About six years ago, John Pogue told me that MGP selling barrels of rye to rectifiers was the best and worst thing that has happened to rye whiskey in decades – the best thing because there was an explosive growth of rye whiskey brands and the worst because everyone expects rye to taste like MGP rye. It was very true then and somewhat true today, but things are changing. There are many more artisan distillers making rye whiskey now. There are more choices of flavor profiles and people are beginning to experience the variety of ryes and to appreciate the difference. I picked out 16 rye whiskeys that I own that are very good and not sourced from Indiana. They are listed in alphabetical order, not by preference, and are all very good rye whiskeys.
- Dad’s Hat Bottled-in-Bond Rye: Dad’s Hat Rye is distilled and bottled by Mountain Laurel Spirits in Bristol, Pa. It has a buttery rye bread note that I really like and a little citrus fruit on the finish. It is bottled-in-bond at 100 proof and 4 years old.
- George Washington Rye: George Washington Rye is made at Mount Vernon Distillery, part of the historical estate. It is made using 18th century technology with wood fired copper stills and grain ground at the water mill next to the distillery. There is a very nice caramel and cooked peaches flavor to this whiskey that I find very brandy-like. The expression I have is 4 years and 2 months old and 86 proof.
- Journeyman Ravenswood Rye: This rye is made at the Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, MI. It is certified organic by MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association). It has an herbal note of anise and mint with some fruit notes on the finish. It has no age statement and is bottled at 90 proof.
- Liberty Pole Rye: Liberty Pole rye is distilled and bottled by Mingo Creek Distillers, LLC in Washington, Pa. It is made with rye, wheat and malted barley. It has a very fruity note of ripe apples and pears, but also some sweet pecan and vanilla notes. My bottle is 18 months old and bottled at 92 proof.
- Limestone Branch 100% Rye Malt: This rye is made at the Limestone Branch Distilling Co. in Lebanon, Ky. It is made with 100% malted rye grain – a recipe that Steve Beam found in the family papers. Beam used a barrel entry of 101.2 proof. There is a very cereal characteristic to the flavor with rye grass, vanilla and ginger spice. It is 27 months old and 94 proof.
- McKenzie Rye: This rye whiskey is made at Finger Lakes Distilling LLC. In Burdett, NY. They use a locally sourced heirloom rye grain grown near the distillery. There are notes of orange blossom honey and cardamom. The rye is 3 years old and 91 proof.
- Michter’s Rye: Michter’s Rye is made by the Michter’s Distillery LLC. In Louisville, Ky. It is a barely legal rye of only about 51% rye with corn and barley malt and a barrel entry of 103 proof. There are lots of caramel and citrus notes with a dry oak finish slightly sweetened by lingering caramel. There is no age statement and it is bottled at 84.8 proof.
- New Riff Bottled-in-Bond Rye: This rye whiskey is made at New Riff Distilling, Newport, Ky. They are heavily influenced by the MGP Distillery rye since it is made across the river and a few miles west of the New Riff Distillery. There is a creamy mouth feel to this rye that you don’t get in Indiana MGP rye, but has a very similar taste profile.
- Old Forester Rye: This rye is made at the Brown-Forman Distillery in Louisville, Ky. It is made with 72% rye, 18% corn and 10% malted barley. It has a lot of fruit notes of banana, apples and cherry with a hint of baking spice. It does not have an age statement and is bottled at 100 proof.
- Old Maysville Club 100% Rye Malt: This rye is made at the Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville, Ky. It is made off 100% malted rye based on the old family recipe. There are rich caramel notes with some ripe pear and lots of malt sweetness. It has no age statement and is bottled at 100 proof.
- Old Overholt Bottled-in-Bond Rye: This rye is made at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Ky. doing business as A. Overholt & Co. There are notes of apples and baking spices with a hint of sweet oak. It is aged 4 years and bottled at 100 proof.
- Peerless Rye: This rye is made at the Peerless Distillery in Louisville, Ky. It is made with the sweet mash process and has a barrel entry proof of 107. There are notes of ripe apple, cinnamon, caramel and sweet oak. It is 4 years old and bottled at cask strength of 108.8.
- Pikesville Rye: This whiskey is made at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Louisville, Ky. There are notes of fine leather, a little fruit and baking spices. It is 6 years old and bottled at 110 proof.
- Russell’s Reserve Rye: This rye is made at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky. It has rich caramel, tobacco notes with some cinnamon spice and oak. It is aged 6 years and bottled at 90 proof.
- Tom’s Foolery Rye: This rye is made at the Tom’s Foolery Distillery in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. It has notes of honey and apples with a little baking spice and oak. My bottle was aged 2.5 years and bottled at 90 proof.
- Wilderness Trail Rye: This rye is made by the Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville, Ky. This whiskey is made as a sweet mash and has a low barrel entry proof. It has notes of citrus with lots of vanilla and baking spices with some sweet oak. It is a single barrel product made with 56% rye, 33% corn and 11% malted barley. There is no age statement and bottled at 97 proof.
- Willett Rye: This rye is made at the Willett Distillery in Bardstown, Ky. There are rich caramel notes with orange zest, cinnamon, oak and a hint of rye grass. My bottle is 3 years old and it is bottled at cask strength of 107.
The MGP Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana makes very good rye whiskey and they supply many brands that are in the market today with their whiskey. However, there is a growing amount of rye whiskey not made at MGP available to consumers today. These are just a few, very good rye whiskeys from my collection and there are more unique rye whiskeys in today’s liquor stores. I hope this inspires you to branch out and try some of these fine rye whiskeys.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach