Difference Between Rye and Whiskey

whiskyRye vs. Whiskey

Differentiating rye and whiskey is a very easy task if you are to talk about the rye that is the member of the wheat family. However, it is not rye (the grass) that often gets confused with whiskey (the drink). It is actually rye whiskey that is usually mistaken for the whiskey itself. So how do these two alcoholic drinks differ from each other?

Whiskey, also spelled as whisky, is a drink for alcohol lovers, harnessed from either one type, or from a combination of grains. Because there are so many grain variations (barley, corn, wheat, etc.) used to produce different whiskey types, whiskies often have a wide range of strengths and flavors, that all depend on their base products or grain types. Talking about grains, this brings rye whiskey onto the scene. Yes, as the name implies, rye whiskey obviously comes from rye.

Rye whiskey, on the other hand, narrows down the varied whiskey types. This particular whiskey pertains to only two major whiskey classifications, namely the American and the Canadian whiskies, in which rye is the base grain. Amazingly, the latter may or may not use rye as the base ingredient, because if it is still holding the scent, flavor and the feel of rye, then it is still a Canadian rye whiskey. Conversely, American whiskies are required to be extracted from 51% rye, at the least.

Due to the dominance of rye, rye whiskies usually possess a distinct spiciness and fruitiness in it’s flavor. With American whiskey, it is said to be, at most, 160 alcohol proof. This type of drink become very popular in Pennsylvania and Maryland, but dwindled in the market due to the 14-year alcohol prohibition, which happened sometime in the 1920’s. Fortunately, the rye whiskey industry, particularly American rye, is gaining new grounds nowadays. As mentioned, Canadian whiskey may not have the actual rye, and some mash combinations even combine 9 parts corn to only 1 part rye.

All whiskies, in general, are aged within casks or barrels that are made of wood.

Whiskey and rye whiskey differ in the following aspects:

1. Whiskey is the more general, or generic term for the drink, whereas rye whiskey is just one of the variations of whiskey. Because whiskey is a broad term that can include many kinds of whiskies, like Japanese and Irish whiskies to name a few, rye whiskey on the contrary, is a term that sums up two major whiskey rye products, namely the American and Canadian rye whiskies.

2. Whiskies use many types of grain, such as corn and malt, among others, while rye whiskies specifically use the rye grain.

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