Rye whiskey is having a moment, with dedicated bourbon drinkers finding a spicier substitute for their Old Fashioneds and neat pours in recent years. While the two styles make logical stateside neighbors, rye is not bound by borders. In fact, the spirit has deep Canadian roots, with some American producers relying on imports to add age and profile to their blends. Get to know the world of Canadian rye, from the conventional producers to the craftier come-ups.
Canada’s large distillers, with their expertise and long history of distilling rye whiskies, are able to offer impressive values.
Lot No. 40—94 points, $40
Fragrant lilacs, candied dark fruits, sour rye bread, wet slate, and dusty grain. Sweet vanilla with spicy cloves, hot ginger, faint tannins, and piney mango, softened by anise.
J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barrel Rye—92 points, $20
A spicy beauty with linseed oil, German rye bread, rose water, blazing cayenne, and a whack of rye spices. Peppery heat, creamy cereal, vanilla, and coconut.
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye—91 points, $26
A blending masterpiece. Touches of barley and corn whisky round out an otherwise all rye-grain whisky, within a global sensation of fruits, flowers, sweet peppery spices, and hints of oaky vanilla.
While they may not appear obviously Canadian, these ryes and blends of rye rely on the nation’s whiskies.
Masterson’s Straight Rye—94 points, $70
Sweet/bitter balance with butterscotch, dark rye bread, earthy herbs, then lilacs, baking spices, and dark fruits. An ancient gentlemen’s club replete with leather upholstery and frequently opened humidors. 100% unmalted rye.
Little Book Chapter 2 “Noe Simple Task”—93 points, $100
A blend of mostly Kentucky and Canadian ryes, uncut and unfiltered. Flavors of marmalade, grilled pineapple, and guava, balanced with ruby-red grapefruit, rich leather, drying oak, allspice.
Lock Stock & Barrel 16 year old Straight Rye—92 points, $150
Caramel, vanilla, and rye spices, with spring flowers, blistering pepper, molasses, firewood, licorice, and new leather.
WhistlePig 10 year old Straight Rye—87 points, $90
Vanilla fudge, spring flowers, lavender, and ripe fruit, with dark rye bread, sweet baking spices, and brisk white pepper. Complex and luxurious leather, tobaccos, and dark chocolate musings.
Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye—84 points, $40
Sweet vanilla, gentle spices, browning apple, and wet leaves. A rather light-bodied whiskey.
Smaller Canadian distillers also embrace the rye tradition, adding twists like new oak.
Dillon’s Three Oaks—90 points, $50
All rye, some matured in new oak and some in bourbon barrels. Complex palate with sweet citrus of Grand Marnier, fresh linen, tart gooseberries, creamy vanilla caramels, nutty cereals, and peppery spices.
Stalk & Barrel 100% Rye—86 points, $67
Dry breakfast cereal, rose water, then oilcloth, linen tablecloths, linseed oil, sizzling peppers, and sweet baking spices, ripe fruits, and fragrant flower blossoms. Slight waxiness.