What’s in a Number?
Bourbon, particularly wheated bourbon, gets better with age. That’s because the barrel flavors can impart on the milder, sweeter corn whiskey, allowing it to pick up notes of vanilla. Typically “good” bourbons are aged a minimum of 8 years, and some “really good” bourbons may age for as long as 20 years.
It’s interesting to note that rye does not have to be aged the same amount of time to develop its flavor. 100% rye can reach maturity within 2-3 years, which means that it’s a lot more accessible, and affordable, to drink good rye.
The less rye in the mashbill, the longer the aging process should be. And with a guide to drinking rye, you can easily find terrific ryes that cost less than $50 per bottle.
Because rye does not have the same barrier to entry as bourbon, many craft rye distilleries are popping up around the country.
As you begin your rye journey, check out some of the smaller producers winning big awards, such as Koval Rye which was recommended by Rolling Stone as one of 5 must-try artisanal American whiskies in late 2020.
How to Order (and drink!)
The first thing you need to think about before you order (or purchase) a rye whiskey is whether you’re going to be sipping your whiskey, or if you’d prefer to have a cocktail. Both are perfectly acceptable options, and this guide to drinking rye will guide you through both.
So many traditional whiskey cocktails, like Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, originally used rye, not bourbon. If you want to experience these cocktails as they were first intended, order them with rye. Sazeracs and Waldorf cocktails also make for excellent choices at a bar. If you prefer a mixed drink, try rye and ginger or rye with a splash of soda water.
On the other hand, drinking rye neat (sometimes called “straight”) or on the rocks will allow you to really get to know the flavors that rye has to offer.
Any guide to drinking rye would be remiss to not mention that most bartenders will recommend drinking out of a lowball glass at room temperature.
Just like bourbon, adding a few drops of water to your rye is scientifically proven to heighten the taste and aromas of the whiskey.
While drinking whiskey on the rocks was once frowned upon, it is completely appropriate to order a rye on ice. The rye offers up different flavors cold, and will dilute it slightly.