Top 5 Rye Whiskeys Under $40
“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.”
-Raymond Chandler (novelist, screenwriter)
As a follow-up to our previous article on bourbon bargains, we present you with our list of top bargain rye whiskey’s. As before, all whiskeys on the list can be purchased for $40 or less, and we ranked them in order of our personal preference. Before we get started, however, we should note that from a value perspective, bourbon and rye are not created equal. Making rye whiskey is an arduous process and the cost is adjusted accordingly. In other words, rye is frequently more expensive than bourbon.
In our experience, you often have to invest $50-$60 on a rye to expect the same level of quality as a $40 bourbon. So while this list uses the same price threshold as our bourbon article, we’re dealing with a slightly different level of spirit here. That being said, each whiskey on this list stands out at this price range and is worthy of your time and exploration. But as Raymond Chandler so aptly noted, some just aren’t as good as others.
With that in mind, here is our take on the top 5 bargain ryes.
Russell’s Reserve 6 yr. Rye
Producer: Wild Turkey
Rye Whiskey Review: The nose on Russell’s Reserve 6 yr. delivers big, bold notes of cracked rye (it actually smells like rye bread), sweet cinnamon, and vanilla. The palate showcases more cinnamon, black pepper and a subtle oakiness that gives the whiskey a dry, lingering finish. Whether you drink it neat, on the rocks, or in a Manhattan, Russell’s Reserve 6 yr. Rye delivers everything a classic rye whiskey should. (Note: We also suggest trying the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye. It may be the best readily available rye on the market)
Lot 40 Canadian Rye
Producer: Hiram Walker
Rye Whiskey Review: A standout Canadian Rye Whiskey that exemplifies what you can do with a 100% rye mashbill. Somehow Lot 40 manages to be simultaneously aggressive and soft, with big rye notes balanced perfectly with sweet vanilla, caramel, and stone fruit. Our only complaint is the proof. At 43% ABV Lot 40 can be a bit thin at times, leaving you to wonder just how good this whiskey could be at or near 100 proof. Still, this is a distinctive pour that any rye lover should seek out.
Producer: Buffalo Trace
Rye Whiskey Review: No top rye list would be complete without Sazerac Rye Whiskey. While the nose opens with a surprising amount of alcohol, a few minutes in the glass unveils waves of thick rye spice, black pepper, and earthly cloves. The alcohol burn carries over to the palate but is balanced well with dark fruit, more pepper, tobacco, and red hot candies. Whether you enjoy your rye neat or in a cocktail (the bottle states that it is the perfect choice to make a Sazerac Cocktail), “Baby Saz” will not disappoint. If there is such thing as a quintessential rye whiskey, this may just be it.
Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond
Producer: Heaven Hill
Rye Whiskey Review: The lower rye mash-bill is immediately obvious on the nose, with more caramel and butterscotch than we have ever encountered in a rye. In fact, Rittenhouse could easily be mistaken as a bourbon based on aroma alone. However, the first sip is unmistakably rye, with spicy-hot cinnamon and clove forming the backbone of a rich, creamy palate. Throw in some some dried fruit, burnt brown sugar, and baking spices on the finish and you have yourself a truly decadent whiskey. Rittenhouse is not as “rye” as some of the other ryes on this list, but it’s just too darn tasty to rank any lower. Oh, and at $25 it’s easily one of the best bargains out there.
High West Double Rye
Producer: High West (MGP)
Rye Whiskey Review: Double Rye Whiskey is a steal at this price range. The nose is big and bold, with tons of rye spice, cinnamon, and notes of mint and dill lingering in the background. These flavors carry over well to the palate with brown sugar and maple ushering in a lingering sweet finish. Double Rye Whiskey is undeniably rustic (fitting for whiskey with a cowboy on the label), but also manages to bring a level of refinement that was lacking in other ryes on this list. If this whiskey was $50 we would still recommend it without hesitation. Find a bottle and enjoy it with someone who will appreciate a truly unique rye that drinks well above its price tag.
*Double Rye is a blend of 2yr (95% rye) and 16 year (53% rye) ryes
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