Up until last year, this iconic American spirit was fading into obscurity. We usually stocked just a few old, dusty bottles. Popular ones such a Jack Daniels were being poured with coke, but there has been a extraordinary resurgence of the rye whiskey category, and drinkers now prize its big, spicy, and impetuous flavors. Our suppliers are now struggling to keep up with demand.
Rye has a lot in common with that other American whiskey, bourbon, and the two spirits are usually produced in the same Kentucky distilleries using similar methods. Both are typically made from corn and rye, but the ratio of ingredients is very different. Rye whiskey is made from at least 51%—you guessed it—rye, while bourbon is made from at least 51% corn. The higher percentage of corn makes bourbon sweeter and smoother. (You can easily taste the difference if you make one Manhattan with bourbon and another with rye.) Both spirits are also aged in new, charred, American-oak barrels.
To make things a bit more complicated, Canadian whisky is sometimes also called rye. The distillers to our north use the same grains, but the finished product is usually a smooth blend instead of a straight whiskey.
Here’s a shot of spelling with your glass of rye. Whisky from Scotland, Canada and Japan is spelled without an “e.” Whiskey from Ireland and the United States is usually spelled with an “e.”
HOW TO DRINK RYE WHISKEY:
You can’t make a proper Old Fashioned, Sazerac or Manhattan without rye. The spirit also can be paired with club soda or ginger ale, or drunk straight, neat or on the rocks