No liquor cabinet is ever complete without a rye whiskey or two!

No matter how much Scotch and bourbon you stock, nothing could ever truly replace rye whiskey. Without it, you can’t have a proper Sazerac, Manhattan, or Brooklyn cocktail.

There’s just something wonderful about the grassy, peppery flavors of rye whiskey, the higher hints of spice, oak, and smoke that makes for an elegant drinking experience.

So of course we’re here to help you stock your cabinet with all the best rye whiskeys around.

Take the time to peruse our list below, even test out a few options for yourself. You’ll find that having a bottle or two of rye whiskey on hand can make all the difference next time you want a glass of something strong and tasty of an evening!

Why Rye Whiskey?

You might be wondering, “What’s so great about rye whiskey? Why should I choose it over other whiskeys?”

I’m so glad you asked!

Rye whiskey is made with a “majority of rye” in the mash. In the U.S., that means it needs to be made with at least 51% rye. Canadian rye whiskey doesn’t need to adhere to that standard, though, and can have an unspecified amount of rye.

The great thing about rye whiskey is that the high content of rye (a naturally flavorful grain) gives it a spicy, peppery, grassy flavor that pairs beautifully with the subtler notes of smoke, oak, and fruits. It tends to be more aggressive than bourbon (which is sweeter by nature), and so stands up to mixers better. For this reason, it’s included in a number of cocktails, including:

Rye whiskey is also on the stronger side (comparable to bourbon), with an ABV ranging between 40 and 60%.

It tends to be a mid-priced liquor—easily available in prices as low as $20 to $30—though there are some bottles that cost upwards of $500 (the truly exclusive choices).

Thankfully, most of the options on our list below are firmly in the “affordable” range. You can easily stock up your liquor cabinet without breaking the bank, and have many delicious bottles of spicy rye whiskey to enjoy at your leisure.

The 15 Best Rye Whiskeys

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Old Forester 100 Proof Rye

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly bottle of rye whiskey perfect for beginners, this is your top pick! Not only is it beautifully affordable, but its spiciness is gentle enough that even novice palates can enjoy it while still tasting the more complex notes beneath.

The mash bill of 65% Rye, 20% Malted Barley, and 15% Corn produces an interesting sweetness that has been compared to “bubblegum”, with a strong floral character that balances out the brisk sharpness of the rye. It’s potent enough for a real kick with every sip, yet still enjoyable on its own or mixed into a cocktail.

Specs

  • Barrel: Unspecified
  • Proof: 100
  • Tasting Notes: Spice, sharp black pepper and cinnamon stick, dried dill and baked apple.
  • Age: 4+ years old, likely between 4 and 6 years
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WhistlePig THE BOSS HOG VII: MAGELLAN'S ATLANTIC

Not only is WhistlePig one of the coolest-sounding distillers, it’s also one of the best-known in the Northeastern United States. It sources most of its whiskey from Canada and Indiana, but its distillery in Vermont is where the real magic happens. Rather than using a single whiskey or barrel type, it blends various whiskeys into an assortment of barrels to create a truly unique liquor with every batch.

The Magellan’s Atlantic bottle is aged in American oak, made using 17-year old rye that spends three weeks finishing in Spanish oak casks and three days in South American teakwood. The result is a rye whiskey that capitalizes on a heady blend of flavors, delivering a luxurious—albeit expensive—drinking experience.

Specs

  • Barrel: American oak, Spanish oak, and South American teakwood
  • Proof: Between 105.1 and 107.8 proof
  • Tasting Notes: Spicy cloves, sweet brandied cherries, baking spices, subtle hints of charred oak, sage, and dark chocolate.
  • Age: 17 years
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Sazerac Rye Whiskey

Sazerac is the distiller that originated the famous cocktail, so of course it’s a whiskey we’ve got to add to our list! The liquor is complex, balanced perfectly between sweet and spicy, and is beautifully easy to drink. Though it’s not the cheapest bottle on our list, it’s affordable enough you can keep it stocked for those nights you want to sip something particularly tasty. Just make sure to have one of the more affordable options—like Old Forester or Old Overholt—on hand for cocktail night.

This whiskey is made with all the tradition and culture that has set New Orleans apart from anywhere else in the world, and has the flavor to match. You’ll never taste a rye whiskey quite like Sazerac Rye!

Specs

  • Barrel: Unspecified
  • Proof: 90
  • Tasting Notes: Candies, spice and crisp citrus.
  • Age: Around 6 years old
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Basil Hayden Dark Rye Whiskey

You’ve never had a rye whiskey quite like this one! It’s a truly unique blend of Kentucky and Canadian rye (from the Alberta distillery) with just a splash of Californian port. The result is a spiciness that is balanced marvellously with undertones of sweet, rich dark fruits.

It can stand up on its own or on ice, but it’s particularly tasty when mixed into a sweeter fruit-forward cocktail (like Manhattan or Brooklyn). It’s got “holiday spice” flavors that set it apart from the classic rye pepperiness, and its color is rich, dark, and a visual feast for your eyes when swirling in your glass. Newbies will find it an incredibly approachable whiskey, too.

Specs

  • Barrel: Various
  • Proof: 80
  • Tasting Notes: Complex blend of caramel, dried fruit, and oak with back notes of spice and a rounded mouthfeel
  • Age: Unspecified
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Sagamore Spirit Signature Rye Whiskey

Head northeast with this Maryland-style rye whiskey, and get ready for a drinking experience vastly different from southern-style ryes. It’s subtle on the sweetness, has just a hint of spice that any palate can appreciate, and is low-proof, perfect for mixing into lighter cocktails or just sipping when you want to relax. Its taste resembles a bourbon but somehow even more luxurious—and has the price tag to match.

The whiskey is made from a blend: one is a high-rye mash to increase the citrus and spice bite, the other a low-rye mash that enhances the honeyed sweetness of the whiskey. It’s made using Sagamore Spirit’s signature limestone-filtered water that adds a touch of something special you won’t find in any of the other rye whiskeys on the list.

Specs

  • Barrel: High-char American oak barrels
  • Proof: 83
  • Tasting Notes: Candied dried orange peel with notes of clove and nutmeg, walnut and brown sugar to finish.
  • Age: 4 - 6 Years
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Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Get a taste of Canada’s finest whiskey with Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye, a specially blended rye that is as smooth and easy to drink as you could ask for. The nose is heavy with baking spices, cereal, and light wood spices, opening up each sip in a way that sets your palate dancing. The strong notes of oak, butterscotch, and spiced vanilla contrast with its natural pepperiness, and the smooth, creamy finish slides down your throat like liquid velvet.

As the first Canadian whiskey to earn the World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s Annual Whisky Bible (in 2016), it’s definitely a good example of what fine distilling can come out of Canada.

Specs

  • Barrel: Undisclosed
  • Proof: 90
  • Tasting Notes: Gentle oak note, rich butterscotch, spiced vanilla, develops into soft peppery notes.
  • Age: At least 3 years
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High West Double Rye Whiskey

High West takes its rye whiskey in a different direction from the rest of the crowd. Not only does it experiment with various whiskies sourced from Indiana and Kentucky, but it utilizes a variety of barrels to finish off their blends. This particular whiskey is made from a blend of pot and column whiskies, curated to be the perfect balance between spicy sharpness and complex flavors.

The bold rye spice is complemented by botanical notes that highlight the various subtle layers beneath, and it’s a surprisingly fresh whiskey compared to most other ryes on our list. The combination of juniper, fresh wildflower honey, gingersnaps, and mint sprigs give it an intriguing flavor that blends nicely with any cocktail, but still holds up to a more discerning palate when tasted on its own.

Specs

  • Barrel: Undisclosed
  • Proof: 92
  • Tasting Notes: Rye spices up front, then menthol, mint, eucalyptus, herbal tea with wildflower honey and all spice
  • Age: Minimum of two years
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Old Overholt Straight Rye

Old Overholt is one of those brands that have been around for seemingly forever! In fact, their first whiskies were distilled in the late 19th century, and were popular throughout the eastern United States for over a hundred years—so popular that the brand was bought out by Jim Beam.

A few changes have been recently made to their process, including using a whiskey both younger (around 3 years old) and stronger (86 proof), as well as using non-chill filtration. The result is an affordable, enjoyable whiskey commonly stocked in bars and restaurants because of how well it blends into cocktails. With just the right sweetness (from the corn in its mash bill) to contrast the natural rye spiciness, it’s a rye whiskey you can trust is done right.

Specs

  • Barrel: Undisclosed
  • Proof: 86
  • Tasting Notes: Mint candy, even mint toothpaste, plus black pepper and tannic oak, with a hint of blueberry.
  • Age: Minimum of 3 years
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New Riff Bottled-In-Bond Rye Whiskey

Though New Riff is one of the youngest brands on our list, take one sip of this whiskey and you’ll find that it tastes as good as any of the old-school distillers that have been around for decades. That’s the result of the non-chill filtration and bottling-in-bond process. The mash bill is insanely high-rye—a whopping 95%, with just 5% malted rye—and the result is a potent liquor with surprising depth of flavor.

The whiskey is produced based on the teachings of Larry Ebersold, the distiller who mastered the 95% rye whiskey, and its flavor reflects the elegance of this mastery. Serve it over ice, with a splash of water, neat, or in a Rye Manhattan to enjoy every sip.

Specs

  • Barrel: Toasted and charred new oak barrels
  • Proof: 100
  • Tasting Notes: Cinnamon spice, vanilla, sweet toffee, Rye spice, caramel, and toasted oak
  • Age: 4 years
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Redemption Rye

Redemption Rye is another whiskey that goes all in on the rye, with a 95% rye content in their mash bill. The result is a whiskey that packs a spicy punch and evokes the excitement of pre-Prohibition whiskey. It’s the ideal choice for purists who only drink rye, as well as any cocktail-maker or bartender who wants a whiskey perfect for mixing up a Rye Manhattan.
Rye’s natural spice and maltiness shines through with every sip, but it’s beautifully balanced by a hint of fruity sweetness and notes of nutmeg and cinnamon that are the perfect pairing for the bitters in a Manhattan. And at 92 proof, it’s got a lovely kick sure to warm you up on even the coldest winter nights.

Specs

  • Barrel: Undisclosed
  • Proof: 92
  • Tasting Notes: Beautiful rye spice with light floral and citrus notes along with dark spices and black pepper
  • Age: Minimum of 2 ½ years
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Rossville Union

Rossville Union is a label launched by Midwest Grain Products of Indiana, the distiller behind famous whiskeys like Seagram’s, Bulleit, Templeton Rye, Sagamore Spirit, and many more. Thanks to its setup, it’s capable of producing whiskey on a mass scale while still preserving the quality of every bottle. That’s how MGP could turn out a rye whiskey that’s so affordable, drinkable, and on par with much pricier whiskeys.

This bottle blends two whiskeys—a 5- and 6-year old—and combines them into a 94-proof masterpiece of flavor and complexity. The spicy and smoky notes are contrasted by the sweetness of cherry and a finish that will sizzle across your taste buds. Drink it on the rocks to open up the deeper tastes, or mix it into a cocktail to enjoy every sip.

Specs

  • Barrel: Undisclosed
  • Proof: 94
  • Tasting Notes: Vanilla, cinnamon, allspice and a hint of red fruit
  • Age: 5 and 6 years (blended)
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Heaven's Door Straight Rye

Heaven’s Door is the brand co-founded and owned by the one and only Bob Dylan, and it’s famous for producing some truly amazing whiskeys. This particular rye whiskey is a truly unique work of art—it spends its last weeks finishing in toasted cigar barrels open-air dried in France. The result is a smooth, beautifully approachable rye unlike anything else around.

The seven-year-old whiskey has many complex layers of flavor and aroma, pairing herbaceous and fruity notes with just enough sweetness to balance out rye’s natural spices. It’s definitely a sipper (with the price tag to match), but you’ll enjoy it in cocktails, too.

Specs

  • Barrel: Charred American oak, finished in toasted French cigar barrels
  • Proof: 92
  • Tasting Notes: Honey coated marzipan, fresh cut grass, fennel, dill. Clove, cinnamon, black pepper and orange peel. Chamomile and cedar. Vanilla toffee, wet wood, chocolate cookies, a hint of mango and a dash of white pepper.
  • Age: Minimum of 7 years
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Laws Whiskey House

If you’ve never heard of this Colorado distillery, you’re missing out on one of America’s finest rye whiskeys. It’s made from 100% rye, which ensures it’s got all the spice and kick you’d expect from a good rye whiskey. But rather than using the standard grain most distillers prefer, it Laws Whiskey House uses only low-yield, semi-wild rye grain. The result is a “wild” and “untamed” flavor you won’t find in any other bottle.

The floral aromas come in strong, with a hint of citrus and baking spice to back them up. The flavors strike a delicate balance between rich, sweet, deep, and spicy, with enough pepperiness to wake up your taste buds. The price tag may be a bit higher than the average affordable whiskey, but it’s a rye you have to try at least once in your life, just as a splurge.

Specs

  • Barrel: Charred American oak barrels
  • Proof: 95
  • Tasting Notes: Black tea, sweet mint, salted toffee, orange peel and stewed fig. Finishing with a radiant green peppercorn spice
  • Age: Minimum of 3 years
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Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

This rye is proof that Canadians have figured out a thing or two about making some truly fine whiskey! Though few whiskeys from north of the border have earned much attention, this particular Alberta-made whiskey won both the honor of being named “World Whiskey of the Year” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and took home multiple awards at San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The fact that it’s made entirely from Canadian prairie rye gives it a flavor unique to Canadian whiskey, combining sweet vanilla and sticky toffee with woody oak, rich dried fruits, and a cracked pepper kick to finish off in style.

The price tag is a bit on the higher side, and sadly it’s often sold out. But when you can find it, you buy that bottle and keep it on a top shelf for a special occasion!

Specs

  • Barrel: Undisclosed
  • Proof: Up to 130 proof
  • Tasting Notes: Dried fruits, oak, sticky toffee, vanilla, and cracked black pepper
  • Age: Minimum of 3 years
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Do The Rye Thing Straight Rye Whiskey

Aside from its amazing pun of a name, this whiskey isn’t much to look at on the surface. The first to come out of New York in decades, a simple label, a brand not too well known. And yet, once you take your first sip of this 95% rye whiskey, you’ll find you just can’t stop. It’s bold where you want it to be, just spicy enough that it’s got a bit of kick, but has bright flavors (of honey, mint, and citrus) that keep it truly refreshing. It’s even Kosher-certified (the most New York thing about it)! For the price tag, it’s well worth the exploration of a new rye whiskey—and you won’t regret it.

Specs

  • Barrel: Undisclosed
  • Proof: 92
  • Tasting Notes: Notes of mint, black pepper, and a slight fruitiness
  • Age: Minimum of 3 years