An Introduction to High-Rye Bourbon Whiskeys
Whether you’re a whiskey aficionado or a newbie to the world of spirits, you’ve probably heard about bourbon and rye. Both are popular types of American whiskey with distinct flavors. However, there’s a hybrid catching everyone’s interest these days – ‘high-rye’ bourbon. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of high-rye bourbon whiskies, test these brews blind, and power rank them.
What exactly is High-Rye Bourbon?
High-rye bourbon is a subset of traditional bourbon known for its spicy, full-bodied flavor profile. The ‘high-rye’ tag isn’t just promotional wordplay – it refers to the high percentage of rye grain used in the mash bill. While your classic bourbon needs a 51% corn-based formulation as per American regulations, it also includes other grains such as malted barley and, you’ve guessed it, rye.
The addition of rye in ‘regular’ quantities gives bourbon a spicy little kick without overpowering the rich, caramel led sweetness that bourbon’s famous for. However, bump up that rye content significantly you’ve got a high-rye bourbon that carries a spicier, sharper kick – a flavor profile that’s truly unique and increasingly popular.
Taste Test and Power Rankings
Now that we’ve explored the spicy foundations of high-rye bourbon, it’s time for the tastiest part – the blind taste-test and power rankings. The goal here isn’t to assemble an exhaustive list, but rather to showcase the diverse range of flavors available in high-rye bourbons, ranked according to taste and drinkability.
5. Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye
Starting at the fifth position, we have Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye. This high-rye bourbon is a blend of Kentucky straight rye whiskey and Canadian rye, with a touch of California port for good measure. Known for its expressive rye character, it delivers deep, layered flavors of dried fruit and roasted nuts, balanced perfectly with a distinct hint of port wine sweetness.
4. Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
In fourth place is Redemption’s High-Rye Bourbon. A fair warning, this ain’t for bourbon beginners. Containing 60% corn and 36% rye, this bourbon continuously delivers bold and spicy flavours that are rounded off with a signature sweetness. Interestingly, the oak and caramel notes play a stronger supporting role in this flavor profile. This is one to be loved by real rye enthusiasts.
3. Bulleit Rye Whiskey
Securing the third position is the Bulleit Rye Whiskey with its whopping 95% rye grain content. It offers the most classic expression of a high-rye bourbon: the rye shines in all its spicy glory, holding a subtle sweetness in check while letting those peppery notes dance across your palate. An intricate bouquet of flavors such as apple, cherry, and honey are bundled with a toasty oak finish.
2. High West Double Rye
In second place, we have the High West Double Rye. Its mélange of two different rye whiskies makes it a true standout. One rye is two years old and packed with spicy notes, while the other is 16-year old rye that adds a flavorful depth of caramel and toasted cinnamon. This dimensional whiskey is perfect for those who appreciate complexity in their spirits.
1. Four Roses Single Barrel
Finally, securing the top spot is the Four Roses Single Barrel. It’s robust, spicy, and full-bodied, thanks to a mash bill that’s got a solid 35% rye. But it’s not just about power; there’s a delicacy here too which wins you over, with whispers of honey, pear, and vanilla cascading amongst the powerful rye backdrop. It’s a bourbon that demands your attention, and thoroughly deserves it.
High-rye bourbon whiskeys bring along a promise of a unique fusion of warmth, spice, and mystery, making them an unforgettable part of the American whiskey world. Each of these bottles offers a different level of “ryeness”, and while our power ranking provides a guide, the real joy lies in experimenting and discovering your personal favorites. So now, with a little more knowledge and a starting point for exploration, it’s time to pour a glass and discover the one that resonates with your palate.