Bourbon's resurgence over the past decade has also impacted its closest sibling spirit, rye. Swapping corn for rye as the primary grain, rye whiskey often offers a spicier backbone ideal for cocktails or just a different sipping experience as compared to its sweeter bourbon counterpart. While rye whiskey options continue to expand, 2020 brought forth a number of ryes grounded in familiarity but highlighted by exceptional quality, that elevated above the rest. For rye, this year wasn't necessarily about breaking the mold, it was about perfecting it.
Every year, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection includes some incredible whiskeys. While Thomas H. Handy has always been a fine rye, it hasn’t been a standout whiskey in the collection for a very long time. That changed in 2020, as Thomas H. Handy delivers a flavor profile that’s the perfect balance of spice and fruity sweetness. Unlike past years, it’s not standing out for its high proof delivery, instead delivering an amazingly balanced sip. This year, Thomas H Handy not only stood out as the bottle to have from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but also one of the best tasting ryes of 2020. In comparison to past Handy releases, this may very well be the best one to ever be produced.
E.H. Taylor Rye has been around forever yet receives little attention from just about everybody. Revisiting the brand and focusing on this year’s batch, we were blown away by what it offers. It showcases exactly what a classic rye profile whiskey is supposed to be, while adding a dash of uniqueness in the form of a lovely mint, pear, an herbal accent, and an oily mouthfeel.
You might think you know E.H. Taylor Rye, but whiskey is a constantly changing spirit. Despite the brand’s overall time on the market, the 2020 release showcases the heights certain batches can reach. Simply, E.H. Taylor Rye’s 2020’s release is top notch. It’s a lesson that you shouldn’t forget about old standbys for new, more flashy limited edition releases. Sometimes a true gem might be right under your nose.
Over the past 5-10 years we’ve seen a surge in new rye whiskeys, bourbon’s spicier but not quite as beloved brother. Many originate from MGP with a familiar chassis...ahh yes those 95% rye spice monsters. Others originate from Kentucky often leaning in toward the sweeter notes more akin to bourbon. And of course there’s a mix of styles in between making for a growing range of ryes to help satisfy any whiskey drinker’s spice craving. Amidst this mix of increasingly numbered ryes you find the occasional standout, sometimes in an unexpected place. Did you know Wild Turkey made ryes? They do of course, and while they’re seldom talked about by comparison to Wild Turkey bourbons, there is something about Wild Turkey ryes that’s just a bit different from all the rest. Each of their ryes originates from the same barely legal 51% rye mashbill, but until this past year Wild Turkey had never offered a rye at barrel proof. That all changed in 2020, with the release of the first batch of Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye. While not exceptionally different from Wild Turkey’s other rye offerings, the increase in proof just drove it all home in the best kind of way causing us to keep coming back to this rye time and time again since we first tasted it. It’s big, bold, and at times, unapologetically brash. Wild Turkey has the longstanding reputation of producing bold whiskey, and they finally have a rye whiskey that encompasses that belief.