HOW DO RYE AND WHISKEY DIFFER?
Rye is near and dear to our hearts at Barrell Craft Spirits. We love full-flavored whiskeys, so of course we love the signature herbaceous, warming spice that rye contributes to a whiskey. Plus, we think it’s the perfect choice for so many classic cocktails: Manhattans, old fashioneds, and whiskey sours all taste amazing made with rye whiskey.
But we also know that rye is often left playing second fiddle to bourbon. So let’s dig into some of the nitty gritty about rye whiskey, including how rye whiskey and bourbon are both similar and different, plus the confusing status of Canadian rye.
RYE AND BOURBON HAVE PLENTY IN COMMON
Bourbon and rye are the two most famous types of whiskey made in the United States. They share many similarities. Both must be distilled to no higher than 160 proof, aged in new charred oak barrels, and filled into the cask at no higher than 125 proof. There’s no minimum length of time either must be matured.
The primary difference between the two is the mash bill. American rye whiskey must be distilled from a rye mash made from at least 51% rye. The other 49% of the mash bill can be any combination of grains–even more rye. In practice, however, it’s usually a combination of barley and corn.
Bourbon, on the other hand, must be distilled from a corn mash containing at least 51 percent corn. The rest can be any combination of grains. Usually, it’s a mix of malted barley and either wheat or rye.
Complicating the picture further is the little matter of Canadian rye. In Canada, “rye” is used as a generic word for whisky, whether it actually contains rye grain or not. If you ask a bartender in Alberta for a shot of rye, what you get might not even contain any rye at all–although it certainly could!
What you will get, however, is a Canadian whisky, which has its own set of rules and regulations. First and foremost, Canadian rye whiskies must be made in Canada. And unlike American bourbon and rye, Canadian whiskies must be aged at least three years in wooden casks to earn the name “whisky.”
Canadian whisky can be made from any combination of grains. Unlike the United States, most Canadian distillers ferment and distill each grain separately, then age each single-grain spirit separately. When they’re ready to make the final whisky, they blend their desired components together.
Rye is often used to make super-dense, flavorful whiskies that are used to boost the flavor of Canadian blends, giving them a touch of that herbal, grassy flavor we love without overwhelming the final whisky with rye spice.
BARRELL CRAFT SPIRITS RYE
Can’t decide if you’re in the mood for American or Canadian rye? Barrell Craft Spirits has got you covered. In addition to our Small Batch Rye whiskeys, we’ve created a unique rye-focused blend called Seagrass that incorporates both American and Canadian rye whiskeys. Taking a cue from our northern neighbors, we finished individual batches separately in Madeira, apricot brandy, and Martinique Rhum Agricole casks, then blended them together to create the final product.
Seagrass is a juicy, complex whisky full of tropical fruit, ripe apricot, spicy and herbaceous rye, and delicate floral tones. A rich nutty, candied foundation contributed by the Madeira anchors the blend. It’s great as a neat pour, and it makes an incredible Trinidad Sour. Ready to pick up a bottle? You can shop online, or use our map tool to find a retailer near you.