Spotlight on Rye

American Rye is in High Demand

The demand for quality rye has never been more widespread. From the traditional ryes in wells worldwide to the high-end ryes that seemingly appear out of nowhere every year, rye is on the rise. Sales have grown exponentially, especially in the last five years, and the markets are scrambling to get their hands on all ryes. This trend is deeply rooted in the continued uncovering of knowledge and recipes from vintage cocktail books, and the turn-of-the-century need for rye in many cocktails.

When speaking of true rye, we are speaking of American rye, not the ambiguous title given to Canadian whisky. While Canadian whisky can have a portion of rye in its content, there are no rules or laws that technically make it a rye per se. That being said, Canadian distillers have released 100% ryes in the last decade, and have actually fueled the incessant penchant for rye that the American and world market is screaming for right now.

US law states that American rye must be at least 51% rye, aged in new charred oak barrels, and aged for at least two years at a proof no higher than 62.5% abv. Many of the big bourbon houses have been making some sort of rye for decades, but in recent years have stepped up in rebirthing “old” brands, creating new ones that look old and increasing their production and distribution to compete worldwide. This new demand in the American rye market has resulted in a lot of new brands controversially using distillate and passing it off as American rye, not really admitting that it is from elsewhere.

Many new brands have popped up with aged rye whisky, age statement whisky and the like, but they’ve only been around for a few short years. Many of the “new kids on the block” cashing in on the rye craze have been purchasing distillate from Canadian distillers and slapping a new logo on it. There is nothing wrong with this practice as long as there is transparency with the labelling and marketing. Various brands are experiencing great difficulties with labelling their products as handmade, craft and artisan. It’s a very slippery slope for a small distillery trying to get goods (whether bought or made) to the market.

With its inherent spiciness, mixability and the call for it in many classic cocktails, rye whisky’s resurgence is well warranted. Many classics from the turn of the century were modified after prohibition to use either the still widely available bourbon or Canadian whisky. With brands such as Old Overholt and Rittenhouse making a comeback at a reasonable price, rye is back in the worldwide spotlight.

With the return of this classic spirit, there are more classic cocktails coming into the light that call for the use of numerous amazing ryes on the market. From mixing ryes to high-end sipping ryes, the choices are becoming endless, and it’s necessary to have them in your store and behind the bar. American rye is back, and nothing will stand in its way.