What is Rye Whiskey

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Rye whiskey is not the most popular variety of this alcohol, but it does have a unique quality that makes it well worth drinking!

What is Rye Whiskey?

Rye whiskey is a historic American alcohol which is made from 51% rye and aged in charred, oak barrels. It originated in the northeastern United States in the 1700s. The presence of rye grain in the distillation process makes it unique among whiskeys. Rye grain is known for its sharp taste, pleasant and slightly spicy flavor, as well as its distinctive aroma.

Studies conclude that the distillation process removes all traces of gluten. However, people do occasionally report symptoms of gluten sensitivity from drinking neutral grain alcohols. Pay attention to your own body’s reaction, particularly if you have Celiac disease.

In terms of nutrition, rye whiskey contains about 70 calories per ounce. This is comparable to other spirits, like vodka or rum, both of which possess an average of 64 calories.

2 glasses of whiskey with ice on a wooden table


There are two classifications of rye whiskey, each with different regulations:

  • American rye whiskey is highly regulated. The standards produce fine rye whiskeys enjoyed world over.
  • Canadian rye whiskey makers are far less regulated, resulting in a broad range of styles under the single classification.

Rye Whiskey vs Bourbon

Let us take a look at the differences between rye whiskey vs bourbon.


  • At least 51% corn in the mash
  • Made in the United States
  • Aged in new charred oak barrels
  • Bottled at 40% ABV or higher
  • Tastes slightly sweet, with warm notes of vanilla

American Rye Whiskey

  • At least 51% rye in the mash
  • Production is in all other ways identical to bourbon
  • Slightly dry and spicy, with subtler sweet aromas

Canadian Rye Whisky

  • Blended whiskey. Some have 0% rye, while others have 100% rye
  • Must be aged for at least 3 years
  • You may find some to be light and smooth tasting, but others are quite intense!

How to Make?

  • Step 1: Gather ingredients in the desired proportions for flavor
  • Step 2: Soak grains to release sugar, and allow them to ferment
  • Step 3: Distill using a professional still, and separate the ‘heart’ or the best-tasting spirit which will evolve into whiskey
  • Step 4: Barrel and age as per your taste

How to Drink?

  • Enjoy neat or over ice
  • Use in classic cocktails for a dryer version of a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned

This whiskey helps promote digestion and weight loss, lowers blood pressure, and has powerful antioxidant properties.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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