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A Guide to The Best Rye Whiskey

Rebecca Hanlon
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky distills the Sazerac Rye Whiskey. It is made from a mash of rye grains and has a strong, spicy flavor with notes of vanilla and caramel. The whiskey is aged for at least two years in oak barrels, which gives it its distinct amber color.

The Sazerac is one of the most popular rye whiskeys on the market and is often considered the best rye whiskey available. It has won numerous awards, including the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

If you are looking for a high-quality rye whiskey, then the Sazerac is an excellent choice. Read on to find out more.

What is Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey was first distilled in 1750 in Pennsylvania by local farmers who blended it with corn. Rye’s domination was short-lived because, in 1783, bourbon whiskey was made and became the whiskey of choice of middle America.

Additionally, rye, along with bourbon whiskey, was affected by Prohibition. Many distilleries were forced to shut down during this time, and rye whiskey fell out of favor. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that rye whiskey began to make a comeback.

It is a type of American whiskey made from at least 51% rye grain. It has a spicy, peppery flavor and is often used in cocktails. Rye whiskey was historically the most popular type of American whiskey, but it fell out of favor during Prohibition.

There are a few regulations that American rye whiskey must follow in order to be classified as such. Firstly, the mash (which is the starchy soup that provides sugar for fermentation) must be made up of at least 51% actual rye grain. The remaining 49% usually consists of a blend of corn, wheat, or malted barley.

Secondly, the initial alcohol content of certified rye whiskey cannot be higher than 160 proof (80%). After all of the liquor has been extracted from the fermented wort, it gets diluted down to no more than 125 proof (62.5%).

Lastly, rye whiskey must be aged in charred new oak barrels for at least two years. These barrel-aging requirements are the same for all types of American whiskeys. Following these guidelines results in a delicious and distinct spirit that can proudly be called American rye whiskey.

Today, rye whiskey is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, thanks to its unique flavor profile and its connection to America’s heritage.

While rye whiskey can be enjoyed on its own, it also makes a great addition to cocktails. Its bold flavor compliments the sweetness of mixers like vermouth and bitters, making it a favorite among bartenders and whiskey lovers alike.

introduction-rye whiskey

What Makes up The Best Rye Whiskey

When it comes to choosing a rye whiskey, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, it’s important to choose a whiskey that has been aged for at least two years. This will ensure that the flavor is well-rounded and not too harsh.

Secondly, be sure to select rye that has been distilled from at least 51% rye grain. This will provide the characteristic spicy flavor that is the signature of rye whiskey.

Finally, it’s important to choose a bottle from a reputable distillery. This will ensure that the whiskey is of high quality and has been made using traditional methods.

By taking these factors into account, you can be sure to choose a delicious and authentic Rye whiskey.

Flavor and Aromas That Make a Good Rye

Any rye drinker knows that good rye should have a strong flavor and a powerful aroma. The best ryes will have a complex flavor profile that includes floral, fruity, and spicy notes.

The aroma should be equally complex, with vanilla, honey, and oak hints. When these two elements are in harmony, the result is a rye that is truly enjoyable to drink.

Of course, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to flavor and aroma, so there is no single recipe for the perfect rye.

The best way to find a Rye that suits your taste is to experiment with different brands and styles until you find one that you really enjoy.

The best rye whiskey has a distinct flavor that sets it apart from other types of whiskey. To get that flavor, distillers use a variety of different techniques.

First, they start with a mash bill that consists primarily of rye grain. This gives the whiskey its distinctive spicy flavor.

Next, they age the whiskey in new, charred oak barrels. This helps to create a smooth, round flavor with hints of vanilla and caramel.

rye whiskey industry

Rye Whiskey Industry Today

Despite rye’s popularity among bartenders and whiskey enthusiasts, its overall share of sales remains modest.

Rye whiskey accounted for a 6.6 percent share of the whiskey category on Drizly in 2020, up from six percent in 2019. In 2021, rye whiskey has made up six percent of the whiskey share with its historically strongest quarter.

While rye’s popularity is growing, it still has a long way to go to catch up to other types of whiskies, such as bourbon and Scotch.

Brief History of Sazerac Rye

The French Quarter has always been a place of good times and strong drinks. In the early19th century, rye whiskey from the American heartland was shipped down the Mississippi River to the growing city of New Orleans.

At that time, saloons masqueraded as coffee houses began popping up all over the city.

One of these establishments was the Sazerac Coffee House, which quickly became known for its unique cocktail made with rye whiskey, absinthe, and bitters.

This tasty libation soon became the signature drink of the Sazerac Coffee House, and in 1869, it was officially christened The Sazerac.

Today, our Sazerac Rye pays tribute to this rich history with its unrestrained taste and character.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Sazerac Rye is now produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery, which has its own expansive history.

The distillery has a long and expansive history, dating back to 1787, when it was first founded. It wasn’t until 1999 that the Sazerac Company took over management of the facility, but since then, they have continued to produce some of the finest rye whiskeys in the world.

In addition to being home to Sazerac Rye, Buffalo Trace Distillery also produces a variety of other whiskeys, including Bourbon, rye, and wheat.

The water used to make the whiskey comes from the Kentucky River, which runs right through the middle of the distillery. This unique location gives Buffalo Trace a natural advantage when it comes to producing high-quality spirits.

Variations of Sazerac Rye

There are several different types of Sazerac Rye, including 18-Year-Old, Straight, and Thomas H. Handy. each with its own unique flavor profile.

Sazerac Rye Tasting Notes

It is made from a mashbill of at least 51% rye grain, and it is aged for a minimum of two years in new oak barrels. The flavor profile of Sazerac Rye is described as being spicy and dry, with notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel. It is bottled at 45% ABV, and it does not have an age statement.

Sazerac Rye Whiskey is an authentic New Orleans original. The recipes for this unique spirit date back to the early 19th century, and it has been produced in the city ever since.

Today, Sazerac Rye is still made using the same traditional methods, and it is one of the most popular whiskeys in the world.

Tasting notes for Sazerac Rye include aromas of clove, vanilla, anise, and pepper. There are also subtle notes of candied spices and citrus.

The big finish is smooth with hints of licorice. If you’re looking for an authentic taste of New Orleans history, then Sazerac Rye Whiskey is the perfect spirit for you.

sazerac rye whiskey

Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old Tasting Notes

The Sazerac 18 Year Old Rye (2021 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection) is a limited-edition rye whiskey distilled in spring 2003 and aged 18 years and six months in #4 charred new American oak barrels.

The whiskey is bottled at 45% ABV, 90 proof. This limited-edition rye is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, which is released each year in the fall.

Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old Tasting Notes This straight rye has a mellow spice and dry sweetness. The long, warm finish is preceded by notes of mint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, vanilla, and lingering pepper. Very mature, with notes of oak, leather molasses, and all-spice.

Altogether, these flavors make for an exquisite glass of rye that is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks.

Sazerac Thomas H. Handy

Thomas H. Handy was a New Orleans bartender who is credited with first using rye whiskey in the Sazerac Cocktail.

The Sazerac Thomas H. Handy Straight Rye Whiskey is named after him and is bottled uncut and unfiltered, just as it was over a century ago.

The Thomas H. Handy variant is released as part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and is one of the highest-proof whiskeys in the world. At 64.75% ABV, it is not for the faint of heart.

This authentic American rye whiskey is full of rich flavors, including toffee, fig cake, and candied fruit, followed by mint, cinnamon, and clove. The finish ultimately reveals subtle notes of allspice, coconut, and nutmeg.

The Sazerac Thomas H. Handy Straight Rye Whiskey is a powerful and lush whiskey that symbolizes the timeless history of New Orleans and the legacy of Thomas H. Handy.

Sazerac Rye Price

Sazerac Whiskey is a high-end whiskey produced by the Sazerac Company. The whiskey is available for purchase at many liquor stores and online retailers.

The company produces several different whiskey expressions, including the original Sazerac Rye, the Thomas H. Handy expression, and the 18 Year Old Rye.

Prices for the whiskey range from $30 all the way up to $2,000, with the original Sazerac Rye being the most affordable option with an MSRP of $30.

However, both the Thomas H. Handy expression and the 18-Year-Old Rye are priced at $700 or more. The high price point for these expressions is due to the aged bourbon used in their production, which makes them some of the most sought-after whiskey on the market.

Rye Whiskey Cocktails

rye whiskey cocktails

Thanks to its bold flavor and spicy notes, Rye whiskey has long been a popular choice for cocktails. One of the most classic rye whiskey cocktails is the Manhattan, which pairs the spirit with sweet vermouth and bitters.

Try substituting cherry juice for the sweet vermouth for a modern twist on this classic. Another popular rye whiskey cocktail is the Old Fashioned, which simply combines the spirit with sugar and bitters.

If you’re looking for something a little more complex, try making a Sazerac. This cocktail combines rye whiskey with cognac, absinthe, and bitters.

What Makes Sazerac the Best Rye Whiskey

There are many reasons why Sazerac Rye is considered the best rye whiskey. For one, it is made with a high percentage of rye, which gives it a unique flavor that is both spicy and citrusy.

Sazerac is also distilled in small batches, ensuring that each bottle is of the highest quality.

Additionally, Sazerac Rye is aged in new, charred oak barrels, which helps to give it a deep, rich color. Finally, the distillation process used to create Sazerac Rye results in a smooth, clean finish that is perfect for sipping neat or using in cocktails.

The multiple expressions also aid in the argument that Sazerac is the best rye on the market.

Sazerac Rye Awards

Sazerac rye whiskey has won a variety of awards over the years. These awards include prestigious honors such as the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the Best Rye Whiskey at the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition.

In addition, Sazerac rye has been named “Whiskey of the Year” by both Whisky Advocate and Whisky Magazine. Considering all of these accolades, it’s no wonder that Sazerac rye is one of the most sought-after whiskeys on the market.

About The Author

Rebecca Hanlon

Rebecca has been a blogger for over 5 years, before that enjoying a number of jobs to fund her passion for travel. She's taught English as a foreign language, a part-time Barista, a waitress, and a tour guide.

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