A. Overholt Straight Rye


Classification: Straight Rye

Company: Beam Suntory

Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery

Release Date: April 2024

Proof: 95

Age: 4 Years

Mashbill: 80% Rye, 20% Malted Barley

Color: Dark Gold

MSRP: $40 / 750mL (2024)

Official Website

Press Release

Old Overholt is said to be America’s oldest continually maintained brand of whiskey, having been founded in West Overton, Pennsylvania, in 1810. After World War II, Americans turned to clear spirits, and Old Overholt soon became the only nationally distributed straight rye whiskey on the market. Despite being the only rye on the market, it struggled and was sold to James B. Beam Distilling Company in 1987. After the sale, production was moved to Kentucky.

A. Overholt Straight Rye marks the return to Abraham Overholt’s original mashbill of 80% rye, 20% malted barley, which is often referred to as “Monongahela Mash.” Old Monongahela Rye was an old style of rye that got its name from whiskey farmers working in the Monongahela Valley in Pennsylvania. Originally an unaged product, it got its “old” moniker when distillers started barreling and aging it in stone and brick warehouses. Old Monongahela Rye used source water from the Monongahela River, utilized a 4 to 1 ratio of rye to malted barley, a sour mash fermentation, and a three-chamber still (see Leopold Bros. Three Chamber Rye). A. Overholt Straight Rye is not an Old Monongahela Rye, but does use “Monongahela Mash” on its label referring to its 80% rye, 20% malted barley mashbill.


You’re greeted with soft scents of rye grain, golden raisins, and honey. These three notes work in tandem, providing an inviting aroma that will remind you of a fall day. Fresh baked bread and fresh baked cinnamon apples waft in, adding a heavier midpoint, anchoring the aroma in place. The nose doesn’t go overboard, instead providing depth to its select scents. As a result, the aroma ends up being much richer than it started out at, and very well constructed by the end.


A commanding note of brown butter lays the runway for the rest of the palate to run on. An array of mild notes of white pepper, clove, graham cracker, and peanut brittle constitute a bulk of the rye’s flavor profile. It’s surprisingly light and smooth for the whiskey’s proof. The result is a balanced and tempered pour that feels somewhat held back. It takes quite a few sips to pull it all together, and though it turns out to be enjoyable, you’ll wonder if it was worth the effort.


The finish warms things up with baking spices, leather, and a touch of blackberry, accounting for the majority of it. This warmth helps pull together the entire sip as it conjures up hints of the flavors that came before it. An oak baseline follows and allows a gentle ramp-up of heat and lingering spice to rise above it. It rides a traditional rye finish mentality well and is a satisfactory way to end a sip that ultimately doesn’t ask much in return.


Overholt is a storied rye brand that originated in Pennsylvania. Because of the rocky soil of Pennsylvania, rye grain had a better success rate at growing in the climate and geography of the state, and the region quickly became known for their rye whiskey as a result. In fact, the state over the past decade has pushed for a sub-classification of rye called “Pennsylvania Rye,” which calls for the rye to be made in Pennsylvania and made from a mash of at least 51% rye grain.

Overholt rye was always made in Pennsylvania, but when Beam bought the brand in 1987, they moved production to Kentucky and aligned the mashbill with their existing rye brands, resulting in corn being added to its mashbill. A. Overholt Straight Rye is a move to correct that change and re-emphasize the brand’s rye heritage and geographical origins by omitting corn from its mashbill all together, aligning it to the brand’s original mashbill, though it is still distilled and aged in Kentucky.

Removing corn from a rye whiskey’s mashbill is usually a celebrated one among rye lovers. Besides corn being cheaper to grow and cultivate, its inclusion is often used to soften and sweeten rye whiskey. A. Overholt was likely well aware of this and why he went along with so many of his contemporaries and used such a high percentage of malted barley in his original mashbill. The malted barley in A. Overholt Straight Rye softens the bite of the rye, and in this case, creates a very balanced and tempered sip. The strong brown butter note on the palate is likely the result of this and makes A. Overholt Straight Rye stand out because of it. Unfortunately age and proof don’t do this whiskey any favors, as its sip tastes ultimately held back, and the whiskey’s true uniqueness isn’t able to fully blossom.


The current Old Overholt brand has always kept value as part of its core offerings. The standard Old Overholt has always been a bottom shelf staple, and the introduction of Bottled in Bond and 114 Proof versions only marginally upped the price. Even its 10 Year Old version offers an above average value at its $100 asking price. A. Overholt Straight Rye comes in the high end of the lower priced Overholt offerings, but it makes sense given its more upscale bottle and unique mashbill. Developing a new mashbill is an undertaking no matter how big the company is, and the high percentage of malted barley also adds to the cost of production. The whiskey’s age does counter its value proposition, making the bottle’s $40 price tag right on the cusp of too much. A reasonable price tag will likely allow those curious to give this a try, but the resulting pour might not be enough to justify a second bottle at this price.


Reviving the brand’s original mashbill was a smart decision, unfortunately, the whiskey’s age and proof hold it back.

While Overholt’s whiskey production will likely never move back to Pennsylvania (unless the brand suddenly sees rapid growth and popularity), it’s nice to see Beam hasn’t forgotten about the brand, continually putting in effort to revitalize it with new releases and improved marketing. Unfortunately, they continually fall short in one important department.

Time and time again, we always hear that rye is better younger than older, and Beam seems to agree as this is the third ongoing release from the Overholt brand that comes in at 4 years old. Their standard release used to be 2 years old but has slowly crept up to 4 years and of course their Bottled in Bond release is 4 years old. But releasing A. Overholt Straight Rye at 4 years old makes less sense, and the product suffers because of it. The decision to use Overholt’s original mashbill should be commended as it shows a lot of promise, but increasing its age and proof could be transformative. Beam completely ignored this brand for years, but given the release’s new mashbill, bottle design, and website (the brand didn’t even have one previously), shows the company might have a lot more in store for this brand extension. As it currently stands, A. Overholt Straight Rye is an understated pour that features good balance, but needs a little more oomph and complexity to truly stand out.

The sample used for this review was provided to us at no cost courtesy its respective company. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.
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Written By: Eric Hasman

April 24, 2024
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