The Top 5 Inexpensive Ryes To Help Stock Your Liquor Cabinet
By Richard Thomas
One sad outcome of rye whiskeys modern popularity is its general increase in price, and in the wake of the sudden craze for rye earlier this decade, the price for many good rye whiskeys now floats in the $40 range.
Despite this, a handful of ryes still put good quality in the bottle at an affordable price tag. After consulting with our team at The Whiskey Reviewer, outside experts, notable enthusiasts and our own readers, we settled upon the five rye whiskeys that deliver the best bang for the buck:
1. Rittenhouse Rye: Often available for $26 and a huge hit among experts and readers alike, this is not just the most popular of the budget ryes, but one of the popular budget whiskeys in general.
Two factors contribute greatly to the popularity of this Heaven Hill-made rye whiskey, beyond it’s low price tag. First and foremost is it’s relatively high 100 proof. Second, it’s made with a 51% rye mashbill, and thus is an example of one of those Kentucky-made ryes that is just barely a rye. That makes it a far more approachable crossover whiskey for bourbon drinkers. Plus, it’s an example of Bottled in Bond, so even without the age statement you know it’s at least four years old.
2. Wild Turkey 101 Rye: A very close second to Rittenhouse Rye is the Wild Turkey Rye. Indeed, I believe if this list had been made four years ago, Wild Turkey 101 Rye would probably have been ranking in 1st Place. However, during the height of the rye craze of a few years ago that caused what was a legitimate example of a whiskey shortage, the much-loved Wild Turkey 101 Rye was temporarily withdrawn from circulation. That hiccup might account for it’s slide to 2nd place, because its virtues are very similar to those of Rittenhouse: it’s priced at about $26, made in the 51% rye “Kentucky style,” and bottled at a slightly higher proof.
3. Bulleit 95 Rye: The “95” refers to the 95% rye mashbill of this MGP-sourced whiskey, not the proof (which is 90, or 45% abv). Prices vary widely on this one, with a 750 ml bottle marked at above $30 in some states, but as a rule it’s priced at $28 or below. “Bulleit Rye is my go-to drink of choice, not just my cheap drink,” said technology commentator and whiskey fan Veronica Belmont. “I always have it stocked at home!”
4. James E. Pepper 1776 Rye: Another bottling of MGP stock rye, this sleeper of a whiskey is bottled at 100 proof and named in our 100 Proof Rye Progression budget whiskey flight. That makes it among the strongest of the MGP-based ryes. It’s a real budget choice as well, often priced at $25 or less.
Bourbon Empire author Reid Mitenbuler rates it among the very best of the MGP-sourced rye whiskeys. “[I] honestly think it could tear up a blind taste comparison,” said Mitenbuler.
5. Old Overholt: The entry level rye whiskey from Jim Beam, this is another example of a 51% “Kentucky” rye, and this time bottled at the basic minimum of 80 proof. It’s virtue is very similar to stablemate Jim Beam White Label: providing reasonable quality at a rock bottom price. Even at it’s most expensive U.S. listing, a 750 ml bottle of Old Overholt ran for a mere $18, and often it goes for as little as $12. With such a wallet-friendly price tag, no wonder it’s among the Top 5 budget rye whiskeys!