As the rye whiskey category continues to grow, new takes on the style hit the shelves at breakneck speed. That’s a double-edged sword as some of those new whiskeys are… kinda shitty. A little research goes a long way — which is precisely where I come in.
For this blind tasting of new rye whiskeys, I grabbed eight brand new American ryes that landed on my desk over the past few weeks. The throughline for these bottles was “American rye” and “new.” That’s it. Once poured and blind tasted, I ranked them before my wife revealed what each bottle was.
Spoiler alert, this was a really hard ranking. All of these whiskeys were top-notch. Be warned, I had to split some serious hairs to rank these.
Our lineup today is:
- Catoctin Creek Ragnarök Rye Whisky Batch2022
- High West Rendezvous A Blend of Straight Rye Whiskeys Batch no. 22C17
- Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye Whiskey 2022 Batch
- Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Huber’s Old Rickhouse Rye Whiskey Finished in Tokaji Barrels Barrel no. 22-2040-1
- Stellum Rye Fibonacci Blend #1
- New Riff Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Barrel no. 16-2075
- Bradshaw Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
- Jefferson’s Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Cognac Casks Barrel no. 57
Let’s get into it!
Also Read: The Top Five Rye Whiskey from the Last Six Months on UPROXX
Part 1: The Tasting
This one opens with a hint of … butter candy? … on the nose with a bespoke cola spiciness, a hint of sour orchard fruit, and plenty of dark yet sweet wintry spice with a dry cedar edge. The palate opens with soft vanilla next to some cardamon and cinnamon with a sour quince vibe. The end is part warm and woody spices and part soft brown sugar with a buttery edge and some light dark and sharp cinnamon.
This was pretty nice.
The nose draws you in with layers of orange oils, old cumin, fresh leather, and a hint of old pear. The palate leans into the orange citrus vibe while apple cider that’s damn near fizzy leads to a hint of sweet black licorice ropes with a walnut/caramel/ginger cookie feel. The end is light but full of apricot and walnut clusters made with light molasses.
Again, this is really nice. It ends a little light but that’s okay.
Caramel with a dark feel to it mixes with a hint of green chili, cumin, and brown sugar with an edge of sour orange and old leather. The palate leans into soft and creamy vanilla with rye spiciness that feels more wintery than peppery next to sweet cherry syrup, vanilla candies, and old porch wicker. The end maintains the sweet spice with a good mix of vanilla, sour cherry, and brown sugar sweetness to counter the soft spices.
I liked this a lot. It feels both classic and fresh. It’s a good mix.
Old wicker canes and cardamon pods lead to nutmeg, golden sultanas, date skins and pits, and a whisper of fresh red chili on the nose. The palate lays down a lush vanilla foundation and builds layers of soft winter spices, quince jelly, allspice berries, and apricot skins with a whisper of dry cedar bark and waxy cacao nibs. The end lets the vanilla soften everything toward soft and lush raisins with a hint of nutshell and stonefruit in the background of the silken finish.
This is just great — a top-tier pour of whiskey, rye or not.
The nose on this is classic with old oak next to orange-laced honey with a dash of spicy chocolate and a hint of cold tomato soup creating this thin umami line at the back of everything. The palate has a nice ABV kick that leads to spiced apple fritters with pear skin and stem vibe before a hint of buttercream counterpoints forest moss and some Earl Grey. The end has a nice and classic cherry and vanilla vibe with a hint of chili heat and old tobacco in a cedar box.
This is really good. It’s not quite as good as the last pour (this was more “classic” than “wow”) but hits some high marks.
Freshly cracked hazelnuts dominate the nose and lead to worn boot leather, old and slightly molded porch wicker, old clove, dark chocolate sauce, and a hint of red peppercorns. The palate starts off with hazelnut shells before diving into a deep matrix of dried roses, vanilla husks, allspice berries, clove buds, and a chili-chocolate sauce with a flake of salt and dusting of singed peanuts. The end is lush thanks to the vanilla and just spicy enough thanks to the chili-chocolate and red peppercorns with plenty of soft hazelnut rounding things out.
This is freakin’ delicious and fresh. This is the sort of pour that had me asking, “where have you been all my life?”
The nose opens with soft leather and Dr. Pepper spices next to plenty of vanilla and a deep sense of burnt popcorn (that’s slightly rough). The palate is oaky put white peach and brown sugar cut through it with a sense of subtle winter spices and mild peppercorns. The end mixes soft vanilla with old oak as a butter toffee and spiced cherry tobacco finishes things off on the senses.
That nose was a little off for me (burnt popcorn isn’t ideal) but I think it would have benefitted with some water to allow the creaminess to come through more. That said, it was well-round and finished strong.
Soft old leather and meaty raisins with a good dose of sharp cinnamon cut with floral and fresh honey with a mild creaminess. The palate is plummy and full of lush vanilla with a plum pudding vibe next to a hint of orange studded with cloves while soft nutmeg smoothes everything out. The end brings the fresh honey back and laces it with rich and almost burnt orange oils next to a mix of old cedar bark and dry cinnamon wrapped in dry tobacco.
From my notes: “This is another winner.”
Part 2: The Ranking
8. High West Rendezvous A Blend of Straight Rye Whiskeys Batch no. 22C17 — Taste 2
Average Price: $69
High West Rendezvous Rye just got a make-over on the label. The juice in the bottle is still a blend of High West’s own 80 percent rye and 20 percent malted rye mixed with MGP’s classic 95 percent rye and five percent malted barley rye. Once blended, the whiskey is proofed down and bottled.
It blew my mind that this ended up last. This is only last in the sense that I blind tasted eight great whiskeys and I had to rank something eighth. This had the lightest end but was otherwise a really solid rye pour.
7. Bradshaw Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey — Taste 7
Average Price: $44
Terry Bradshaw’s brand new rye is a compliment to his new bourbon. The juice is made at the Green River Distilling Company (now part of Bardstown Bourbon Company) from an undisclosed mash bill. That whiskey ages for a mere two years before proofing and bottling.
This was, again, really nice. It’s a little on the young side but doesn’t feel overly fruity or crafty. It reads and tastes like a solid rye.
6. Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye Whiskey 2022 Batch — Taste 3
Average Price: $65
This release is a blend of whiskeys from Kentucky and Maryland/ The Kentucky rye is from Bardstown Bourbon Company (a 95 percent rye), which is contract distilling and aging whiskey for Pursuit United. The other rye (and the biggest component) is from Maryland’s famed and beloved Sagamore Spirits and is a 52 percent rye. Over four-year-old barrels from each warehouse were masterfully married to create this expression with a touch of water to bring the proof down a notch.
This year’s release felt like a step up from last year’s with more maturity in the juice but also a more dialed flavor profile. This is a great pour to track down.
5. Catoctin Creek Ragnarök Rye Whisky Batch2022 — Taste 1
Average Price: $99
This collaboration brings together Virginia’s Catoctin Creek with thrash metal legends, Gwar. The juice in the bottle is classic Catoctin Creek rye aged in new white oak and finished in sugar maple and cherrywood casks. The barrels are blended and proofed before bottling in specially labeled bottles with metal die-cast toppers representing each member of the band.
This was a solid pour of whiskey. It worked really well neat and provided a great flavor profile. Still, this is the top of the first four that all could have been tied for second place.
4. Jefferson’s Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Cognac Casks Barrel no. 57 — Taste 8
Average Price: $59
This release from Jefferson’s leans on masterfully selected barrel picks. The sourced juice is picked from single barrels of cognac-finished rye whiskey and bottled with a touch of proofing water.
This one felt both classic and fresh with a deep flavor profile that was accessible. It’s just easy drinking while still having some real depth. You cannot ask for more.
3. Stellum Rye Fibonacci Blend #1 — Taste 5
Average Price: $99
This new whiskey from Stellum (part of Barrell Craft Spirits) celebrates the Fibonacci sequence — that’s the sequence of numbers that are the sum of the previous two numbers. To mimic this, the blenders at Stellum selected six rye barrels and blended them with each barrel becoming the sum of the last two barrels. The results were bottled without any proofing or fussing.
Well, I guess you can ask for more as this delivers just … more. The nuances are sharper and the flavors are deeper. There’s a lot going on in the flavor profile but it all makes sense and builds toward a crescendo.
Make sure to add a little water after the first nosing and tasting to really let this one bloom in the glass.
2. Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Huber’s Old Rickhouse Rye Whiskey Finished in Tokaji Barrels Barrel no. 22-2040-1 — Taste 4
Average Price: $55
This Indiana rye from Huber Winery’s Starlight Distillery is an instant classic. The juice is made from Starlight’s 85 percent and 15 percent malted barley rye mash. It’s then aged for at least four years before moving into a Hungarian Tokaji barrel for a final rest. The whiskey is then picked one barrel at a time and just proofed before single-barrel bottling.
This is a “wow” whiskey. The flavor profile is extraordinary yet so familiar and welcoming. This would have been number one had the next pour not been such a fun surprise.
1. New Riff Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Barrel no. 16-2075 — Taste 6
Average Price: $55
This whiskey from New Riff is a unique take on the style. The juice in the bottle is 100 percent American rye made with 95 percent classic rye and five percent malted rye. That mash is fermented and distilled before resting for several years in new oak. Once a single barrel hits the perfect spot, it’s bottled as-is one barrel at a time.
This had a beauty to it that was wonderfully nuanced and unique. That hazelnut note was so distinct and delicious, especially with the subtle chocolate melding with the hazelnut and soft spiciness. This is a winner.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
I know I’ve said this above a few times now, but all of these bottles are worth giving a shot. That’s not a cop-out — just a fact. This is a great group of whiskeys.
If you need a recommendation, then New Riff or Starlight is the best bet. Both of those whiskeys are just phenomenal. The Starlight bottle is going to be harder to find outside of the Ohio River Valley area, which sort of makes New Riff the ultimate recommendation by default since it’s available pretty widely. Go get yourself some!