Each variety of whiskey is special in its own way and has its own distinct flavor. Where bourbons are typically sweeter, ryes have a spicy flavor. In the U.S., Rye Whiskey is required by law to contain 51% or more rye in the mash. The rye lends its flavor heartily to the whiskey, making for a dry, spicy flavor that sets it apart from other whiskeys.
America had its love affair with rye whiskey prior to Prohibition. It was the most prolific spirit available in the U.S. and was almost the only thing drank in the Northeast. George Washington even distilled the stuff at his Mt. Vernon home. Very few rye whiskey distillers survived Prohibition, meaning supply was negligible. America quickly turned its attention to bourbon and nearly forgot about rye whiskey, leaving it to the purview of hillbillies and others not intimidated by Johnny Law for making their own hooch.
In recent years, rye whiskey has started to make a comeback. Major bourbon distillers now offer their own brands of rye and they are starting to be seen more frequently in bars across the country. If you’re like me and are not a big fan of sugary, sweet drinks – next time you order a cocktail that calls for bourbon, ask the bartender to put rye in its place. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much more tolerable the cocktail is.