November 22, 2021

What is American Rye Whiskey?

If you've checked out our post on What is Bourbon?! then you'll be pleased to find out that the requirements for what (legally) classifies a whiskey to be called American rye whiskey aren't too different!

For a whiskey to be called American rye whiskey it must:

  • Must be made from at least 51% rye
  • Must be aged in a new, charred oak barrel
  • Must be lower than 80% alcohol (160 proof)
  • Must be introduced into the barrel at under 62.5% alcohol (125) proof

As we mentioned in our bourbon post, all whiskey is made from grain, fermented, distilled, and aged in barrels. Rye whiskey gets its spicy/peppery characteristics from a grain mash that's made primarily from rye. Rye is a grass that's grown as a grain and is closely related to wheat and barley. Unlike bourbon, rye can be as high as 100% rye content and still retain the same name (however most distillers don't go above 90%).

Fun fact: Canadian rye whisky has no legal requirements for the amount of rye in the mash bill. The requirements to be called Canadian rye whisky are;

  • Must have a mash made from cereal grain or cereal grain products
  • Must be aged in a small wood barrel for at least 3 years (under 700 liters)
  • Must possess the armoa, taste, and character attributed to Canadian whisky
  • Must be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada
  • Must contain more than 40% alcohol (80 proof)

If a rye has been aged for a minimum of 2 years it is then allowed the option of labeling it "Straight". Any straight rye aged under 4 years must state its age on the bottle. Rye that's "Bottled-in-bond" is straight rye that has been aged for at least 4 years.

From Blog

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