Jacob Osborn

13 Best Rye Whiskey Brands | Man of Many

Our list of best rye whiskey brands goes like this.

Best Rye Whiskey at a Glance

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.

1. Rittenhouse

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.

2. Pikesville

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.

3. Willett Family Estate

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.

4. Sazerac

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.

5. Van Winkle

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.
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.

7. Russell’s Reserve

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.

8. George Dickel

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.

9. Angel’s Envy

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.

10. High West

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.

11. Booker’s

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.

12. Old Overholt

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.

13. WhistlePig

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.

What is Rye Whiskey?

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.

How Man of Many Chose This List of Rye Whiskey Brands

Whisky Types

Alternatives to Rye Whisky Brands

Join our exclusive community