What Do You Drink and Why?

What Is Rye Whisky?

While people tend to think that whisky only means one kind of alcohol, it doesn't. It is more of a category than it is a single thing—all kinds of alcohol fall under the category of whisky. Things like Scotch, bourbon, and rye are all kinds of whiskys. They all have specific requirements they must meet to be called that particular kind of whisky. Rye whisky is no different. So, what is rye whisky?  

Rye Whisky

This kind of whisky can describe two different kinds of whisky. One kind is Canadian rye whisky. It is called rye whisky mostly out of historical tradition. It does not always contain rye grain, so if someone is looking specifically for a rye whisky, they would have to check the label of a Canadian rye. American rye whisky is the other kind that falls under this classification. In America, to be called rye whisky, the mash that the alcohol starts out as must be at least 51% rye grain. Rye is part of the wheat family and is closely related to barley, also used to make alcohol.


Rye is made in a similar fashion to bourbon. The most significant difference is the base grain. Each whisky starts with a mash. The mash is the mix of grains that starts the fermentation process. In the case of rye whisky, rye grain makes up the majority of the mash, with the rest being made up of things like corn, barley, and sorghum. Once the mixture meets the appropriate level of alcohol, it is put into new, burned oak barrels to age. When the rye is taken out of the barrels, it can be mixed with other rye whiskys, called blended rye. Or it can be left as just one kind of rye. That would be called straight rye.


While rye and bourbon might be made in the same fashion, they don't necessarily taste the same. A rye whisky with a lower rye grain content can taste similar to bourbon but with a peppery bite to it. The higher the rye grain content is, the more peppery the alcohol will taste. That is down to the rye grain and its flavor profile.

Rye whisky fell out of popularity, but it has recently been making a comeback. Many companies are now adding rye whisky to their repertoire. It can be drunk alone, or it can be added to cocktails in place of other whiskys. For more information, contact a company like Millstone.