Rye Whiskey is enjoying something of a renaissance of late, with sales rocketing in recent years thanks to a growing interest in strong, unique flavors, and small, independent distilleries. Rye Whiskey is a drink which is all about powerful, bold flavors, with plenty of spice and bitterness when drunk young. Aged, however, it takes on a deep set of subtle notes which are beautifully mellow and complex, and becomes a fascinating example of what whiskey can be when made with expert hands.
In order for an American Whiskey to be labeled a Rye Whiskey, it must have a mash content which is no less than fifty one percent rye. This separates it from Bourbon, and it is this which gives it its distinctive flavor and spiciness. Toffee, cinnamon, caraway, cloves and oak are typical tasting notes, and ‘straight rye’ whiskies - which are aged in charred oak barrels - take on plenty of the smokiness of the wood, adding a further, fascinating facet.
Rye Whiskey has its spiritual home in the northeastern states of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and cities like Pittsburgh produced vast quantities of Rye Whiskey in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most the old distilleries were closed during the prohibition era, after which time rye whiskey more or less disappeared completely, but the twenty-first century is seeing old recipes being resurrected and released to rave reviews.