Whiskey, dubbed as the drink of the gentlemen, is primarily made of grain. Different varieties of grain can produce Whiskey. These are barley, corn, wheat, and rye. Whiskeys are typically aged in wooden casks made of sherry or charred white oak.
Rye Whiskey’s Rise, Fall, and Rise Again History
The rye whiskey is seeing a resurgence in the US after what it has experienced pre-prohibition. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Scots and Irish immigrants wanted to bring their native spirits to Pennsylvania, where they settled. The barley they used in producing their Irish Whiskey is having a hard time adapting to the growing conditions of their new homeland. They realized that rye flourishes in their lands and eventually used it to replace barley for their recipes. It became a practice they still hold until today for the American Rye Whiskey needing at least 51% rye grain, distilled to no higher than 160 proof, barrel-aged no higher than 125 proof, and much like bourbon has been aged in charred oak barrels.
In the 1820s, rye whiskey became an aged spirit, and during the 19th century, rye whiskey became a popular spirit in the northeastern United States. This time, both the Pennsylvania and Maryland ryes were popular. But because of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Maryland Rye almost died as a category. It was then forced to be labeled as a blended whiskey, while the Pennsylvania Rye was growing in popularity because it is a straight rye whiskey. It was during Prohibition when rye whiskey’s popularity almost died.
With the repeal of Prohibition, distilleries in Pennsylvania and Maryland came back not as many as Kentucky, and the Maryland rye as a blended whiskey eventually lost sales. At this time, bourbon became plentiful, and distilleries started to close. Post Prohibition, Gin, and Vodka became popular because they were seen as a fancier choice of beverage. The US Government start subsidizing corn prices, making it cheaper for distillers to use than much more expensive rye. The Canadian Rye began to take over as the more affordable drink, even though their recipe does not require them to use rye for its production or new charred oak barrels.
Today, Rye Whiskey is making a comeback. Rye whiskey is known worldwide. However, when you say rye whiskey, it can mean two things. The American Rye Whiskey is similar to a bourbon whiskey and distilled from at least 51% rye grain. The other type of rye whiskey is Canadian Whiskey, and it was labeled so for historical reasons. But the Canadian Whiskey may or may not include any rye grain in its production process.
Rye whiskey has exploded in the past years, and as a result, a massive spectrum of rye whiskey is on the market.
Canadian Rye Whiskey
As mentioned above, there are two types of rye whiskey. The Canadian Whiskey is a historical holdover, and it is used to describe all Canadian whiskeys even if it does not hold up to the American Whiskey’s definition.
All the major American whiskey producers today are investing in rye whiskey. The sales are skyrocketing, and consumer interest is soaring.
American Rye Whiskey
American rye whiskeys are often sourced from Indiana. They have a 95% rye mash bill compared to Canadian Whiskey and offer several rye variations for sale. Several companies are sourcing their rye whiskeys from Indiana’s MGP. They allow sourcing as long as the brands are not lying to customers about it.
American Craft Distillers Making Rye
There are quality brands that distill rye whiskey themselves, and they are mostly smaller distilleries. Large brands do not have enough supply on hand to consistently meet the demand. Smaller distilleries are releasing younger ryes that are aged in small barrels.
With the resurgence of Rye Whiskey, the distilling industry is starting to kick off again. Some distilleries can produce 100,000 gallons of rye whiskey and counting. It only means that people are beginning to consume more Rye whiskey, helping the industry cope with its previous rise and fall. Here at Gulf Coast Distillers, we offer a selection of Rye Whiskeys. Check out the links below for more information: