Defining Rye as a Category

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The rise of craft bourbon over the last few decades has brought with it a whole slew of new terms and definitions into the average spirit drinker’s world. Chiefly among them, the wondrous and glorious category of Rye Bourbon. So what sets rye apart from other bourbons? What characteristics elevate rye into its own category?


The fundamental difference that shepherds rye into its own realm of the whiskey world is the mashbill. The regulations demand that a “rye” whiskey be made with, at the very least, 51% rye while the rest of the bill is generally made up of malted barley and corn. After being distilled to 80% (160 proof) the newborn rye is set to rest in new, charred oak barrels at no higher than 62.5% (125 proof).

If the producers want to go a little further, they can age the famed spirit for two years and blend it with other spirits to create a “straight rye whiskey.” A Monongahela rye whiskey is created when distillers choose to showcase a mashbill of 100% rye and no additional spirits.

Our friends to the north have far fewer requirements for defining the label of a “rye” whiskey, but do require that the base blending spirit be aged for at least three years in barrels no larger than 180 gallons.

Rye whiskey distilleries create their flavor profile based on the strategic blend of corn and malted barley they choose to compliment the dominant rye overtones.


Unlike the sweeter, “juicer,” corn-based bourbon, rye brings a spicy, dryer style of whiskey to the table. The rye grass grain produces a whiskey that balances the sweetness in classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Whiskey Sour. The recent wave of interest in these mainstays of the cocktail world have brought rye into the forefront of spirit choices.


Proudly producing Oregon whiskey at its finest, Eastside Distilling’s Burnside Rye Whiskey is filled with notes of exotic allspice, coriander, and a hint of toasted toffee. The bold spice of the rye shines through, backed by the time spent aging in Quercus Garryana, Oregon Oak. The Burnside Rye Whiskey is a beautiful blend of the history of rye and its future.

“We are not emulating bourbon of the past, we are boldly celebrating bourbon of the present and future.” -Mel Heim, Master Distiller/Blender at Eastside Distilling

Eastside distilling uses the indigenous Quercus Garryana Oregon white oak to put a truly unique, and layered Pacific Northwest flare on the rye whiskey. The oak imparts a pronounced nuance of spicy vanilla that other American woods lack because of the high density of vanillin found in the softer Northwestern oak.

The Burnside Rye Whiskey embodies the style of a modern rye expression while holding true to its storied past.


Coming out of the gate with a sweet spice bolstered by its 111 proof, notes of vanilla oak are balanced by orange blossom and mint. Big Bottom Delta Rye is a unique blend of a straight Indiana rye with a softer three-year old Canadian rye whiskey, crafting an award-winning whiskey experience.

The higher proof creates an added depth of bold citrus notes to the mid-palate with a warmer finish of smoke and oak. Capturing the rugged Pacific Northwest landscape in a bottle, the Delta Rye is a bridge between the classic Southern style of rye, with bold spice and citrus, along with the blossoming Oregon more floral, sweeter whiskey style.


The roots of rye run deep, calling back to the late 1700 when barley became a stable source of grain. Surviving the Depression, rye’s biting character and unapologetic full-bodied profile are reclaiming their share of the whiskey spotlight. As the spirit scene in Pacific Northwest continues to mature and evolve with experimentation and rule-bending blends, Eastside Distilling’s Burnside Rye Whiskey and Big Bottom’s Delta Rye are opening up new avenues for rye across the board.