Rye whiskey has come a good distance over the past decade. For what’s arguably America’s oldest spirit, that’s saying rather a lot.
Historian David Wondrich has discovered proof of one thing akin to rye being distilled in Salem, Massachusetts, as early as 1648. Within the following years, rye took root alongside the East Coast and flourished there, particularly in Maryland and Pennsylvania, till the early twentieth century.
Then it vanished. Chalk it as much as Prohibition, the rise of Kentucky distilling, adjustments in America’s collective palate or some mixture of all these components and extra. As soon as the good distilleries shuttered, kinds and strategies had been forgotten. Even within the early days of the bourbon revival, within the 2000s, it regarded like rye would possibly go ignored—it’s notoriously arduous to make, and its status as a spice bomb appeared like a drink too far for whiskey novices.
It seems, rye’s return was only a matter of time. Right this moment scores of distilleries are making rye, and drinkers have come to embrace its alluring variety. A younger rye, bouncy and herbaceous, is virtually one other spirit totally from one aged 5 years or longer, when barrel-influenced notes of mint, chocolate and vanilla take over. It mixes effectively and drinks simply as properly by itself.
We’re early within the rye renaissance, however it’s nonetheless doable to guess the place the class could be headed. One clear route is the rise of regionality. Conventional Pennsylvania rye, additionally referred to as Previous Monongahela, made with malted barley, unmalted rye and infrequently malted rye, is making a comeback, with greater than a dozen distilleries throughout the state embracing the fashion. Maryland-style rye—made with corn, and bearing a a lot sweeter taste profile—is likewise on the rise, particularly among the many half-dozen or extra distilleries round Baltimore. And Kentucky rye, as soon as dismissed as a tragic shade of the spirit’s previous glory, is successful respect and recognition as a mode all its personal.
All of this factors even additional to a phrase that many distillers don’t like to make use of: terroir. The final century of commodity-driven, industrial-scale distillation erased any reminiscence of a time when distillers drew on native grain varieties, then distilled and aged their whiskey to attract out nuances. Not anymore. Rosen rye was as soon as immensely fashionable amongst distillers across the Nice Lakes; lengthy uncared for, it’s once more being grown for distillation.
We not too long ago tried 15 consultant ryes—some previous requirements, some new craft releases—to get an image of the place the class is, and the place it’s going. There have been no stinkers within the bunch, however listed below are our high 5 beneath $50.