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Rye Whiskey and High Rye Bourbon – What's the Difference?

Updated: Jan 27

Over the last few years we have seen several new whiskeys arrive on the shelves labeled “High Rye” Bourbon and its not uncommon to have a conversation with a Mersey fan about the difference between these products and a Rye Whiskey.

It all starts with the mash bill, the grain recipe used to create the mash which will yield its sugars to be distilled into whiskey.

A Rye Whiskey is required to be distilled from a mash bill that is made up of at least 51% Rye grain, while a Bourbon Whiskey is required to be distilled from a mash bill that is made up of at least 51% corn. A corn is predominantly sweet, many bourbon distillers will add some Rye and some Barley to the mash bills to create a more interesting flavor, the Rye will bring spice notes to complement the sweet notes of the corn. Often mash bills for bourbon are made up of 90% Corn, 5% Rye and 5% Barley.

Rye Whiskeys on the other hand tend to be distilled from mash bills that are mostly Rye, the most popular mash bill for example is 95% Rye grain pared with 5% barley grain. This will yield a very spicey, peppery spirit with little to no sweet notes on the palate.

In order to create balance in flavor, many whiskey brands will now add more Rye grain to their bourbon mash bills, to capture the clove and cinnamon notes and pare those with the sweet notes creating a deeper flavor. Mash bills here look like 70% corn, 20% Rye, 10% barley and are becoming very popular.

Mersey Rye Whiskey is a double Rye Whiskey, which is a blend of 2 Rye whiskies made from different mash bills. The first being a traditional 95% Rye, 5% barley and the second being 51% Rye, 39% corn, 10% barley. This does something of the inverse of a high rye bourbon, it brings the sweeter notes of corn to the spice / pepper of Rye, creating a deeper flavor journey for your palate – starting spicey and punchy on the front and then finishing sweet with dried fruit flavors on the back.

The resurgence of Rye is bringing on a new age of Rye cocktails and Mersey Rye was created to be enjoyed either on its own or to excel in a cocktail with all the spice and sweet flavor flowing through at 91 proof.

We encourage you to try it out either way! Cheers, Gavin

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