Whiskey.
Sazerac Straight Rye
If we ever get around to writing up a Top 10 bottle designs, then this surely would be placed near the top. The name derives from a New Orleans coffee house and a cocktail which started life with cognac as its primary ingredient before being replaced with whiskey. Today’s whiskey is made at the Buffalo Trace distillery with no official age statement, but rumours are that it is at least 6 years old. In our review we concluded the rye to be a great daily sipper and well worth a place in your collection for its versatility of use in the home bar.
Few Cask Strength Rye
A late consideration for the Top 10 as we’ve only just recently opened our samples. These were very kindly donated to the Gents by Aiden Bertie (@bobafett2k6) who just so happened to write up the whiskey for our first ever guest review.
A very generous 70% rye content in the mash bill from Few Spirits, who boast proudly that they are one of only a ‘few’ distilleries to remain handcrafted and small batched. This rye is full of fruity goodness throughout and not the kick you in the face rye that you might be expecting. The cask strength version coming in at over 60% ABV certainly gives it that extra edge many whiskey enthusiasts are seeking.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye Single Barrel
There is no doubt that if the most famous whiskey brand in the world latches on to releasing a rye whiskey, there is a damn good reason for it. The phenomenal increased popularity of rye whiskey has made all the big boys think about such a bold move. Investing in creating their first new mash bill in 150 years shows they are not in it for the short term. The Single Barrel offering is their 3rd rye release, following Unaged Rye (2012) and Rested Rye (2014). Your instinct is to expect banana notes from the offset and many reviewers claim to find this. Not as spice forward as we expected from a 70% rye grain mash bill but with heaps of brown sugar and sweet fruits throughout.
Willett 2-year-old Rye
The Gents felt very privileged with having the opportunity to try a sample of this rye in our local bar. This was Willett’s first release in decades which was distilled by themselves. The mash bill is a marriage of their high rye (74%) and low rye (51%) mash bills and released at 57.4% ABV (We did not take a photo. Darn it!). Its age is well hidden if you’re not a fan of the younger whiskies, if your palate is still not convinced then you will just have to wait and try the older aged whiskies as and when they are made available. The plan is to release this rye as it ages for many future years to come.
Michter’s Straight Rye Single Barrel
A sourced straight rye single barrel offering from the Michter’s distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. No age statement declared and bottled at 42.4% ABV. Not always an enormous amount of love out there for the Michter’s brand, not least for their original reluctance to reveal that the whiskey was sourced. We say embrace who you are and for around £50, this must be declared an excellent everyday single barrel sipper for the UK based rye drinkers out there. We are looking forward to trying the 10-year-old version of this rye one day and could quite possibly sell one of our children to have the chance to grab hold of the 25-year-old offering.
Wild Turkey 101 Straight Rye
Number 5 on the list and one of the cheapest of them all, but don’t let a price tag put any doubt in your mind. This is a remarkable value for money rye whiskey! No official age statement but our guess is somewhere in between 5-7 years. Regular readers will know that we are huge fans of the Wild Turkey portfolio and this is no exception. Rich and balanced, love it neat and with just the perfect kick to stand up in any mixer and cocktail. Not particularly easy to find in the UK but worth the hunt.
WhistlePig 10 Straight Rye
Love the WhistlePig website notes on this straight rye whiskey, ‘We rescued the stock from misuse as a blending whiskey’ 😊 So basically, they take distilled and matured Canadian whiskey down to their farm in Vermont and age it in new American Oak with a bourbon barrel finish before bottling. Genius idea which has led it to be the most awarded rye whiskey in the world! Tons of vanilla caramels with reassuring full of flavour rye spices. This is not particularly cheap wherever it is sold but it is a must have for any rye loving collector.
Pikesville Straight Rye
We were introduced to this classic straight rye whiskey a few years ago in a local drinking establishment. The hype and expectation had been huge, and we were not disappointed! This multi award winning rye is 6 years old and bottled at an impressive 55% ABV. The whiskey was first conceived in 1895 at The Winand & Brothers Distillery in Maryland, not in the town of Pikesville as you might think, but the town next door, named Scott’s Level. Many observers believe that the owners plumped for the name Pikesville as naming it Scott’s Level would be too close to it sounding like Scotch! It has been a member of Heaven Hill brands and made in Kentucky since 1982 and continues to be exceptionally well balanced spiced and sweet whiskey (Mr Pie is working on getting a full review on the website).
High West Rendezvous Rye
We have no historical reference or evidence to support this, but this is the sort of rye whiskey which symbolises what cowboys would be drinking in the saloons of the Wild West. Honouring the authentic way rye whiskey used to be made. The name itself is derived from an annual summer gathering of mountain men known as the ‘rendezvous’. Very high rye content in 2 different mash bills which are blended together and bottled at 46% ABV. The mash bill percentages seem to change with each different release but with each one you are talking some seriously sweet spicy rye goodness which lingers forever on the palate. High West Distillery, we take our hats off to you, (cowboy hats, obviously).
Rittenhouse Straight Rye (Bottled in Bond)
We almost surprised ourselves with this taking the number 1 slot, but the stats don’t lie. Rittenhouse Straight Rye Bottled in Bond is quite simply awesome. Price is never an issue in our review scores but when concocting our Top 10 this can sometimes be a contributing factor. This whiskey is an absolute steal for what it delivers. Fruit forward (can we copyright that?) on the nose and palate with subtle aromas of leather/tobacco throughout. A perfect every day neat pour and with it being 50% ABV, there is just enough heat in it to stand up for itself in cocktails. Another plus is that it is readily available for all wherever you are. As exclusively revealed in our review earlier this year, if Mav scores a rye above a 6, there can be no better endorsement.