MAKING A GREAT
HIGH RYE BOURBON
Elijah Craig was the first to manufacture bourbon back in 1789. Since then, distillers have been experimenting with the ingredient grains in the mash bills to find the exact formula for the best bourbon. Most bourbon enthusiasts choose what they believe to be the best rye bourbon for its particular flavor...
A few basic rules govern the world of bourbon to preserve its authenticity. For instance, bourbon must contain at least 51% corn. Furthermore, rye can be distilled at no higher than 160 proof, aged no higher than 125 proof, and bottled no lower than 80 proof. Distillers can experiment with the rest of the ingredients. The most prominent types of bourbon include wheated bourbon, four grain bourbon, and high rye bourbon.
What Makes the Best High Rye Bourbon?
Bourbon mash bills contain corn, barley, and rye. Corn is the primary ingredient, and barley and rye are secondary grains that make up the alcohol. Barley is generally used in malted form for the sake of the fermentation process.
Generally, 70%-80% of bourbon is corn, and the remaining 20%-30% is divided between the other grains as the distiller chooses. The traditional ones have 8% to 10% rye. If the rye portion in bourbon is about 10%-15%, it is generally a low rye bourbon. When a bourbon has up to 20%-30% or more rye in the mash bill, it is declared a high rye bourbon. Although no specific percentage of rye defines the best high rye bourbon, the highest constitution in a bourbon's grain mash after corn should be rye.
When a high rye mash bill is cooked, the grain starch gets converted into simple sugars. Yeast in the mash eats the sugar to produce a fermented wash. The congeners and stillage from the grain mash are stripped off from the mixture throughout multiple rounds of distillation. The pure high rye bourbon is then barrel-aged for at least two to four years. Once the distiller is satisfied with the bourbon's spicy profile, it is bottled and ready to serve to customers.
The History of Rye Bourbon
The most traditional bourbons started with 100% corn in their makeup. Distillers have since added other ingredients to diversify bourbon's taste profile.
Rye has been a part of bourbon grain mash since the 1800s. Pennsylvania and Maryland are credited with bringing rye into the picture of American spirits. The Scottish and Irish immigrants who settled in these states used to drink barley spirits. However, barley didn't suit well in North America's climate. Instead, the rye they grew on their farms was a perfect substitute. Rye then found an entry into the bourbon expressions and hasn't left the mash bill since.
The past two decades have seen manufacturers experiment with the original corn bourbon. Distilleries have discovered an audience that prefers a spicy tinge to a sweet bourbon. The higher the rye content, the spicier the bourbon. To yield a high rye bourbon, distillers use a rye content between 15% and 30%, considering other factors like barley for fermentation, change of flavor after barrel aging, storage conditions, and more. Bourbon enthusiasts who enjoy a bit of pepper with a sweet corn taste often prefer rye bourbon.
Flavor Profile of High Rye Bourbon
Rye bourbon is known for its spicy finish. Apart from the 60%-80% corn in bourbon, distillers typically add about 5% to 10% barley for fermentation. Wheat or rye make up the rest of the constituents as flavoring grains. Adding rye gives the bourbon a peppery, spicy flavor, which, when paired with the sweet corn, provides a rich caramel and malty barley flavor.
Low rye bourbons typically have a tinge of spice in their taste. The low rye content balances out the natural sweetness of the corn and malted barley. However, with high rye bourbon, the peppery spice is pronounced enough to make the sweet corn the secondary layer in the bourbon's flavor profile.
High Rye Bourbon vs. Whiskey
The best high rye bourbon and rye whiskey have one differentiating factor. Rye bourbon doesn't have as pronounced a peppery edge as rye whiskey. It complements the sweetness of corn with a nice spicy kick.
The best high rye bourbons bridge the gap between the softer and sweeter taste profile of bourbons and the greener, sharper tone of rye whiskeys. They add the chili, spicy, and peppery notes to the bourbon with a few hints of herbs, grass, and licorice.
Some bourbon enthusiasts suggest the best high rye bourbon is ideal for fall drinking. The spicy, bold tone provides a desirable warmness on a chilly autumn day.
Choosing the Best High Rye Bourbon
To experience the best high rye bourbon, try Heigold's high rye bourbon. It is made with a unique mash bill of 70% corn, 25% malted German rye, and 5% malted barley. It will lure you with its aroma of toasted malt and warm baking spices. The silky butterscotch and bright citrus finish with a pepper spice crescendo raises the bar for high rye bourbons.
During the production process, we follow a modern approach of toasting the barrels before charring. After three years of aging, this best high rye bourbon gains deep flavors and an appealing caramel color. Bottled at a high proof of 95 (47.5% ABV), the Heigold bourbon has the essence of an American dream.
Bourbon enthusiasts around the world are responding with curiosity and enthusiasm to the variety of taste profiles on the bourbon market. In turn, distillers have experimented with the proportion of grains in their mash bills. They're even adding other exotic grains, such as quinoa, to bourbon's high rye content. Some distilleries use lab-created enzymes and yeast to experiment with flavor even more.Certain distillers also place their bourbon in a secondary barrel layered with other flavoring elements, such as honey. Natural factors such as climate, temperature, grade of the barrel's oak, distillation, and barreling proof also play significant roles in the bourbon's overall flavor. For these reasons, all the top high rye bourbon varieties will taste slightly different. The one you enjoy most is up t