There’s always a new whiskey hitting the shelf these days. That’s especially true as we head into the fall and brands start dropping expression after expression to corner the holiday shopping and partying markets lingering right out on the horizon. This applies to rye whiskeys as much as bourbons, scotches, Irish whiskeys, and so forth.
This means it’s time for a new rye whiskey blind taste test. To sort out the new picks hitting shelves around the country.
For this blind taste test, I pulled eight new bottles from my shelf and lined them up. The thrust of this tasting was to see which one tasted the best overall. I was looking for overall balance, depth, and, well, satisfaction. I then ranked those tasty whiskeys based on which tasted best and which ones I think you should track down.
Our lineup today is:
- High West Double Rye A Blend of Straight Whiskeys Batch No. 22B16
- Frey Ranch Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-In-Bond
- Redwood Empire Rocket Top Bottled In Bond Batch #002
- Ragtime Rye New York Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled In Bond
- Penelope Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Tokaji Wine Casks Batch #57
- Lock Stock & Barrel 21
- New Riff 100% Malted Rye Bottled In Bond Aged 6 Years
- Middle West Spirits Straight Rye Whiskey Dark Pumpernickel Cask Strength Barrel No. 0968
Let’s dive in and find you a nice rye whiskey for fall sipping!
Also Read: The Top Five Rye Whiskey from the Last Six Months on UPROXX
Part 1: The Tasting
There’s a light fruitiness to the nose that’s just touched with mint chocolate chip, root beer, plenty of winter spice, and a hint of orris root. The palate holds onto the fruitiness as a soft spice mixes with menthol tobacco leaves, green tea, woody vanilla, nasturtiums, and a nice honeyed underbelly. The end settles into a sharp black pepper with a hint of eucalyptus and dried orange rind.
This is a nice place to start. I’m not a huge fan of the floral and botanical ryes, but that doesn’t take away from how well-made this is.
This opens with a nice dose of old leather and black pepper next to a hint of dry citrus rind — orange and grapefruit — with minor notes of honey and rum-raisin. The palate adds in a spicy and tart apple crumble with a line of dried rose and floral honey that gives way to rye bread crusts and cinnamon/clove spice. The end kicks the spice up with fresh ginger sharpness, dark cacao, more black pepper, and a soft and chewy tobacco vibe.
This was perfectly fine.
A sense of fresh sage mingles with meaty dates, black tea, slightly bitter bergamot orange, and a hint of squash. The palate is nicely fruity with a dark edge — think figs, prunes, dried cranberry — next to smooth salted caramel, woody winter spices, and a hint of red peppercorns. That sharp pepper adds a nice warmth to the finish as the caramel and dried fruit attaches to a hint of old cedar and tobacco.
This had a very nice complexity. It’s certainly my favorite so far.
The starts off dry and woody with a feel of porch wicker, humidors, and maybe even a little fruit orchard bark next to dark and dried fruits, a hint of vanilla, and a dash of winter spices. The palate is earthy and dry with a sense of black potting soil next to more of that orchard bark, a touch of leather, and a whisper of mint chocolate chip. The end remains dry, earthy, and just touched with black pepper and vanilla.
This was really dry and woody. It was nice but I’m not sure where I fall on it yet.
There’s a sense of mild citrus oils on the nose next to tart green apples, rose water, plenty of sharp cinnamon, and a touch of soft brown sugar. The palate leans into oatbread and prune jam with a hint of blackberry and fig lurking there somewhere. Those fruits drive the end with a sweet tartness that’s countered by mild winter spices, orange rinds, a touch of anise, and soft vanilla toffee.
I dig this. It’s a little fruity/sweet but very sippable.
The nose balances old cellar oak against a spicy sticky toffee pudding, candied cherry, burnt orange rinds, and marzipan. The palate has a hint of tannic bitterness — this is old — next to vanilla sheet cake topped with orange zest frosting. There’s a sense of butterscotch and Almond Joy on the mid-palate that leads to a finish full of silky molasses, woody winter spices, and tobacco leaf layered with brandy butter and burnt orange and wrapped up in old leather and cedar bark.
This is a hell of a whiskey. It’s also pretty well aged with that old oak and tannic edge.
There’s a hint of figs and dates on the nose that lead to a spiced Christmas cake covered in powdered sugar frosting with plenty of candied citruses, dried dark fruits, and roasted nuts next to vanilla pudding and dried pear skins. The taste has a hint of orange saltwater taffy on the front that leads to a mix of clove, allspice, and sassafras as dark fruit leather and white peppercorns pop. The end is lush and mellow with a hint of that pepper next to dark dried fruit layered into a tobacco leaf alongside cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and dark orange oils.
This might just be the winner. It’s deliciously complex.
There’s a sense of slight sourdough rye funk on the nose with a hint of pumpkin seed, caraway, sweet cinnamon, vanilla husks, and a whisper of candied ginger. The palate leans into that sour funk and caraway as oloong tea, piney honey, and spicy, raisin-filled oatmeal cookies vibe. The mid-palate kicks in hard with the heat as sharp cinnamon and chili dominate until a soft sense of vanilla, toffee, and dark fruit leather try to calm things down on the finish.
This was hot. It needs some water or ice to calm it down. That said, there was enough complexity at play to make it enticing.
Part 2: The Ranking
8. Ragtime Rye New York Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled In Bond — Taste 4
Average Price: $43
This rye from NY Distilling has a very local feel. The juice is made from 75 percent rye, 13 percent corn, and 12 percent malted barley. That whiskey is then aged for four years in New York. Finally, select barrels are blended, proofed down slightly, and bottled.
This was fine. It’s clearly made to use for good cocktails.
7. Frey Ranch Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-In-Bond — Taste 2
Average Price: $60
This whiskey from Nevada is a single estate spirit. That means it’s made with 100 percent rye in the mash bill and that rye (Winter Rye specifically) came from the Frey Ranch farmland. The spirit was then aged a few years before only a few thousand bottles were filled.
This was better than fine but still felt like a solid cocktail whiskey more than a sipper.
6. Middle West Spirits Straight Rye Whiskey Dark Pumpernickel Cask Strength Barrel No. 0968 — Taste 8
Average Price: $47
This Ohio whiskey is made with dark pumpernickel rye, Ohio soft red winter wheat, yellow corn, and 2-Row barley malts. The juice is then aged for three years in new white oak before it’s bottled as-is at cask strength.
This was a lot. That heat was real. That all said, this had a really unique and enticing flavor profile. Just make sure you add some water or a rock or two to the glass before you dive in.
5. High West Double Rye A Blend of Straight Whiskeys Batch No. 22B16 — Taste 1
Average Price: $35
High West’s Double Rye is quickly becoming a modern classic. The Utah whiskey is made from a blend of 95 percent rye from MGP of Indiana and two-year rye from High West’s Utah distillery with a mash of 80 percent rye and 20 percent malted rye. All the whiskeys in the mix are at least two years old before they’re blended and proofed for bottling.
This was the whiskey that bridged the gap between a solid cocktail base and a solid sipper. I can see mixing with this as much as just pouring it over some rocks and enjoying it as is.
4. Penelope Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Tokaji Wine Casks Batch #57 — Taste 5
Average Price: $85
This whiskey from Penelope really leans into the specialty cask finish. The base is a six-year-old MGP 95 percent rye. Those barrels are shipped out to Penelope and they re-barrel that juice into Hungarian Tokaji barrels for a final rest. Once the whiskey hits the right spot, the barrels are blended and bottled with a touch of proofing water.
This was a nice, but a little bit thin, sipper. Overall, it was complex and inviting. It was just missing something I can’t quite put my finger on.
I’m nitpicking for this ranking, of course. Because this really was a very nice sip of whiskey overall.
3. Redwood Empire Rocket Top Bottled In Bond Batch #002 — Taste 3
Average Price: $90
This California whiskey was made back in the spring of 2017 with a mash of 87 percent rye, five percent malted barley, five percent wheat, and a mere three percent corn. Five years later, the juice was small batched from 55 barrels and bottled with a hint of water to bring it down to bottled-in-bond proof.
This was a clear winner today. It’s subtle yet deeply built. Overall, I can see this as a solid on-the-rocks sipper or your next go-to for fall Manhattans.
2. Lock Stock & Barrel 21 — Taste 6
Average Price: $490
This rye is made from that magical Canadian 100 percent rye mash bill. The juice went into the barrel back in May of 1999 and was left alone in the cold north for over two decades before Lock Stock & Barrel blended and bottled this without any fussing.
This is just a great whisky. It’s so dark and engaging while still feeling accessible and tasty. I’d say pour it over a single rock and really take your time.
1. New Riff 100% Malted Rye Bottled In Bond Aged 6 Years — Taste 7
Average Price: $190
This whiskey from New Riff is a whiskey lover’s dream pour. The mash is made from 100 percent malted rye (most rye that is used for whiskey is unmalted). That means more sugars are available in the grain as it goes through germination and then heating to stop that process, which helps create a lot of sugars. Anyway, the juice then rests for six years in new oak before the barrels are blended, proofed down, and bottled as-is.
This is a truly great whiskey. It’s extremely well balanced while carrying a deep flavor profile that hints at bourbon sometimes. Overall, this is the perfect Manhattan rye or end-of-the-day slow-sipping pour.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
This was a fun tasting. All eight of these whiskeys are winners in their own way. Even the eighth-ranked Ragtime Rye has a place on your bar cart as a simple cocktail mixer for cocktails where the whiskey isn’t the star of the show — think smashes, sours, nogs.
The rest are all solid in their own ways. I’d say the top four are the ones you want to hunt down. Each one has a little different flavor profile, so go back and see which set of tasting notes speaks to you.
If you don’t want to think about it, then just get the New Riff. It’s a guaranteed win for your bar cart.