The Rise of Rye: Bourbon’s Spicier Sibling is Having a Moment

Youth is Served

That Angel’s Envy rye spent six years in wood before finishing is already a long time for aging. More so than other whiskeys, rye can benefit from youth. Leave it in barrels too long and rye can lose its spicy bite.

“We’ve found that relative to bourbon, rye tends to get the desired point of taking on barrel flavor and color relatively quickly,” says Jerome of Detroit City Distillery. “You still want to be able to taste spiciness of the grain.”

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Angel’s Envy rye is finished in Caribbean rum casks.

Detroit City Distillery does not disclose how long Homegrown Rye rye ages, but it has the bright-spice taste of young rye. This is well matched by caramel notes, thanks to the mash bill’s 3% caramel malted barley.

While young ryes have their place on the market, Marshall of Spirit Works cautions against rushing to bottle batches.

“I think that a rye needs time to come into its own in order to come alive in the glass,” he says. “Pulled too early, and a rye can be too sharp. It needs time to be allowed to mellow.”

The trick is finding that balance. Leave rye in too long, and the spirit can become over-oaked.

The Rye of Tomorrow

The Angel’s Envy Caribbean rum-cask rye is likely a sign of things to come. As the category grows, more distilleries will creatively produce and age rye.


Detroit City Distillery has considered aging in smaller barrels to impart additional oak flavor. Spirit Works, meanwhile, is exploring several rye experiments. This includes longer aging periods, 100% ryes, single-malt rye bases, and bourbons with high rye contents.

Whatever distilleries are working on, there appears to be plenty of room for rye.

“Let’s face it: in 2014, there were 13,000-16,000 new alcohol products launched,” Banchick says. “Back bars and liquors stores are not getting any larger. But luckily enough, as their vodka sections shrink, rye sections have appeared.”

“Bourbon is getting bigger and bigger, and so it’s a natural progression to have another brown-spirit section, one for rye,” he adds. “And with bourbon and rye sections kept separate, it’s easier for rye-makers to get in.”

Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of StateWays Magazine. Reach him at, or (203) 855-8499, ext. 225.




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