BartendingFood & Drinks

What Is Rye Whiskey Made From?

What Is Rye Whiskey Made From?

Rye whiskey is popular in the United States and Canada and is made from rye grain. It has a spicy flavor and is often used in cocktails. Rye whiskey was once the most popular type of whiskey in America but has since been eclipsed by bourbon.

But what exactly is rye whiskey, and what is it made from?

Rye whiskey is made from a mash bill that consists mainly of rye grain. The minimum requirement, by law, is that 51% of the mash must be rye grain. The rest of the bill can be made up of any other type of grain, most commonly corn and barley.

The making of rye whiskey can be a complex process, but this article will give you a basic understanding of how it is made and the different types of rye whiskey available.

Origin of Rye Whiskey

Origin Of Rye Whiskey

The earliest known reference to rye whiskey in America is from an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1757. At that time, rye whiskey was called “rye wash” or “rye beer.”

In 1791, Congress passed the first federal tax on distilled spirits. This tax was based on capacity, meaning that it was levied on the size of the still and not on the type of alcohol being produced. Because rye whiskey was typically distilled in smaller stills, it was taxed at a lower rate than other types of whiskey.

This increased rye whiskey production, as distillers could produce more liquor and pay less tax. By 1800, rye whiskey made up 60% of all distilled spirits in the United States.

However, the lower tax rate on rye whiskey was short-lived. In 1802, Congress increased the tax on all distilled spirits, regardless of type. This put rye whiskey back on equal footing with other American whiskeys.

During the early 1800s, rye whiskey was the most popular type in the United States. It continued to be produced throughout the country, particularly in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Rye whiskey production declined during the Civil War as distillers switched to producing corn whiskey because it was less expensive to produce. Rye whiskey made a comeback in the late 1800s, but it never regained its pre-war popularity.

Today, rye whiskey is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Many craft distilleries are now producing small-batch rye whiskeys, and the demand for this type of whiskey is rising.

The Process of Making Rye Whisky

The Process Of Making Rye Whisky

The process of making rye whiskey is similar to the process of making other types of whiskey. The steps involved are:

1. Milling

The milling process begins with the grain being delivered to the distillery. The rye grain is then milled or grounded into a powder.

2. Mashing

The milled rye is combined with water to create a mash. This mash is then heated to convert the starches in the grain into sugars.

3. Fermentation

The sugar-rich liquid, called wort, is transferred to a fermentation tank. Yeast is added to the wort and allowed to ferment for several days. This process converts the sugars in the wort into alcohol.

4. Distillation

The fermented liquid, now called wash, is distilled to produce whiskey. During this process, the alcohol vapors are collected and condensed back into a liquid form.

5. Maturation

The distilled whiskey is then transferred to barrels where it will age for at least two years. The aging process allows the flavors of the whiskey to mellow and develop.

Rye whiskey must be made from a mash that consists of at least 51% rye grain. The rest of the mash can be made up of any other type of grain, most commonly corn and barley.

The rye grain gives rye whiskey its bolder flavor, as well as its higher proof. If you’re looking for a smooth and easy-drinking whiskey, rye might not be your best bet. But if you enjoy a bolder flavor and a higher alcohol content, then rye whiskey is worth trying. 

Types of Rye Whiskey

Types Of Rye Whiskey

There are two main types of rye whiskey: straight rye whiskey and blended rye whiskey.

Straight Rye Whiskey

Straight rye whiskey is made from a mash that consists of at least 51% rye grain. The rest of the mash can be composed of any other type of grain, but most commonly, it is corn and barley. Straight rye whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

Blended Rye Whiskey

Blended rye whiskey is made from a blend of straight rye whiskeys and neutral spirits. The neutral spirits are typically distilled from corn. Blended rye whiskey does not have to be aged for as long as straight rye whiskey, as the flavors of the straight whiskeys will mellow over time when blended.

Some of the most popular rye whiskeys on the market today include:

  • Bulleit Rye Whiskey
  • Sazerac Rye Whiskey
  • Knob Creek Rye Whiskey
  • Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey
  • Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey.

How To Drink Rye Whiskey

How To Drink Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey can be enjoyed in several ways. It is commonly used in cocktails, such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. It can also be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of water or soda.

If you’re new to drinking rye whiskey, it’s best to start by trying it in a cocktail. This will allow you to get a sense of the flavor without being overwhelmed by the bolder taste of neat rye whiskey.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the flavor of rye whiskey, you can start experimenting with different ways of drinking it.

Editor’s Tip

If you are unsure which rye whiskey to choose for your next cocktail, always check the bottle’s label. If it says “straight rye whiskey,” you know you’re getting a 100% rye grain spirit. If it says “blended rye whiskey,” it is a mixture of straight rye whiskeys and other neutral grain spirits.

Takeaway

Rye whiskey is a type of American whiskey made from a mash of at least 51% rye grain. It has a spicy flavor that makes it a popular choice for cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.

There are two main types of rye whiskey: straight rye whiskey and blended rye whiskey.

Straight rye whiskey is made from a mash of at least 51% rye grain and aged for a minimum of two years in new, charred oak barrels. Blended rye whiskey is made from a mixture of straight rye whiskeys and other neutral grain spirits and typically has a softer flavor than straight rye whiskey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between rye whiskey and bourbon?

The main difference between rye whiskey and bourbon is the grain used to make each one. Rye whiskey is made from at least 51% rye grain, while bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn. This difference in grains gives each whiskey its unique flavor profile.

Is rye whiskey gluten-free?

Yes, rye whiskey is gluten-free. This is because the distillation removes all gluten traces from the final product.

Can I make my rye whiskey?

Yes, you can make your rye whiskey at home. However, it is essential to note that the quality of your homemade spirit will depend on the quality of the ingredients that you use.