Pouring a glass of bourbon on ice
The Difference Between High-Rye Bourbon And Rye Whiskey
High-rye bourbon and rye whiskey can seem interchangeable, but there are a few key distinctions that make them unique, which can be important factors in how you enjoy them.
High-rye bourbon is less sweet than regular bourbon and is only produced in the U.S. The extra rye content provides a spicier, peppery taste.
Conversely, rye whiskey can be made anywhere in the world. It has a strictly spicy taste, evoking the flavors of baking spices like clove and cinnamon.
What truly separates these liquors is their dominant grain. Both contain rye, but high-rye bourbon is mostly made from corn while rye whiskey is made from a minimum of 51% rye.
High-rye bourbons contain over 51% corn in addition to 20% rye. They're described as being punchier than standard bourbon, meaning you get a stronger taste at first sip.
As noted, rye whiskeys are made from at least 51% rye, though some contain much more. This makes for a more dynamic mouth feel compared to bourbon and even high-rye bourbon.
Bourbon whiskey may not have any other additives used besides water. By law, nothing else can be used to alter the color, sweeten the bourbon, or enhance the flavor in any way.
Rye whiskey, on the other hand, can feature up to 2.5% additives if it is not labeled as "straight whiskey," which refers to whiskey that has no other additives.