rye whiskeys under $50 whiskey field of rye

7 Rye Whiskeys Under $50 You’ve Never Heard Of

rye whiskeys under $50 Blaum Bros Straight Rye Whiskey
Blaum Bros Straight Rye Whiskey

Best Rye Whiskeys Under $50 Your Whiskey Friend Didn’t Tell You About

You’re looking for the best rye whiskeys under $50, and All American Whiskey is here to help you out because Rye is having its day. Again.

Rye is arguably America’s first whiskey, although some beverage historians (like Wayne Curtis) will tell you American’s first whiskey was rum—and they might be right. The fact is, the origins of grain spirits lie in the cultivation of rye and its distillation into the gorgeous, delicious, pre-bourbon alcohol we’ve all learned to love.

The following rye whiskeys under $50 are a collection of our favorites; whiskeys we have on our shelf. Except for Stoll & Wolfe because we can’t get to Pennsylvania to save our ass. We hope you enjoy them—and seriously, click the buttons and get them shipped right to your doorstep.

Also, we’re new, and this article is introducing more than just the best rye whiskeys under $50. It’s introducing you to our wingnut tasting notes. Scott and I have been tasting wine and spirits for years. I’ve been writing about them for at least three. We’ve come to the conclusion that most tasting notes don’t make a lick of sense. Caramel and cinnamon laid over fresh oak? What the hell does that mean? Instead, we decided to bring you into the headspace of a whiskey’s flavor. Each one is a distinct interpretation of the actual flavors, described not with lame industry descriptors but with a story that carries the essence of the nose and the palate to you in a more literate way through your willing suspension of disbelief. It works for booze, too.

Blaum Brothers Straight Rye Whiskey

blaum bros
BLAUM BROS

Straight Rye Whiskey

 


Grain Bill: 92% Rye | 5% smoked malt | 3% malted barley
Cooperage air-dried for 18-24 months in charred white oak barrels
Age: +4 years
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Tasting Notes: You’re having coffee and toast at a hip Parisian Cafe with a gorgeous punk rock superstar in 1986. She’s in her late grandfather’s worn leather bomber jacket, lighting a clove cigarette while looking you dead in the eyes through the smoke. She offers you her cherry clafoutis and while you’re chewing, she explains to you why the oubliette is the most rigorous literary form.

The Blaum brothers  are serious whiskey lovers. Their distillery practice is grain-to-glass with all ingredients sourced from Illinois. You may have learned about Blaum Bros when you heard about Knotter Bourbon, their first spirit, which they sourced outside of Illinois while they worked on their first in-house whiskeys. Knotter Bourbon surged into collectibles territory and had serious bourbon freaks lining up outside the distillery.

Their rye is a fantastic distillation, with the eponymous grain very forward in the flavor profile. The singular fullness of the rye flavor may come from their use of a single farm for rye production. It is a smoldering, fat, sexy whiskey you’ll want to have on hand to impress the hell out of your whiskey-loving friends. For rye whiskeys under $50, it is a strong first place.

Ragtime Rye

Ragtime Rye’s been around since 2015, takes a lot of pride in their non-GMO grain bill, and doesn’t tie their whiskey to the history of rye, like other distillers, but to music. The label shows a ragtime piano player with his sleeves held up by bands like a Vegas dealer. It’s damn fine rye, if a little hot and maybe more for putting in the prohibition era cocktails you’ll have while dancing to “The Maple Leaf Rag” than sipping by the fire.

ragtime rye whiskey
NEW YORK DISTILLING COMPANY

Straight Whiskey

 

Grain Bill: 92% Rye | 5% smoked malt | 3% malted barley
Cooperage: air-dried for 18-24 months in charred white oak barrels
Age: +4 years
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Tasting Notes: On the beach in Costa Rica after surfing past sunset. Marco’s started a fire and Junebug’s unwrapping snackage: orange slices, apple slices dipped in caramel, sugar cookies, and her mom’s baklava, which is swimming in honey. You stare into the flames, your calves on fire after a day on the waves, and realize Marco used the sandalwood matches you picked up in Thailand.

Old Pepper Single Barrel Rye

Old pepper rye
JAMES E. PEPPER

Single Barrel Rye

 

Grain Bill: 95% Rye | 5% malted barley
Cooperage: double oaked in air-dried charted Kentucky oak barrels
Age: +4 years Proof: 110 (55% ABV)
Tasting notes: Somebody’s chopping basil and oregano at the Farmer’s market in Lexington. You’re standing in front of a stall selling pralines, which you’re gonna try next, but your mouth is full of their secret caramel treat, and it’s all you can think about. You smell cloves and look out across the market to just catch the bright blue mohawk of a punk rock superstar as she disappears around the oak slat walls of the bazaar.

Why it’s one of the best rye whiskeys under $50

The back of the label tells the story of Col. James E. Pepper who built the distillery in 1880. It ran until 1967 and was then abandoned. It was rebuilt in 2008 and has been producing excellent whiskey since. The back-of-the-label story claims the Old Fashioned was invented in honor of Col. Pepper. We will examine this in another article because it may be one of those eternal struggles over the origin of an iconic cocktail (your dad probably fought in the Martini wars of the mid-2000s. He never talks about it. Don’t bother him. It was hell, kid. Pure hell.)

Koval Rye

KOVAL

Rye

 

Grain Bill: 100% Rye
Fermentation: heart’s cut only
Cooperage: 30-gallon charred oak barrels
Age: 1–2 years
Proof: 80 (40% ABV)
Tasting notes: You wake up at your grandma’s house. You float into the kitchen on the smell of pancakes drowned in maple syrup. Your gran’s made you dark ginger tea served with cinnamon buns and spice cake, but all you can think of are the candy corns and red hots she spilled on the table cause she’s getting ready for Halloween, except all this is whiskey.

Why it’s one of the best rye whiskeys under $50

Koval has the distinction of being the first real distillery in Chicago since the mid-1800s. They make several spirits, but their rye really stands out for their use of 100% organic grain in their mash. The distillery practices using only the heart cut from distillation, meaning the odd flavors from the head and the tails aren’t present. Aging the rye for up to two years in 30-gallon charred oak barrels means the heart-cut style stays super clean, pushing all the rye flavors to the front.

Stoll & Wolfe Straight Pennsylvania Rye

stoll and wolfe
STOLL & WOLFE

Barrel Finish Caribbean Cask Rye Whiskey

 

Grain Bill: 65% Rye | 25% corn | 10% malted barley
Cooperage: 30-gallon barrels, then 53-gallon barrels with a deeper char.
Age: +3 years
Proof: 90 (45% ABV)
Tasting notes: You’re flying down the highway with the top down. Your strawberry blonde hair is wrapped across your face, rippling in the wind like a flag. Your new boyfriend is driving through grain fields over a back road after a rain. You top a rise, cruising under the low branches of a rain-soaked oak tree and turn yourself to lean back against him and wonder what the fuck is it about him that takes you back to the Mexican candy store of your youth. His skin smells like spiced honey. Like cinnamon and orange peels. As you sink into the overwhelming perfume of rye, you find it. Like he’s got marzipan in his pocket. You close your eyes. You fix this moment in amber.

Why it’s one of the best rye whiskeys under $50

Stoll & Wolfe’s credentials are deep. Not only are they making rye in one of the oldest distilleries in the nation, but they’re also doing it the way rye was originally made. More, the guy putting it together, Stoll was trained by the great-grandson of Jim Beam before he mixed the mash at Michter’s. So you can understand why people in Pennsylvania are nuts for this spirit. You can also understand why people not in Pennsylvania ARE FURIOUS BECAUSE YOU CAN ONLY GET IT IN THAT STATE!

Milam & Greene Rye

MILAM & GREENE

Rye Whiskey

 

Age: +2 years
Proof: 94
Tasting notes: This is the craziest pool hall you’ve ever played in. Unfinished pine walls. Everyone’s doing Fireball shots except you and your opponent. She ordered you both rye, then ran the break like some kind of Texas roadhouse pool shark. She drops the eight again and walks around to stand next to you while she chalks her cue and grins. She doesn’t say a word. She smells like dark cherries and black pepper and maybe a pine forest she walked through to get here. She pops the Rolling Stones on the jukebox, turns to you, and says Rack ‘em. You don’t care that you’re losing. You are not losing.

Why it’s one of the best rye whiskeys under $50

Milam & Greene’s rye may have its origins in Indiana whiskey production, but its roots are pure Texas. Those roots may have been planted by Ben Milam, but it was whisky wizard Heather Greene who pulled their harvest into an incredible collection of spirits. The rye is finished in a port cask and bottled in one of their solid and beautiful, hefty bottles.

Journeyman Last Feather Rye

JOURNEYMAN DISTILLERY

last Feather Rye Whiskey

 

Grain Bill: 60% Organic rye | 40% Organic Wheat
Cooperage: 30-gallon barrels, then 53-gallon barrels with a deeper char.
Proof: 90 (45% ABV)
Tasting notes: And so you stop. Hand on the doorknob, nine-paned door half-open into this improbable pastry shop under an oak tree half a mile from the beach. Bright green banana trees crowd every spare space and yard, shooting up past every garden wall, bright yellow fruit pulling the branches down. Jimmy’s sidewalk shack is right there, just a few feet down the sidewalk, loaded with melon, macadamia nuts, and some kind of orange you can’t ever get the name of. You’re carrying a spicy pound cake that has to have 18 different tropical spices with a turbinado crust and half a loaf of fresh bread in a bag, and you’re wondering why in the hell would you ever go back to the mainland.

Why it’s one of the best ryes under $50

I don’t know why they say, right there on their website, three of their whiskeys were served cease and desist orders for their original names, but it makes me like them more. Journeyman is one of those beards and blue jeans distilleries that’s gone deeply nerdish on their line-up and their process. They distilled three special releases for the Chicago Field Museum’s 125th anniversary in 2019 (good luck finding any). Master Distiller Bill Welter cut his teeth at Koval (and in Tasmania?, so his credentials are solid. So is this whiskey.

BONUS ENTRY

New Liberty Millstone Rye

NEW LIBERTY

Millstone Rye Whiskey

 

Grain Bill: At least 51% locally sourced rye
Age: 1+ years
Cooperage: 30-gallon barrels, then 53-gallon barrels with a deeper char.
Proof: 95 (47.5% ABV)
Tasting notes: Why would anyone leave a horse and buggy untended anyway? Yeah, you’re in Pennsylvania Amish country. Sure. But don’t they lock em up or something. You slide onto the hard vinyl seat. It smells like chocolate and coffee and black pepper. You snap the reins. The horse knows where to go. It heads off into a field of ripe grain. You can’t stop grinning.

Why it’s one of the best ryes under $50

Because Scott’s niece Lauren—one of our discreet field testers—said it is.

 

Author: Bull Garlington
Bull Garlington is an author and columnist in Chicago who writes about the madness of travel, analog tools, food, wine, and whiskey. Garlington lives with [his attorney], smokes black cavendish, hikes the easy trails, and makes a mean gumbo yaya.