If you have ever had rye whiskey or tasted it, you know that rye is a powerful, smoky liquid that’s often paired with brown sugar. Often, you may have also noticed rye being added to cocktails such as a Manhattan mix. But what exactly is the difference between rye whiskey and other whiskey brands? The truth of the matter is that rye can vary drastically from brand to brand, and sometimes even among batches of the same whiskey.
There are some major differences between ordinary grade whiskey and rye whiskey. For one, rye is typically made from a barley plant rather than a hop plant, which is used to add the flavor and color. Barley is an expensive type of barley that is difficult to grow in many parts of the world, so most makers of whiskey base their recipes on barley. This means that rye has a stronger, smokier flavor than most malts, which come from a different class of barley.
Distilled rye whiskey is a very sweet whiskey that is nearly black in color due to the complete distilled essence of the grain. rye whiskey is usually aged for anywhere from three months to a year in wooden barrels and is distilled again at the end of the process using a charcoal distilling method. Unlike regular Bourbon whiskey, rye does not undergo a distillation process, meaning that no spirit from the mash is separated out and sent to the fermenting process. Therefore no age statement is given on rye whiskey; the longer the grain is matured, the fuller the taste will be. There are many recipes available where the rye is added a month or so before the distillation process, then bottled and allowed to sit for an extended period before being consumed.
Age statements can also be determined by the type of yeast used to ferment it. Yeast used for American whiskey contains more glucose and does not produce any flavor, whereas yeast used in Scotland contains both glucose and malted barley which can provide a fuller, smokier flavor. Rye whiskey is not aged in barrels as much as other whiskies, which can help bring out the natural characteristics found in a good rye whiskey. For instance, the rye whiskey from the United States is typically aged in stainless steel barrels of red oak, which impart a rustic and herbal flavor. On the other hand, Scotland’s best whiskies, such as Balvenie, are aged in hickory barrels.
Rye whiskey is produced in three different styles: straight, rye cut and rye wheated. Each of these versions of the drink use different methods of fermenting the grains, resulting in a wide array of flavors. All three versions are great for introducing guests to different styles of rye whiskey, whether you prefer a smooth, mild whiskey or a spicy one. Most of the rye whiskies on the market today are based on the wheat mash, which is the base of all American whiskies. rye whiskey is also great for mixing with other drinks, since it has a spicy, assertive taste that works well with just about any drink.