Rye whiskey might not be the most popular American brown spirit, but it has a place in every whiskey lover's heart. Its peppery flavors over a smooth malty core are addictive, which is why the category has grown its fan base steadily.
Historically, Rye whiskey became America’s Northeastern state's signature drink, with Pennsylvania and Maryland making it their own thanks to their early Scotch-Irish communities. The industry thrived, and since rye was harsher and spicier than other concoctions like bourbon, it was natural for bartenders to smoothen it with other ingredients. The Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Sazerac were all based initially on rye.
The Prohibition nearly ended rye production and only rose back from oblivion almost a century later in the hands of craft distillers of the 21st century. Being almost extinct during the 80s and the 90s, since 2009, Rye sales have increased by 1275 percent. Big brands have also capitalized on the trend, and now every company has rye in their catalog.
To label whisky as Rye, it must comprise at least 51% rye, while corn and barley spirits often make the rest. Its flavor is reminiscent of spices, black pepper and grain rather than the honeyed richness of Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys.
Bourbon might still dominate the American whiskey market. Still, those-in-the-know have in Rye whiskey a mature choice of complex flavors and aromas, a piece of history in the making that celebrates the very first distilling endeavors in the country.