The Best American Rye Whiskeys Of 2023

From the foothills of the Rockies to the forests of New Hampshire, there was plenty to love in the world of rye.

(Left: Hemingway, Middle: Still Austin, Right: Distillery 291

What launched back in 2019 with a simple list has over the years grown into a five-part exploration of the Best In New American Whiskey. For 2023, we’re not only rounding up the most exquisite American whiskeys across five relevant categories, we’re also choosing a favorite in each category for the first time.

First up: ryes. You might have noticed the rye renaissance continues to spread across the globe, catalyzing the once largely dismissed spirit categories into one of America’s fastest growing spirit sectors. In 2009 fewer than 10 rye producers existed, yet today there are more than 500 churning out this aromatic and spicy whiskey derivation. Here are 12 of our favorites of the year, including the very best, from the foothills of the Rockies.  

Best Rye of 2023: Distillery 291 All Rye 

(Distillery 291)

“When I started the distillery the bourbon was my very first recipe, and the rye was second, so I never had the chance to really experiment,” Distillery 291 founder Michael Myers tells us. “But I want to experiment, that’s the fun of this—I don’t want to be sitting there singing the same song over and over every night.”

One such amusement, E Batch #3, was 291’s first 100% malted rye recipe. Using all German grains the rye was a hit—earning 291 runner-up for US Micro Whiskey of the Year when it dropped in 2017. But Meyers aims to increase the Centennial State’s influence in his spirits, already using only water from nearby Pikes Peak and throwing staves of toasted aspen into casks like tea bags. The goal is to eventually craft all of 291’s whiskey from 100% Colorado grains, so he started playing with malted rye sourced from Root Shoot. 

First, they wanted to explore how two malted ryes grown on different continents might play together, so he and Head Distiller Eric Jett distilled and aged each of the ryes separately so they could isolate each grain’s unique flavor profiles, discern what each brought to the table, and then carefully leveraged portions to settle down with a blend for a new expression they would dub All Rye. After extensively playing with different proportions, Myers and Jett discovered their favorite results came with a perfectly even 50/50 split. 

The results are a deeply satisfying exploration of rye, with an unctuous mouthfeel that delivers notes of brown banana peel, cinnamon, rye bread and honeydew melon rind in rich waves. Bottled in their signature Old West saloon-style glass with cork stopper, 291 All Rye comes bottled at 66.3% ABV and fetches an SRP of $115.

Woody Creek ‘William H. Macy Reserve’ 10-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey

(Woody Creek)

Founded a stone’s throw away from the infamous Woody Creek Tavern, which Hunter S. Thompson fans might recognize as the famed haunt of the gonzo writer, Woody Creek Distillers was born of a desire to craft quality spirits with a Colorado twist. Inspired by Chopin vodka, engineers Mark Kleckner and Patrick Scanlan started with the goal of crafting the best potato vodka in America—using only Colorado-grown spuds.

So they asked their neighbor, the great actor William H. Macy (Fargo, Boogie Nights, Shameless, etc.) if they could plant some potatoes in his field. And so the relationship blossomed from friendship into the spirit world, and Macy would soon become official “Spokesdude” of Woody Creek Distillers. 

While their vodka launched to great acclaim—winning Double Gold at its first San Francisco World Spirits Competition—it’s Woody Creek’s whiskeys that got our attention. We’ve enjoyed their previous offerings, but this year to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the label they’re releasing an expression that raises their profile to elite.

The bottled-in-bond “William H. Macy Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey” blends three barrels of their premium 10-year-old rye (80% rye / 20% malted barley) into a magical dram—every drop mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled at the distillery, using only Colorado grains from family farmers and proofed with clean Rocky Mountain water. Wonderful balanced, this aromatic rye is rich in orange peel, honey and cinnamon. Woody Creek “William H. Macy Reserve” 10-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey is bottled at 50% ABV with a $199 SRP.

Pinhook ‘Tiz Rye Time Vertical Series 7-Year’ Rye


As the Pinhook endeavor matures, so too does its collection of MGP-sourced whiskeys (and proprietary mash bills distilled at Castle and Key since 2017). Their Vertical Series—a distinct experiment in aging, where they follow a single group of bourbon and rye barrels as they mature from 4 to 12 years—now hits its 4th year with their Vertical Series Rye 7-Year. 

Pinhook notes the progress, how the earlier 4-Year Rye (97-proof) featured notes of dried apricot, molasses, toaster cedar and clove, while this 7-Year Rye’s (105.12-proof) notes have evolved into chocolate, root beer, cardamom and tobacco. It’s an illuminating experiment to test how the same mash bill (95% rye / 5% malted barley), barrels and fill dates will react when the only major variable is time (they’re all aged, blended and bottled at the Castle and Key Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky).

As with all the Vertical Series bottles the thoroughbred Tiz Rye Time is emblazoned on the Pinhook label, with each vintages identified by a different geometric shape. Pinhook Vertical Series 7-Year Rye is a marriage of 28 barrels, with an SRP of $78

Clyde May ‘9-Year-Old Cask Strength’ Straight Rye Whiskey

(Clyde May)

The pride of Alabama—other than their college football team—Clyde May’s Whiskey just announced the release of their first cask-strength rye. There are several reasons why the limited-edition Clyde May’s 9-Year-Old Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey should find its way onto your bar shelf, and not just the nine years it spends aging in ex-bourbon barrels.

After this long nap the Official State Spirit of Alabama takes their brown and throws American Oak, Cherry Wood and French Oak wood chips into the barrels to steep for another 4 months. This unique wood-finishing technique lends Clyde May “9-Year-Old Cask Strength” Rye notes of fruit, caramel and vanilla to the rye’s natural spicy texture. Bottled at 56.5% ABV (113-proof) and limited to just 3,400 cases, hopefully you can find Clyde May’s latest LTO for its SRP of $65.

Peg Leg Porker ‘8-Year’ Tennessee Rye Whiskey

(Peg Leg Porker)

Round of cheers to Carey Bringle who recently celebrated a round of wins for his fast-rising Peg Leg Porker whiskey label. First off, the celebrated pit master’s flagship White Label bourbon earned Bringle twin Bronze medals in 2015 in both the Denver Wine and Spirits Competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. This inaugural expression, a bourbon aged between four to six years, started his Peg Leg Porker label off right. 

More recently Bringle’s new 8-Year Tennessee Rye Whiskey is following up with its own stack of awards: Double Gold at this year’s SIP Awards and Bronze at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, adding to medals at the American Distilling Institute International Spirits Competition. Bringle’s mashbill—a Tennessee Rye high in rye (95% rye / 5% malted barley)—is filtered through the signature Peg Leg Porker hickory charcoal finishing process to add a touch of smokiness to its peppery spice rye base. Racks of flavor at 52.5% ABV, available in select states.

Blue Run ‘Emerald Single Barrel’ Rye Whiskey

(Blue Run)

Last year we celebrated the second batch of Blue Run’s rye offering, dubbed Blue Run Golden Rye Whiskey Batch 2, after the first Batch scored a Gold Medal at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Last year the Blue Run crew also launched an entirely new line of ryes under the Emerald moniker—this one being the first and only rye Jim Rutledge has ever made.

Contract-distilled by the Bourbon Hall of Famer Rutledge at Castle & Key, Emerald aimed to differentiate itself from the Golden line by swapping more of the corn out for rye (80% rye / 12% corn / 8% malted barley mash bill), adding more ABV punch while they were at it. While Blue Run considered Golden more of a bourbon drinker’s rye, they wanted Emerald to unabashedly embrace its spicier roots. 

For 2023 we were blessed with Blue Run Kentucky Straight Emerald Single Barrel Rye Whiskey—the first ever single barrel rye from the Kentucky whiskey maestros. With ten barrels hand-picked by Blue Run Whiskey Director Shaylyn Gammon, each priced at $120 and named after one of the team’s moms (the collection was released for Mother’s Day), our bottle of Emerald Single Barrel oozed with brown sugar and red apple, with a long finish of caramel and clove. It’s delicious stuff. 

Still Austin ‘Artist’ Cask Strength Straight Rye

(Still Austin)

We covered the Still Austin Whiskey Co here last year, when we first got ahold of their foundational “The Musician” Straight Bourbon and “The Artist” 100% Straight Rye. Now for 2022 the Texan distillery offers these two expressions in cask-strength bottling. 

Co-founded in 2015 by Head Distiller John Schrepel and Master Distiller Mike Delevante, the duo helped design the independent craft distillery from the ground up—including their 42-foot custom-made column “Nancy” and her copper-pot sister “The Queen”—and promise to use local heritage grains and spring water.

The Cask Strength “Musician” Straight Bourbon features more forward notes of butterscotch, grilled peaches and pecan pie, while the Cask Strength “Artist” 100% Straight Rye leans towards cherry pie, cinnamon apple pie and of course a bit of spice in the mix. As with previous Still Austin offerings, the twin Cask Strength bottles boast eye-catching labels painted by local artist Marc Burckhardt—buy one for $65 here.

Hemingway ‘Signature Edition’ Rye Whiskey

(Western Kentucky Distilling Co.)

Launched late last year, Hemingway Rye Whiskey came hot out of the gates when its First Edition Collector’s Packaging sold out in less than one week. The whiskey is crafted by the Calls, a family with Bardstown roots and almost 230 years of distilling heritage.

Seventh-generation Master Distiller Ron Call and sons Clayton (Call Family Ambassador) and Jacob (eighth-generation Distiller) are charged with sourcing, blending and finishing the rye whiskey at Jacob Call’s new Western Kentucky Distilling Co. in Beaver Dam, Kentucky (where other new innovative bourbons like RD1 are being crafted as well).

For this rye project the Calls teamed up with the Hemingway and Groth families: the former for Ernest’s storytelling inspiration, and the latter with whiskey pioneer Steve Groth (co-founder of Angel’s Envy) to build the burgeoning whiskey brand. Earlier this year Hemingway Whiskeys announced their new Signature Edition representing the union of these three families—a blend of (90%) 6-year-old Indiana Straight Rye and (10%) 4-year-old Kentucky Straight Rye.

The latter crafted by Jacob using only locally-grown Kentucky corn, then both whiskeys are finished in dad Ron’s own rum-seasoned Oloroso Sherry casks. The resulting whiskey features notes of orange peel, raisins, baking spices and a touch of cacao, bottled at 102 proof and priced at $80.

High West ‘A Midwinter Night’s Dram: The Encore’ Rye

(High West Distillery/Dan Campbell Photography @dancampbellphoto)

High West long ago established its place in American craft distilling lore. Pretty much shocking the world that quality whiskey could come from a teetotaling state like Utah, the upstart label even earned the Whisky Advocate’s prestigious “Distiller of the Year” award in 2016. And of all High West’s most beloved and anticipated stock has to be their annual A Midwinter Night’s Dram—of which they just released Act 10.

To celebrate a full decade in crafting delicious versions of this rye-based expression, late last fall High West added to their annual release by introducing a complementary bottle: A Midwinter Night’s Dram: The Encore. Technically it was released 2022, but given how late they release their MWND collection we’ll let it slide.

Like Act 10 the tenth anniversary limited release, The Encore (50.8% ABV) blend also starts off with the famed Rendezvous Rye made at their Wanship, Utah distillery, but instead of second finishing in Portuguese ruby and tawny port barrels The Encore opts for wood that aged white port. The results are more subtle than Act 10’s bolder notes, leaning towards white peach, meringue and mint chocolate. Might be tough to find at its $150 SRP

Watershed Straight Rye Whiskey


As Columbus, Ohio’s highly respected Watershed Distillery eclipses a full decade of existence it continues to innovate—and dropped a very special bottle this year: its first-ever rye. A momentous occasion, as the whiskey is also Watershed’s most exclusive.

With only 125 bottles available (for now, they tease), Watershed Distillery Straight Rye Whiskey’s mash bill (57% rye / 36% corn / 7% barley) was aged six years in No. 4 char barrels. With deep amber color and moderate rye spice, the Watershed Distillery Straight Rye Whiskey has elements of the Ohio distillery’s 6-year single barrel bourbon. Bottled at 61.4% ABV for $90.

Proof & Wood ‘Tumblin’ Dice’ Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey

(Proof & Wood)

Founded by spirits veteran Dave Schmier in 2015, Proof & Wood has consistently released world-class whiskeys across genres. Note his Tumblin’ Dice Heavy Rye Bourbon scored the prestigious Best of Single Barrel Category at the 2021 World Whiskey Awards. This year his Tumblin’ Dice Barrel Proof Straight Rye comes to the party with equal vigor—an astounding rye with spicy punch, delivering waves of caramel, vanilla, and dried apricot, with commendable complexity at its barrel strength of 58.2% ABV.

While Tumblin’ Dice may not be for the faint of heart, those seeking an intense and rewarding whiskey experience will recognize it as a gem in the vast landscape of rye offerings. Unsurprisingly this year’s Tumblin’ Dice offering scored a Double Gold at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. $50.

Tamworth ‘Chocorua’ Rye


New Hampshire’s Tamworth Distilling and Mercantile has been playing with local White Mountain grains and botanicals since 2015. The brainchild of Steven Grasse, the man behind both Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum, Tamworth is considered an “experimental liquid lab of spirits,” a place the brand’s creator can let his ideas fly wild.

This spring their Chocorua Rye Whiskey—made from 100% organic rye grain, distilled in a 250-gallon copper still and aged for at least three years in charred oak barrels —will become available in most of the U.S. via Seelbachs. Although young, Chocorua Rye flows with nice notes of spicy rye, dark chocolate, caramel and oak. Plus, $1 of every bottle goes to protect its namesake Chocorua Lake.  $55.

Follow Deputy Editor Nicolas Stecher on Instagram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.