There's more great rye whiskey on the market than ever before, which is excellent news for fans of the category. Yet, with the near-insatiable demand for it, prices have also soared to match.
But, that doesn't mean there aren't deals to be found. Here are the top affordable American rye whiskeys for $35 or less, from longstanding, classic brands, to new releases and unique entrants.
10 Great Rye Whiskies Under $35
10) Hochstadter's Straight Vatted Rye Whiskey (100 proof), $34.99: Released in 2015 by Cooper Spirits, Hochstadter's is the first rye to use the "vatted" designation. It includes five rye whiskeys sourced from at least four different distilleries, one of which was MGP (a large-volume producer) in Indiana, along with distilleries in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Alberta, Canada. Ages of the whiskeys blended together range from four to 15 years old. As a blend, this whiskey showcases a smooth and well-rounded profile, with both spicy and sweet characteristics.
9) Bulleit 95 Rye (90 proof), $32.99: Bulleit's rye is an MGP-distilled rye whiskey which makes use of that popular 95 percent high rye mash bill. What results is a whiskey with a stiff rye backbone and an overall spicy profile, which also contributes its signature to the name—the 95 is for the mash bill, not the proof. First released in 2011, Bulleit 95 Rye was ahead of the curve compared to the rush of new ryes on the market lately.
8) Sazerac Rye (90 proof), $29.99: At six years old, Sazerac Rye is well-aged for the price. With the name Sazerac, you can bank on it being a go-to for classic cocktails. A reasonably priced staple when you can find it, Sazerac Rye is the younger sibling to Buffalo Trace's highly touted Sazerac Rye 18 and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, both of which are members of the Antique Collection. Expect this bottle to be woody and spicy, with a richer side lurking beneath.
7) Redemption Rye (92 proof), $29.99: We're getting into an MGP groove here, with Redemption Rye being another well known MGP-distilled, 95 percent rye mash bill brand. Redemption, founded in 2010, makes no bones about that though. This expression showcases whiskey with an average age of two and a half years which, along with its mash bill, gives it a young rye profile, with quite spicy and sharp rye notes, plus oak. Redemption also has released a range of older, cask proof rye whiskeys, most recently with seven, eight and 10 year old expressions.
6) George Dickel Tennessee Rye (90 proof), $27.99: While Dickel's rye isn't distilled in house, what sets it apart is that is follows the guidelines of Tennessee whiskey production, meaning it's filtered through maple wood charcoal after distillation. That makes it different from the many ryes which, like Dickel, share MGP heritage and a 95 percent rye mash bill. The filtration process adds a layer of richer sweetness and char to its profile. Try it over a couple of ice cubes.
5) Rittenhouse Rye (100 proof), $26.99: Rittenhouse Rye is a bartender's favorite at the price point. It has the ABV and spicy rye backbone required to build a full arsenal of cocktails, and also offers a touch of rich sweetness to make it well-rounded and versatile. Rittenhouse is a bottled-in-bond rye whiskey, signifying that it's 100 proof and aged for at least four years. It's made by Kentucky's Heaven Hill in the style of traditional Pennsylvania ryes.
4) High West Double Rye! (92 proof), $25.99: Utah's High West sources prominently from MGP and other producers, but goes on to impart its own distinctive touches by experimenting with different blended combinations, barrel finishes, and so forth. Their Double Rye is a blend of two ryes, a young, two year old MGP rye with the 95 percent rye mash bill, along with a 16 year old rye with a 53 percent rye, 37 percent corn mash bill, sourced from a different distillery. Overall, it's a spicy rye that's mellowed out by its older, sweeter component whiskey.
3) Wild Turkey Rye (81 proof), $24.99: Long before the current rye resurgence, those looking for rye at the store would likely find Wild Turkey representing the category. It's a reliable, tried and true choice, and Wild Turkey is known for more of an intense rye spiciness. Consider an upgrade to the 90 proof, 6 year old Russell's Reserve.
2) Jim Beam Rye (90 proof), $22.99: The eponymous rye from Jim Beam is bottled at a more robust 90 proof. It showcases more of a spicy rye and oaky character than its cousin, Overholt. Flavor plus its higher strength make it a versatile cocktail choice, but the spirit also works well in simple whiskey and Coke style mixed drinks. For an upgrade in the Beam family, try the 100 proof Knob Creek Rye, which is big, bold and smooth, and very much in line with Knob Creek's bourbon.
1) Old Overholt (80 proof), $14.99: This is the standard bearer for giving the bottom shelf a good name. Named for Abraham Overholt, an American distiller from the 1800s, Old Overholt is one part of "The Olds" lineup in the Beam Suntory profile. The liquor is three years old and bottled at 80 proof, with a rich profile that makes it a solid choice for a whiskey and ginger, or simply poured over a hunk of ice.
5 More Under $45
Feeling like getting crazy and breaking out an extra couple of bucks? These five choices are worth it.
- Willett Family Estate 3 Year Old (Cask Strength), $44.99: Willet's three year old Family Estate Rye is a blend of two mash bills. The larger component is a 74 percent rye, 11 percent corn and 15 percent malted barley, while it also includes whiskey with a 51 percent rye, 34 percent corn and 15 percent malted barley mash bill. It offers a big rye punch, especially at its cask strength (in the range of 112 proof), along with minty and medicinal notes
- Woodford Reserve (90 proof), $36.99: Fan's of Woodford's bourbon will love their Woodford Rye, which by design carries a rather similar style. It's made from a mash bill of 53 percent rye, 33 percent corn and 14 malted barley, which imparts more of a well-rounded smoothness than sharp spiciness. It's aged for between six and eight years.
- Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye (80 proof), $39.99: Virginia's Catoctin Creek uses a 100 percent rye mash bill for its Roundstone Rye, which we haven't seen much or any of on this list. Roundstone is aged for under two years in 30 gallon casks. It's spicy and with a lighter profile than many ryes, and also showcases some cereal grain notes.
- Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye (90 proof), $39.99: Dad's Hat has taken big strides in recent years, enough so that Lew Bryson tabbed it as his 2015 Craft Whiskey of the Year for Whisky Advocate. It's a traditional Pennsylvania style rye made with an 80 percent rye, 15 percent malted barley and 5 percent malted rye mash bill, showcasing spicy rye, along with fruity and herbal notes.
- Michter's US*1 Single Barrel Straight Rye (84.8 proof), $39.95: Michter's has its own distillery now, but has been sourcing its whiskey from other unnamed producers and is therefore in the process of transitioning over to its own juice. Aged for a minimum of three years, the US*1 Single Barrel is big bodied, chewy and rich, with a spicy kick.
Editor: Kat Odell