Call me old fashioned, but I was born to savor rye whiskey. Almost non-existent a mere few years ago, there has been an explosive resurgence of rye whiskey as a direct result of the latest classic cocktail craze – and I say Amen to that! No longer do I have to overpower my mixed drinks with the cedar sweet pungency of Bourbon. Instead, I can roll a classically balanced cocktail with the crisp, yet mellow character of rye. Ah…
Given the plethora of rye on the market, where does one start… Well, for openers, just a few years ago, my choice for rye was a dependable, straightforward bottle of Old Overholt. Cheap and plentiful, Old Overholt was my bar standard and it mixed a mighty charming Manhattan, if I do say so myself. But no man is an island, so as the options for rye have grown, I have dutifully investigated the slate and come up with a host of additional players… In no particular order…
Riverboat Rye – An unfiltered whiskey from Bardstown, KY – Slightly hazy – smooth but with a slight edge – spicy and nutty – makes a perfect mixer.
Willett Rye – An aged, single cask strength whiskey from Bardstown, KY – Deep caramel color with a captivatingly complex nose – butterscotch, vanilla and allspice. Excellent for sipping and makes a nice companion to Carpano Antico.
Rittenhouse Rye – Bottle in bond, 100 proof, this whiskey is not shy, but nor is it the bruiser that is high proof might suggest. Solid, if not a little one-dimensional – makes a spirituous drink.
Bulleit Rye – 95% rye and bottled at 90 proof, this Lawrenceburg, KY whisky is remarkably smooth. Clean with a slightly spicy finish – excellent for sipping.
Ryan & Wood Rye – Locally distilled in Gloucester, MA, this whisky is a blend of rye, wheat and barley that produces a smooth and flavorful spirit. The advertising on their web site touts the unique Cape Ann climate… Maybe that’s why this rye has a hint of brine on the finish…
Jefferson Rye – A 10 year old, straight rye whiskey that is smooth with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. Excellent for sipping and also makes a really nice Old Fashion cocktail.
High West Son of Bourye – Not entirely rye, but a near 50-50 mix of rye and bourbon. Potent, with a rich, mellow flavor. Definitely for sipping, I find there is too much caramel richness to produce the desired results in a cocktail.
Pendleton 1910 Canadian Rye – A 12 year old, 100% Canadian rye whisky – smooth with butterscotch and allspice notes. Lovely for sipping, or mixing.