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Best rye whiskey

13 Best Rye Whiskey Brands


Rye whiskey is best known as bourbon‘s spicy cousin, however, we believe it makes for a delicious sipper or cocktail ingredient in its own right. Accordingly, no connoisseur’s collection is complete if it doesn’t contain at least a few of the best rye whiskeys. From American to Australian rye, our list of the best rye whiskeys takes all varieties, price points, and flavour palates into account. Our trusty guide below further explores this versatile spirit in all its lip-smacking glory. In addition to listing out all the top examples, we’ll also explain what rye whiskey is in the first place. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Best Rye Whiskey at a Glance

Our list of best rye whiskey brands goes like this.

RELATED: Check out our Rye whisky guide to learn the history, the origins, it revival and more.

Now we’ve rounded up our favourites, let’s check out the full list.

Related: While you’re here, why don’t you check out our complete and comprehensive guide to whisky?

Best rye whiskey rittenhouse
Rittenhouse Bottled In Bond | Image: Rittenhouse

1. Rittenhouse

Saved from the brink of extinction by Heaven Hill Distillery in the late 1990s, Rittenhouse Rye has origins going as far back as the repeal of Prohibition, when it was one of the first new labels to storm out of the gate. Still bottled in bond, and aged for four years, the acclaimed spirit balances lush notes of dark cherry and vanilla with subtle waves of spice to absolute perfection. Just as astounding is the unbeatable price point, making this top rye whiskey a winner on every conceivable front.

Price range: from $90 AUD

Region: Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, Kentucky
Founded in: 1934
Favourite expression: Rittenhouse Bottled In Bond
Awards: Top American whiskey at the 2006 San Fransisco World Spirits Competition, Gold Medal at San Fransisco World Spirits Competition 2014.

Buy it here (Rittenhouse) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (First Choice)

Best rye whiskey pikesville
Pikesville 6-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey | Image: Pikesville

2. Pikesville

Heaven Hill Distillery keeps the hits coming with Pikesville 6-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey, a label with over 120 years of history behind it. Since 1982, this popular spirit has been distilled on-site in Kentucky, and in 2015 it received a qualitative upgrade by way of longer aging and higher proof. Nowadays, this top rye whiskey is stronger, tastier, and more acclaimed than ever before, though still quite affordable.

Price range: from $150 AUD

Region: Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, Kentucky
Founded in: 1895
Favourite expression: Pikesville 6-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey
Awards: Gold Medal at San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020, Gold Medal at San Francisco World Spirit Awards 2017.

Buy it here (Pikesville) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Master of Malt)

Best rye whiskey willet
Willett Family Estate Rare Release 4-Year Rye | Image: Willet

3. Willett Family Estate

Another label with tons of history (as in over 120 years) behind it, Willett resumed production of its own distillate in 2012. The result is this relatively young, small-batch whiskey, which delivers robust flavour and a bold edge. Put simply, Willett Rye is a quintessential go-to expression among seasoned drinkers, and well worth your time. A must-have in our rye whiskey recommendations.

Price range: from $140 AUD

Region: Kentucky
Founded in: 1936
Favourite expression: Willett Family Estate Rare Release 4-Year Rye

Buy it here (Willett Family Estate) Buy it here (Nicks) Buy it here (Copper and Oak)

Best rye whiskey sazerac
Sazerac Rye 18 Year | Image: Sazerac

4. Sazerac

Named after the bartender who first substituted rye whiskey for brandy when making a Sazerac, this remarkable spirit is easily among the best rye whiskeys you’ll ever try, presuming you can actually score a bottle. Indeed, as part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey only comes out once a year, and usually gets snatched up immediately. Uncut, unfiltered, and bottled straight from the barrel, the award-winning spirit rides in on a warm wave of toffee, cinnamon, clove, mint, and candied fruit, and leaves a trail of spice and nutmeg in its wake.

Another rare beast from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old takes its name from the famous New Orleans establishment where “America’s first cocktail” (aka the Sazerac) was invented. Aged for 18 long years, this top rye whiskey bathes the taste buds in a warm bath of oak, leather, spice, cinnamon, pepper and vanilla. In other words: welcome to flavour country.

Price range: from $100 AUD

Region: New Orleans
Founded in: 1850
Favourite expression: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac, Sazerac Rye 18 Year

Buy it here (Sazerac) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Vintage Cellars)

Best rye whiskey pappy van winkle
Van Winkle 13-Year-Old Family Reserve Rye | Image: Van Winkle

5. Van Winkle

While we’re on the subject of impossible-to-find spirits, we might as well roll out the rarest one of them all: Van Winkle 13-Year-Old Family Reserve Rye. More than just hard to find, this is also one of the best rye whiskeys you can ever taste. From the deep copper colour to the smooth-but-substantial texture to the exquisite taste, Van Winkle Rye is like something out of a whiskey lover’s wildest fantasies. Good luck scoring a bottle. It’s popular, but also quite rare.

Price range: from $3000 AUD

Region: Kentucky
Founded in: Van Winkle’s first distillery opened on the day of the Kentucky Derby in 1935.
Favourite expression: Van Winkle 13-Year-Old Family Reserve Rye

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Kent Street Cellars)

Best rye whiskey michters
Michter’s US 1 Barrel Strength Rye | Image: Michter’s

6. Michter’s

Michter’s might hail from Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer up one heck of a Kentucky rye. To that end, Michter’s US 1 Barrel Strength Rye is a full-bodied stunner, which delivers creamy notes of spicy fruit, along with a slightly oaky finish. This statement is costlier than the average fare, but it’s also one of the best rye whiskeys in the world.

Price range: from $120 AUD

Region: Kentucky
Founded in: 1753 (America’s first whiskey company, according to Michter’s)
Favourite expression: Michter’s US 1 Barrel Strength Rye

Buy it here (Michter’s) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Nicks)

Best rye whiskey russells reserve
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey | Image: Russell’s Reserve

7. Russell’s Reserve

Aged in charred no. 4 barrels, and then hand-selected by Wild Turkey Master Distiller Eddie Russell (with help from his dad, Jimmy), this 6-year-old statement might very well represent the epitome of rye whiskey itself, despite a mash bill of just 51% rye. Specifically, the celebrated spirit serves up ample notes of spice and often gets compared to rye bread. Balancing out those grainy flavours are smooth notes of molasses and oak. This won’t necessarily be the best rye whiskey you ever try (though it certainly could be), but it will easily rank among the most consistent, dependable, and affordable.

Price range: from $100 AUD

Region: Kentucky
Founded in: Wild Turkey’s roots trace to 1855
Favourite expression: Russell’s Reserve 6-year-old

Buy it here (Russell’s Reserve) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (First Choice)

Best rye whiskey george dickel
George Dickel Sour Mash 12-Year-Old | Image: George Dickel

8. George Dickel

If you’re looking for good rye whiskey at an unbeatable price, you’ve found it right here. As a result of a mash bill that’s 95% rye and 5% malted barley, George Dickel Rye is heavy on notes of spicy grain and toasted cereal, while hints of pepper and vanilla weave in and out of the body. We often mix this one with a splash of ginger ale to make a great thing that much greater.

Price range: from $75 AUD

Region: Tennessee
Founded in: The modern brand was introduced in 1964, though the distillery has a longer history.
Favourite expression: George Dickel Rye

Buy it here (George Dickel) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Nicks)

Best rye whiskey angels envy
Angel’s Envy Finished Rye | Image: Angel’s Envy

9. Angel’s Envy

One of our favourites from Angel’s Envy is their classic Finished Rye. Here’s a spirit so distinctive that it’s practically controversial among purists. In order to distinguish their rye from the herd, Angel’s Envy finishes it for 18 months in vintage rum casks. Consequently, the expression retains a completely unique and fruity profile, which comes off as downright avant-garde when compared to the standard, spicy fare. Should you ignore the naysayers, you’ll discover a complex, luscious sipper that goes down best during dessert.

Price range: from $300 AUD

Region: Kentucky
Founded in: July 9th in 2013,
Favourite expression: Angel’s Envy Finished Rye

Buy it here (Angel’s Envy) Buy it here (Kent Street Cellars) Buy it here (Mr West)

Best rye whiskey high west
High West Double Rye | Image: High West

10. High West

Speaking of experimental spirits, Utah-based High West isn’t afraid to try pretty much everything under the sun when it comes to blending. None is more obvious than in our favourite, the brand’s Double Rye, which combines 2-year-old rye whiskey (from an MGP distillate) and 16-year-old rye whiskey (from Barton Distillery) to a unique effect. The result is a complex spirit that’s truly firing on all cylinders, with balanced layers of sugar, spice, botanicals, citrus peel and cinnamon circulating throughout every sip. Sealing the deal is a surprisingly low price point.

Just as reputable as High West Double Rye is one of the label’s flagship statements, Rendezvous Rye. This time around, High West blends 6-year-old rye whiskey with 16-year-old rye whiskey to resounding perfection. Sip the spirit neat or use it as the base ingredient in one of the finest Manhattans that will ever cross your lips. An excellent aged combination that tastes incredible every time.

Price range: from $100 AUD

Region: Kentucky
Founded in: 2006 by David Perkins and his wife, Jane.
Favourite expression: High West Double Rye, High West Rendezvous Rye.

Buy it here (High West) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Nicks)

Best rye whiskey bookers rye
Booker’s 13-Year-Old Rye Whiskey | Image: Booker’s

11. Booker’s

Should you be hunting for some of the rarest and most highly sought-after rye whiskey, then by all means grab yourself a bottle of Booker’s Rye, and prepare for an intense ride. Produced in extremely limited supply, the acclaimed spirit conquers the palate with bold blasts of spicy rye and rich waves of creamy sweetness. Decadent is the operative word here, folks.

Price range: from $2000 AUD

Region: Kentucky
Founded in: 1987, this was the first time the term “small batch” had been used to describe uncut unfiltered bourbon.
Favourite expression: Booker’s 13-Year-Old Rye Whiskey

Buy it here (Booker’s) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Nicks)

Best rye whiskey old overholt
Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey | Image: Old Overholt

12. Old Overholt

Good rye whiskey can’t get much more affordable than Old Overholt, a mainstay in bars around the world. With roots going back as far as 1810 (which reportedly makes it America’s oldest continually operating whiskey label), this heritage statement offers a taste of timeless tradition, at a price that’s too good to refuse. Consider it your new go-to ingredient in classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned. The best rye whiskey for an Old Fashioned? This is a top candidate.

Price range: from $90 AUD

Region: Pennsylvania
Founded in: 1810 by Abraham Overholt
Favourite expression: Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

Buy it here (Nicks) Buy it here (Hairy Dog)

Best rye whiskey whistle pig
WhistlePig 10-Year-Old | Image: Whistle Pig

13. WhistlePig

Like a number of contemporary labels (including a few on our list), WhistlePig once came under fire for sourcing its distillate elsewhere and then acting as though it produced everything in-house. To that, we say “who cares when the result tastes as good as this 10-year-old straight rye?” Indeed, the brand’s acclaimed rye whiskey might initially hail from Canada instead of Vermont, but that doesn’t matter when it’s sliding down your throat, imparting all sorts of wonderful flavour along the way. This one will cost you, but it’s worth it.

Price range: from $120 AUD

Region: Vermont
Founded in: Brand launched in 2010, 10-year rye was released in 2015.
Favourite expression: WhistlePig 10 Year

Buy it here (Whistle Pig) Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Nicks)

Jimmy russell wild turkey master distiller
Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey Master Distiller | Image: Wild Turkey

What is Rye Whiskey?

You might not realise it when you’re throwing back shots with your mates, but most spirits must abide by some strict parameters if they’re going to fall under a specific banner. All bourbon, for instance, must come from a mash bill (i.e. the mixture of base grains) that’s at least 51% corn. Furthermore, all bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. The best small-batch varieties and more.

Along similar lines, rye whiskey must possess a mash bill that’s at least 51% rye. Rye, by the way, is a sturdy grain that shares a number of properties with barley and can survive harsh changes in climate. While a few applicable whiskeys crank the rye dial all the way up to 100%, most incorporate additional grains like barley and corn, thereby diversifying the flavour profile. Like bourbon whiskey, all rye whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels.

How Man of Many Chose This List of Rye Whiskey Brands

Every entry in Man of Many’s list of the best rye whiskey brands will go down smoothly and deliver a distinctive tier of character. In our years of “testing” the best whiskies on the planet, we’ve narrowed down a succinct list of our favourites, removing all those that yield significant burn and leave a foul taste behind. Ultimately, it’s usually a matter of preference. For instance, some drinkers prefer overly spicy rye, while others like rye that balances notes of spice and sweetness. We recommend checking out our round-up below and starting with a classic Rittenhouse before moving onto something like a Sazerac 18, however, it’s all about enjoying the ride and a few whiskies along the way.

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General FAQ

What is the best rye whisky?

Some of the best rye whiskeys are Rittenhouse Rye, Van Winkle 13-Year-Old Family Reserve Rye, Russell's Reserve 6 Year, and High West Double Rye.

What is special about rye whiskey?

Rye whiskey must possess a mash bill of at least 51% rye, which is a sturdy grain that can survive harsh climates. Rye Whisky must be aged in new, charred oak barrels.