Rye Whiskey Continues to Soar in Popularity

Exploring, Industry | | View Counts (591) |Return|

Once a “dead drink” – a whiskey largely passed over by post-prohibition drinkers as inferior to its sweeter cousin Bourbon – rye whiskey has been making an incredible comeback in the past few years as the trend for classic cocktails has brought rye back to prominence.

In fact, US sales of the spirit have increased six fold in the last six years, from slightly over $15 million in supplier revenues in 2009 to more than $106 million in 2014. That translates to about $300 million in retail sales. And it’s not just Americans leading the trend. “It’s now a global phenomenon,” DISCUS Vice President Frank Coleman told NBC News. “Bartenders in London are crazy to get their hands on American Rye.”

The overall whiskey market has been dominant in the US for the past several years, with sales of whiskey besting the performance of tequila, vodka, gin and all other key categories of spirits. But rye’s rise has been nothing short of stratospheric. “Rye whiskey should be America’s historic spirit,” says distiller Dave Pickerell. “Rye is a gloriously spicy grain. It’s big and full-bodied. It’s what you want to graduate to if you’re an American whiskey drinker.”

Rye has a good claim on the label “America’s historic spirit.” When the colonists threw their tea overboard it wasn’t just tea that went; it was the British way of life as well, and at that time that meant rum. But Americans weren’t ready to quit drinking altogether. With rye adapting well to the climate of the new colonies, there were thousands of rye distilleries up and down the east coast by 1810. George Washington himself made a good living making rye whiskey at Mt Vernon. Now Rye is back, restored to its rightful place in classic cocktails like the Manhattan.

At times, the rising demand for rye whiskey has caught producers off guard. Wild Turkey, for example, essentially ran out of its rye whiskey at one point a few years ago. Now with big brands like Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Knob Creek and Bulleit getting in on the rye action (and more than a hundred craft distilleries across the country producing rye) there’s not likely to be another shortage anytime soon. But can rye maintain its popularity? Pickerell certainly thinks so. “Whiskey is exploding,” he says. “So it’s not about carving the pie. It’s about making more pie.”

Related

Bourbon Barrels: Does Size Matter?

Bourbon Barrels: Does Size Matter?

Barrels in which bourbon is aged, can make or break the flavor of the final product. The color and f...

Read More >
How Does Climate Impact Bourbon Production?

How Does Climate Impact Bourbon Production?

When it comes to purchasing grain from a rye grain supplier, climate is one of many factors that pla...

Read More >
September Rye Harvest Notes

September Rye Harvest Notes

Harvest in Canada is wrapping up, albeit a bit slower than average.  This past (2013-2014)...

Read More >
Reflections on 2019 Craft Spirits Conventions

Reflections on 2019 Craft Spirits Conventions

Another great "convention season" has come and gone.  As craft spirit producers acros...

Read More >
How to Fully Enjoy Your Whiskey

How to Fully Enjoy Your Whiskey

In conjunction with our blog “The Art of Whiskey” post, here is a piece of knowledge tha...

Read More >
5 Surprising Rye Whiskey’s Health Benefits

5 Surprising Rye Whiskey’s Health Benefits

Rye is a crop that shows up in so many of our products today. It is an essential ingredient for cere...

Read More >