9 Powerful Rye Whiskey and Food Pairings

One of the best rye whiskey and food pairings is with fat meat, since it will cut the high alcohol content

A punchy character with spicy flavours. That’s how one can describe Rye whiskey, but there’s more to discover about this type of whiskey. And one way to do so is by having whiskey tastings, specially with food that will enhance the flavours of the whiskey. Discover here 9 rye whiskey food pairings that are truly powerful matches!

This type of north American whiskey often go hand in hand with Bourbon, but both their flavours act like complementary opposites. If Bourbon whiskey has a sweeter flavour character, with vanilla and caramel tasting notes, rye whiskey have the spiciest background in the whiskey world.

Being made with 51% rye, it develops a flavour profile that develop from baking spices, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and black pepper. The longer rye whiskey ages, the sweeter it gets (as it happens with mostly all types of whisky).

Continue reading this article and get to know what makes rye whiskey truly unique, what does it taste like and the most powerful rye whiskey and food pairings.


Table of Contents – Sip this article

    1. What is unique about Rye Whiskey?
      1. What is Rye Whiskey Made From?
      2. How does Rye Whiskey Taste Different?
    2. Rye Whiskey Food Pairings
      1. What Food Goes with Rye Whiskey?
      2. 9 Powerful Rye Whiskey and Food Pairings
    3. Last Thoughts
Rye field - the cereal used to make rye whiskey
Field of rye – the cereal used to make rye whiskey.


What is unique about Rye Whiskey?

What is Rye whiskey made from?

The name says it all. Rye whiskey is made from… rye! But not completely. As it happens with every type of whiskey, the mashbill differ from brand to brand and it depends on the expression the distillery is producing. Some use more percentage of rye than others and add different other cereals to the mash. However, to be considered rye whiskey, an expression must have at least 51% of rye for the mashing.

And, although the mash may be different between brands and expressions, it is possible to come up with the most standard recipe to make rye whiskey. In the mash goes three types of cereals in different percentages: 60% rye, 30% corn and 10% barley.

The oldest recipe of rye whiskey, however, is 100% rye. The Monongahela Ryes (as it is called) is not produced anymore, but the Midwest Grain Products distillery produces a mash that is quite close to that. This last one consists on 95% rye and 5% malted barley.


How does Rye Whiskey Taste Different? – The Flavours by Type of Rye Whiskey

Before heading to Rye whiskey and food pairings, it is important to understand the rye whiskey flavour profile. As stated before, Rye Whiskey is well-known for its spicy flavour profile and high alcohol content. However, depending on the mashbill, it can have more or less sweet flavour notes. And, depending on the barrels they age in, it might develop more or less smoky or fruity undertones.

The final result of the rye whiskey’s standard mashbill(60% rye, 30% corn and 10% barley) is a dram with lots of baking spices flavours, some sweetness, hints of nuts and a dry finish. It can also have fruit notes, like citrus, and even some hints of smoke, if it is aged in charred oak barrels.

The rule of thumb with rye whiskey is that, the higher the percentage of rye, the spicier and drier the expression will get. So, it is possible to imagine, that, in the oldest recipe with 100% rye, the whiskey is as spicy and as dry as a whiskey can get.

There is also the case of well-aged rye whiskey and, in this case, the flavour profile will be softer, sweeter and with the spicy flavour notes more balanced. Usually, in these types of drams, the spices are toned down by flavour notes of vanilla and oak.

A common label to find is also Straight Rye Whiskey, and, in this case, the flavour profile is, probably, more earthy and sweeter, while still having that spicy kick in the end.

Canadian rye whiskey is also one of the most common types of rye whiskey one might find. Its flavour profile is smoother than the American rye, being a lot closer to the Bourbon whiskey character. That means it is sweeter, well-rounded, with lots of vanilla and caramel notes.

Another type of this spirit is the Malted Rye Whiskey. The germination of rye (malting) before creating the whiskey mash results in a spicier whiskey.


Read also: How Does Rye Whiskey Taste?


Glass of rye whiskey with rye grains next to it
The rye whiskey flavours highly depend on the mashbill of the expression and, of course, the maturation. The higher the quantity of rye, the spicier the whiskey will be


Rye Whiskey and Food Pairings

Pairing food with whisky is a common practice among this spirit’s connoisseurs. As it happens in wine tasting, quite a lot of whisky tastings have some food on the side. But not all food pair with all kinds of whisky and this is where there are quite a few tricks to learn.

When pairing whisky and food, either you want to connect flavours or you want to play with opposites. The aim is the same: use food to cut the alcohol content and to bring up some hidden flavour notes in the whisky.

Some types of whisky are easier to pair than others, due to their smoothness and sweet flavour profiles. With rye whiskey, the tale is a little different. Since this kind of whiskey has a stronger alcohol ‘kick’ and spicier flavours, finding the best match may be difficult. Next we will tell you some advice on how to make amazing rye whiskey and food pairings and give you some examples of a specific type of food that match perfectly with a specific expression.


What Food Goes with Rye Whiskey?

Given the rye whiskey flavour profile, there are quite a few effects you should look for before choosing what food to pair with this type of whiskey: cut that strong alcohol bite, tone down and balance the spiciness and bring up some of the hidden herbal and fruity flavour notes.
Here are a few rules you might want to follow to get the most out of your rye whiskey tasting and food pairings:

  • Fat meats and fish (like porkchops and salmon), and cheese (brie, for instance) and will help cutting the burning sensation of the alcohol content.
  • Slightly spicy food will match the spiciness of rye whiskey without becoming overpowering. It will help bring up sweeter flavours.
  • Smoky flavours in food will bring up caramel notes on the whiskey.
  • Crackers, pretzels and sesame sticks will work perfectly as a light snack.
  • Roasted nuts will enhance the whiskey’s smoky flavours.
  • Sweeter nuts, pecan pie and apple pie will balance the spicy flavours and pair with cinnamon notes perfectly.
  • Milk chocolate will coat your mouth, cut the alcohol and be the tray for sweeter flavours to come to light.
One of the best rye whiskey and food pairings is with fat meat, since it will cut the high alcohol content
One of the best rye whiskey and food pairings is with fat meat, since it will cut the high alcohol content


9 Powerful Rye Whiskey and Food Pairings

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey with Smoked Salmon

Made with high-quality rye, the Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is bottled at 100 proof and has a high corn mashbill. Being a Straight Rye, this whiskey has a sweeter profile, almost as if it was Bourbon.

Besides the sweetness of this Knob Creek expression, the boldness and punchy spice is all there. One can taste vanilla, honey, caramel, as well as citrus, oak and white pepper.

One of the smartest choices for this rye whiskey and food pairing is tasting this expression with smoked salmon. The fat of this fish will balance the spiciness and earthy notes and the smoke flavours will enhance the caramel and honey flavours present in the whiskey.


Pork Chops with Redemption Rye

Redemption Rye uses 95% of rye in its mashbill. It is both a celebration and recreation of the first recipe of rye whiskey (Monongahela Ryes) and this expression was already won gold medals on the New York International Spirits Competition, Ultimate Spirits Challenge, International Wine & Spirits Competition and a double gold in San Francisco International Spirits Competition.

Since it is high rye whiskey, it is also highly spicy, with notes of black pepper and anise. But there are a lot more flavour notes to discover, like citrus, hints of floral notes and a minty finish.

So that these last notes come forward, we suggest to coat your palate a little with a fat meat, like pork chops. The sweetness of this type of meat will also balance the spices without erasing them completely of your palate.
Bottle of Redemption Rye Whiskey near a glass of whiskey with ice

Pikesville 100 Proof Straight Rye Whiskey with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

The Maryland Rye industry is bottled in this Pikesville expression. The 100 Proof Straight Rye Whiskey is the last of the Maryland Rye Whiskey Expression.

With a spicy profile, this whisky is filled with clove and honey flavour notes, as well as vanilla and cinnamon. The finish is dry and even more filled with baking spices.

Putting this rye whiskey with Parmigiano-Reggiano is a classic whiskey and cheese pairing. This nutty cheese is as complex as the Pikesville Straight Rye. The fat of the cheese will also cut the alcohol kick, making it possible to taste all the spices of this rye whiskey.


Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey and Spicy Peanuts

With a (almost) standard mashbill, the Woodford Reserve Rye is everything one wants in a rye whiskey expression. It has the alcohol bite, the spiciness and the hints of sweet and floral flavour notes.

With tobacco and spice as its main characters, this Woodford Reserve expression also has sweet and fruity notes to balance everything out. One might find notes of honey, vanilla, apples, mint, clove and black pepper.

It may seem like a basic rye whiskey and food pairing, but, together with the slightly spicy peanuts, the clove and black pepper notes of this dram become more prominent. However, being the peanut a sweeter nut, it will also bring up the honey and vanilla flavours.

The Woodford Reserve Straight Rye whiskey pairs perfectly with spicy peanuts
The Woodford Reserve Straight Rye whiskey pairs perfectly with spicy peanuts


High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey with Fresh Calamari

If you are looking for a great appetizer to create rye whiskey and food pairings, sauteed calamari may with Rendezvous Rye may be your new go-to power match.

High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey is truly a game-changer in the rye whiskey world. It is a blended rye, made from two different mashbills: one with 95% rye and 5% malted barley; the other consists in 80% rye and 20% malted barley. Although the high rye content, this is dram with softer alcohol and spice kick.

One might taste different types of flavours regarding the typical rye whiskey expressions. It is as sweet (with dried apricot, persimmon and caramel notes) as it is fresh (with flavour notes of ginger, mint and citrus) and spicy (with oak and cinnamon flavours).

Pairing it with garlic and olive oil sauteed calamari will pair perfectly with the freshness of the Rendezvous Rye whiskey and bring up this whiskey’s citrus and sweet flavours.


Bulleit Rye Whiskey with Milk Chocolate

A Straight Rye Whiskey with too many awards to count! Bulleit Rye is one of the go-to whiskeys when you are looking for as top-notch rye drams. For one of the best rye whiskey and food pairings, we putted together Bulleit Rye and milk chocolate.

You cannot fail with this classic pairing. Bulleit Rye Whiskey is full of spice and sweet notes of vanilla, brown sugar and honey. One can also taste the oranges and mint and a peppery and dry finish.

The milk chocolate will provide the perfect mouth coat for the spicy flavours to tone down a little bit, while contrasting with them perfectly.

Bottle of Bulleit Rye Whiskey


Canadian Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whiskey with Pepperoni

As we talk about Rye Whiskey, it is impossible to not talk about Canadian whisky. The Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whiskey is an excellent dram already considered the best of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

With a 90% rye mashbill, this whiskey has a velvet mouthfeel and it ends with a creamy texture. Regarding its flavours, it is rich in spices such as pepper, cinnamon, aniseed and wood spice. It also have sweet flavours, with vanilla, caramel and butterscotch, as well as fruity flavours such as apples.

The fat from the Pepperoni will cut the alcohol bite so that the mild fruit flavours can come to light, while playing with the spice present in this rye whiskey.


Laws Secale Straight Rye Whiskey with Pecan Pie

When talking about rye whiskey and food pairings, the Laws Secale Straight Rye and Pecan Pie is truly a power couple.

Made with a sour mash composed by 95% rye and 5% malted barley and fermented at open air, the Laws Secale Straight Rye Whiskey is as spicy as it is fruity. One can taste blueberries, dried apricots and orange; and notes of baking spices such as clove and cinnamon. Sweet flavours are also present in the form of vanilla, hints of cocoa and sweet almonds.

The pecan pie will match this whisky perfectly, since it will pull the baking spices upfront while marrying the sweet and citrus flavours.


Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey with Roasted Nuts and Apples

Mitcher’s is a giant on the market of rye whiskey and this expression is as special as the brand. Being a single barrel whiskey, it exists only in limited quantities and it is quite a rare find.

The Mitcher’s 10 Years Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey has a smooth and velvety mouthfeel with bolder flavour notes of dark chocolate and toffee, it is full of spices such as white pepper and cinnamon and has a strong fruity profile with notes of oranges, blackberries and cherries.

Pairing this rye whiskey with roasted nuts and apples is an almost logical move for a whiskey tasting. The roasted nuts will bring up the oak and spices flavours and the apples will just pair amazingly with its fruity character.

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