The Best New Top-Shelf Rye Releases

Shelling out a premium for rye isn’t necessarily something to lament, so long as you’re opting for one of uncompromising quality.

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Rye is commonly regarded as that other American whiskey. But the savory style of barrel-aged spirit can actually trace its origins back to the 1750s, several decades before the invention of bourbon. And our long-lasting love affair with the category is as robust as ever before. To wit, volume sales of the drink have more than doubled here in the U.S. since 2015, and a number of new labels have sprung up during that time to satisfy the growing demand. 

We’re excited to share some of the best examples of such below. First, though, a little refresher on what exactly we’re talking about when we speak about rye. In order for any liquid to qualify as an American Rye, it has to be distilled from 51 percent or more of its namesake grain. That distillate must then be aged in new, charred oak. And if it’s to be listed as “Straight Rye,” it must age for no less than two years in those barrels. The rules are essentially the same as they are in bourbon, except with bourbon, corn is the star of the show as the primary ingredient for distillation. 

Though both styles exude strong elements of oak and wood sugars, on account of that virgin cooperage, the underlying grains at their base take rye and bourbon in different directions. The former is dryer, more herbal and earthier—not unlike, say, rye bread. The latter is sweeter—not unlike, say, cornbread. 

Because of its hearty tonalities, bartenders tend to love working with rye in whiskey cocktails; it stands tall, even amidst a bevy of modifiers. For most of the last century, it was also a cheaper whiskey alternative for mixers. Top-shelf bottlings were non-existent. It seems far-fetched to think about now, given the breadth of pricey expressions currently crowding the landscape, but premiumization within the category is a relatively recent phenomenon. 

Nevertheless, shelling out a premium for rye isn’t necessarily something to lament, so long as you’re opting for one of uncompromising quality. Here are a handful of ones that qualify—all of which have hit shelves in recent months. And all of which just might make you wonder whether bourbon is actually that other whiskey. 

Brother’s Bond American Blended Rye Whiskey

Former Vampire Diaries co-stars Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley launched their successful whiskey brand with a bourbon back in 2021. They didn’t introduce a rye until 2023, but they certainly came prepared when they did. The high rye mash bill of this 95-proof gem results in a bright sort of spice; a complex combination of caraway, cinnamon and sage. There’s also a speckle of brown sugar and warming caramel notes to round out each full-bodied sip. 

$48, shop now

Brother’s Bond American Blended Rye Whiskey. Brother's Bond

A. Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

The latest label from this historically celebrated purveyor of American rye portals our palates all the way back to the early 1800s. Back then, farmers from Pennsylvania’s Monongahela Valley helped pioneer a particular sub-style of the spirit using local rye and a sizable chunk of malted barley. This particular combination of grain is responsible for a juice that’s at once spicy and soft. After four years in the barrel, the copper-hued elixir exudes clove in the nose and a curious currant-fueled finish. Bottled at an exacting 47.5 percent ABV, it goes down light and easy.

$50, shop now

A. Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey. A. Overholt

Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye

This beloved craft brand played no small role in solidifying the existence of top shelf rye through the 21st century. Today, the Kentucky distillery offers a handful of examples. The latest addition to its arsenal is this high-proof expression, sourced from a single barrel. As such, the exact ABV will vary based upon which barrel was used for your specific bottle, but it’ll likely be something hovering around 55 percent. And it will invariably carry with it a commanding presence of oak and earthy herbal filaments. There’s also a satisfying conclusion, resolving in equal parts nutmeg and cocoa powder. 

$80, shop now

Michter’s. Michter’s

Hatozaki Rye Whisky Mizunara Cask Finish

The least traditional offering on our list is an American rye that was distilled on U.S. soil (at an undisclosed location) and then toted off to the Kaikyō Distillery in Akashi, Japan for a secondary aging in precious mizunara oak. This elaborate maturation journey is matched by a dynamic procession on the palate. At first, the 84-proof sipper dances with black pepper and berry fruit. Then comes subtle salinity and a whisper of smoke before a wave of sandalwood and tannins takes over the finish. West meets East in a soulful integration of seemingly disparate styles. 

$110 Shop now

Hatozaki Rye Whisky Mizunara Cask Finish. Hatozaki

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Triumph 10-Year-Old Rye

Wild Turkey consistently produces some of the finest American whiskies fit for everyday enjoyment. But to prove it does luxury liquid pretty darn well, too, the brand launched Master’s Keep in 2015. Since then, we’ve gotten one release a year, usually up there in age statement, and invariably amplified in terms of complexity. The latest entry in the series continues the trend. It’s a vibrant, 10-year-old rye that noses with mint and mocha and surrenders a serving of dark fruit in an elongated finish. The small-batch limited release is elegantly bottled—glass embossed by its namesake bird—at 104-proof. 

$275, shop now

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Triumph 10-Year-Old Rye. Wild Turkey

WhistlePig The Boss Hog X: Ten Commandments

No brand has done more to elevate the stature of rye in the modern era than this Vermont-based farm distillery. And through its annual Boss Hog release, no brand is doing more to push the envelope for flavor innovation within the category. The series started in earnest a decade ago with a barrel strength, single barrel offering that now fetches $17,000 on the secondary market. The most recent arrival, debuting last December, was a biblically-inspired tipple, exhibiting notes of milk and honey as well as frankincense and myrrh. To achieve it, the talented team of blenders seasoned a cask with a unique whey distillate which was spiked with aromatic resins. A well-aged rye was finished in that barrel, before heading into a second aging vessel, soaked with mead. The 116.4-proof juice that poured out the oak is an incense-forward joyride unlike any rye you’ve ever tasted before.

$780, Shop now

WhistlePig The Boss Hog X: Ten Commandments. WhistlePig

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