Rye whiskey is always changing and evolving. That makes tasting new releases, limited edition one-offs, and new batches a fun prospect. That’s right, folks! It’s time for yet another BRAND BRAND new rye whiskeys blind taste test. We’ve done a few of these of late, but what can we say — the market keeps growing!
For this blind tasting, I grabbed eight new bottles from my desk. I could have added a few more as three new rye whiskeys arrived at my door while I was tasting these ones (no joke). So keep an eye out for another one of these blind tastings soon.
Anyway, the rye whiskeys tasted below are all newbies either by virtue of being the latest release or batch from a known brand’s expression (Thomas H. Handy, Milam & Greene for instance); or they’re brand new whiskeys that we’ve never seen before (Nashtucky Small Batch, New Riff Aroostook, Uncle Nearest Rye for instance). The point is that these are new releases that you can track down this month.
Our lineup today is:
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- Savage & Cooke Lip Service Rye Whiskey
- Nashtucky Nashville’s Finest Small Batch Rye Connected Spirits
- Leopold Bros Single Barrel Three Chamber Rye Whiskey 2022 Release
- Uncle Nearest Rye
- Redwood Empire Rocket Top Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled In Bond Batch no. 002
- Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey BTAC 2022
- Milam & Greene Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Casks
- New Riff Aroostook Kentucky-Grown Straight Malted Rye Whiskey Aged 6 Years Bottled In Bond
Okay, let’s dive in and find you a great rye whiskey to sip on this November!
Also Read: The Top Five Rye Whiskey from the Last Six Months on UPROXX
Part 1: The Tasting
There’s a clear sense of bourbon with cherry/vanilla notes that lead to orange rinds, gingerbread, and a touch of dark cinnamon, clove, and allspice. There’s a lush body to the taste that leads to a hint of white pepper and tart red berries with a touch more of that creamy vanilla with a slightly woody honey. The end has a hint of cumin with that white pepper but ends up pretty light and vanilla-forward.
This was fine. It felt more like a bourbon than a rye at the end of the day.
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There’s a big and deep nose of burnt orange and lime leaves next to black licorice ropes, wet cedar bark, and the faintest whisper of pine varnish with a twinge of lemon iced tea in there. The palate is slightly funky with oily mint and sage next to oranges sutdded with cloves over a cherry cream soda with a whisper of anise and allspice. The end lingers with a sweet herbal vibe — kind of like sugar-coated mint — next to a touch of woody tobacco leaves folded into an old pine box.
This was complex, full of herbal rye notes, and kind of fresh. It was inviting while offering serious depth. It also felt unique.
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There’s a crafty sense of rich grain porridge cut with maple syrup and rum-raisin next to creamy Nutella and salted peanut shells. The taste is luxurious and opens with a molasses-filled bran muffin crafty vibe that then leads to a deep bench of flavor notes that build: Apple cider, Cherry Coke, cloves, allspice, creamy eggnog, black licorice, cinnamon candies, nasturtiums, and apple-candy tobacco on the very end.
This is really good. It starts off super crafty with those sweet grain notes but then goes deep on classic rye funkiness, spiciness, and fruitiness.
This is a toffee bomb on the nose — in a great way — next to layers of rum-raisin meatiness, sour mulled wine, Almond Joy, and a spice matrix full of star anise, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a dash of root beer sharpness. The palate has a salted black licorice vibe that leads to a hint of sour rye bread encrusted with caraway next to gree fennel and a twinge of spearmint. The mid-point has a butterscotch sensation that leads to a finish full of almond horn cookies, marzipan cut with cherry, woody cinnamon sticks, and allspice berries layered into a soft pipe tobacco leaf.
Well, this was delicious. It’s funky, fresh, and very old-school with those sour rye, caraway, and licorice notes. We might have a winner right here.
This feels very bourbon-forward on the nose with a lot of dark fruit and old leather with a scattering of bitter orange, savory squash, and maybe some fresh sage. The palate leans into the bourbon vibes with cherry and vanilla foundations supported by red peppercorn, salted caramel, and cinnamon sticks. The end has a nice peppery warmth with a cinnamon-caramel tobacco feel.
This is pretty nice. It’s very bourbon-heavy which works.
This is tannic from the jump with a nutty sense of old almond cookie next to buttery biscuits with marmalade and a trio of old saddle leather, star anise, and lemon meringue pie with a flutter of dried flowers in the background. The palate lights on fire with high ABVS. Then, those florals pop on the palate as candied orange and spiced holiday cake lead to a dark chocolate brownie, some burnt orange, and sweet cinnamon with a peanut brittle sweetness. The end is piney and full of dried roses, orange rinds, and incense.
This was clearly a well-made whiskey but sort of overdid it on the floral side for me.
The nose is sweet and fruity with grapes and maybe some blackberries next to dark chocolate laced with cinnamon and a light mustiness. The palate leans into lush vanilla with a strong and dark fruit cake full of clove, cinnamon, candied fruits, and nuts. The finish is shorter and a little light but delivers vanilla lushness beneath woody winter spices, roasted nuts, and a light sense of spicy chewing tobacco.
This was fine. The end was a little short.
There’s a sense of gingerbread dipped in vanilla frosting with toasted coconut and banana leaves next to a hint of sourdough rye crusts and caraway with a sprinkling of wild sage and huckleberry. The palate has a sweetgrass vibe with dark red berries next to mint chocolate chip ice cream and oranges studded with cloves. The end has a red berries feel to it that leads to menthol tobacco rolled up with whole dry red chili peppers and dry pine bark with a light sense of spiced winter cake.
This is pretty goddamn delicious too.
Part 2: The Ranking
8. Milam & Greene Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Casks — Taste 7
Average Price: $52
This whiskey is made in Indiana (at MGP) and shipped down to Texas where it’s batched. That whiskey is then refilled into port casks imported from Portugal. After a final rest under the hot Blanco, Texas sun, the barrels are small batched, proofed, and bottled.
This was fine. It had a soft landing on the finish which can be covered up in a cocktail application easily.
7. Savage & Cooke Lip Service Rye Whiskey — Taste 1
Average Price: $31
This whiskey starts off by blending rye from Tennessee — 51% rye, 45% corn, 4% malted barley — that are at least three years old. Those barrels are batched and then refilled in California into wine barrels sourced from Maury, France. Those barrels are then batched after a short finishing maturation.
That whiskey is then cut with pure mountain water from the Alexander Valley in Northern California.
This was also perfectly fine. I would use it for mixing drinks before I’d use it as a sipper though.
6. Redwood Empire Rocket Top Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled In Bond Batch no. 002 — Taste 5
Average Price: $90
This California whiskey was made back in the spring of 2017 with a mash of 87% rye, 5% malted barley, 5% wheat, and a mere 3% corn. Five years later, the juice was small batched from 55 barrels and bottled with a hint of water to bring it down to bottled-in-bond proof.
This is really nice, especially if you’re looking for a bridge between the world of bourbon and rye whiskeys. It’s also a nice sipper that works wonders in cocktails.
5. Leopold Bros Single Barrel Three Chamber Rye Whiskey 2022 Release — Taste 3
Average Price: $249
The latest release of Leopold Bros.’s famed Three Chamber rye is a stellar single barrel release made in a bespoke still designed by Todd Leopold specifically to make this whiskey. The 2022 release is made with Abruzzi rye and sourced from the best five-year-old barrels in the warehouse, according to Todd Leopold’s master-level palate. Once a single barrel is selected, the whiskey is then slightly touched with water before bottling.
This was very good. The only thing holding it back on this list is the big crafty sweet porridge note at the beginning. Once you get past that, this is amazingly well-layered rye whiskey.
4. Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey BTAC 2022 — Taste 6
This year’s Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye was distilled back in the spring of 2016 with a mix of Minnesota rye, Kentucky corn, and North Dakota malted barley with some of the iconic Kentucky limestone water. The hot juice went into new white oak from Independent Stave from Missouri with a #4 char level (55 seconds). Those barrels were racked in warehouses I, L, and M on floors 2, 4, 5, and 6. After six years and four months, 31% of the whiskey was lost to the angel’s share before these barrels were batched and bottled as-is.
This is very well-made whiskey. That big floral/potpourri note just isn’t my jam. That said, this is hot whiskey with a bit ABV buzz in the middle. If you’re looking for a big kick, this is the whiskey for you.
3. Nashtucky Nashville’s Finest Small Batch Rye Connected Spirits — Taste 2
Average Price: $79
This new release from Nashville Barrel Company is all about master blending of very small batches (with a handful of barrels). This whiskey was made up in Kentucky. Once barreled, those barrels were sent down to Nashville where they aged for up to four years. Once the barrels were just right, the whiskey was batched and bottled 100% as-is.
This has serious depth and felt fresh. I’d lean towards sipping this on the rocks without hesitation. That said, I want to experiment with cocktails with this one thanks to that big and funky rye vibe.
2. New Riff Aroostook Kentucky-Grown Straight Malted Rye Whiskey Aged 6 Years Bottled In Bond — Taste 8
Average Price: $59
New Riff’s latest release is all about local malted rye. The rye for the mashbill is a Kentucky-grown Aroostook Rye that was malted just over the Ohio River in Indiana. Once distilled, the hot juice went into new American oak for six long years before it was small batched, proofed down to 100 proof, and bottled as-is.
This was delicious, new, and just the right level of funky. It was silky and so easy to drink while offering a serious flavor profile work going back to again and again. Overall, this is a great sipper.
1. Uncle Nearest Rye — Taste 4
Average Price: $59
This brand-new release from Uncle Nearest — it’s only hitting shelves this week — is made from 100% rye whiskey made up in Canada according to U.S. straight whiskey laws. Those barrels were sent to New York where they rested for four years. Finally, the best barrels were sent to Tennessee where they were small batched, just proofed with local water, and bottled as-is otherwise.
This is a damn near-perfect rye. It’s soft and funky with a hint of woody spice and plenty of fruity vibes. It’s great neat, on the rocks, and will certainly make an amazing Manhattan.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
Let’s cut to the chase. You’re not going to be able to get that New Riff unless you’re in New Riff’s club and in Kentucky to pick it up. You will find it on the secondary market, sure. But alas, it’s a fleeting release and will be hard to source.
The new Uncle Neartest 100 Proof Rye on the other hand is going to be available nationwide this month. It’s worth $60 for a holiday bottle to make amazing Manhattans or just slow sipping as the snow falls outside. There are a lot of great bottles on this list. But Uncle Nearest Rye is both great and attainable.