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Whisky Reviews

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond 100 Proof, 50% ABV


Rittenhouse Rye is the bread and butter of pretty much any bar - whether fancy or otherwise; cocktail bar; dive bar; hotel bar; whiskey bar; you've a pretty good shot of finding a bottle of Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey on the shelf. And yet, no one can place it. Is it supposed to be for cocktails? On the rocks? Neat? Is it entry level? Is it top notch whiskey? Rittenhouse's versatility is the definition of a double-edge sword.

But perhaps most commonly, because of its really good price point, availability and being easy to fit into cocktail recipes, it tends to be perceived as cocktail component.

Yet, could we be in fact looking at a screaming bargain? That diamond in the rough? 

For starters, what is Rittenhouse Rye?


Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.


Rittenhouse Rye was first introduced in 1934 by a Continental Distilling Corp in Philadelphia. Its founder had started his business by squeezing remaining drops of whiskey from used up barrels just to make up a full bottle that he could then sell as industrial alcohol. The taxman soon came knocking and he thought it best to go clean and start a distillery proper. At the time rye whiskeys were the default (and because of the accessibility of rye grain, is actually America's native spirit!), rye was produced and given the name Rittenhouse, taking its name from a popular landmark in Philadelphia - the Rittenhouse Square.

Then everything came to a halt when Prohibition hit. When Prohibition first ended, Bourbon was first to be officiated as legal and this gave Bourbon the lead that it holds on till this day. By the 80's, rye whiskey was on its last breath, and yet thankfully Bourbon biggie Heaven Hill had brokered a deal to purchase Rittenhouse Rye, and has kept it alive till this day. By ensuring that Rittenhouse carries a 100 Proof (50% ABV) and undergoes a 4 year old ageing before bottling, RIttenhouse has consistently punched above its weight, which made it a solid component for cocktails and hence its popularity with bartenders, who find Rittenhouse more affordable than using Bourbon in their cocktails.


The popular Sazerac cocktail is a common use for Rittenhouse Rye - but there's probably more than meets the eye to the Rittenhouse.


Going alittle deeper into Rye, there are two primary styles of Rye whiskies - the Maryland style and the Pennsylvania style. The Maryland style typically is sweeter, made with around 65-70% Rye and 30-35% Corn, while the Pennsylvania style is typically more spicy and herbaceous as it is made with 95% Rye. These days, most whiskey enthusiasts have gravitated towards the Pennsylvania style ryes (also known as High Rye) as they view it to be more distinctively rye and closest to the characteristics that rye offers to whiskies.

So where does Rittenhouse sit? Well, it's made with 51% Rye, 37% Corn and 12% Malted Barley - which would technically place it closer to a Maryland style rye, which would make sense as Philadelphia sits geographically closer to Maryland. However, Heaven Hill has maintained that Rittenhouse Rye is in fact made in the Pennsylvania style. 

While it is commonly accessible and known for being a stand out bang for buck whiskey, let's withhold our thoughts till we taste it.

Let's go! Onward! 

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond 100 Proof, 50% ABV - Review


Tasting Notes

Colour: Amber

Aroma: Gentle wafts of butterscotch, brown sugar, with alittle bit of white pepper, mint, eucalyptus. Light bits of dried apricots and dried cherry. Also some candied ginger. Good range but also alittle spirity.

Taste: Thick on the palate, surprisingly vibrant and punchy - caramel, butterscotch, vanilla frosting, orange peel, chocolate sauce, cinnamon, clove spices, rather confectionary. Cinnabons and churros - a little maple syrup. There’s a little bit of treacle and blackberry jam as well.

Finish: More of the woodiness coming out, some herbaceousnesss too, but overall clean with a deep warmth.


My Thoughts

A really solid value for money rye! While the reality is that the Rittenhouse sort of sits in alittle bit of a no-man’s land where it’s either used as part of a cocktail recipe by non-whisky drinkers or for serious whisky folks, seen as an entry-level rye that’s not sufficiently high rye, and might even be thought of as being more bourbon-like - the fact is this is actually a really value for money solid rye whiskey that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. 

It’s a great everyday rye, super versatile, but just as enjoyable on its own, and I actually like it for precisely what some might critique it for - I think the fact that it tends towards the bourbon sort of confectionary sweetness, whilst still offering some of that rye spices is precisely what makes it very accessible and enjoyable. It’s got both familiarity and something delightfully surprising about it.

It’s surprisingly vibrant in flavour and while not incredibly distinctive and wholly unique (not always a good thing), it doesn’t ever tire and keeps itself being really tasty and satisfying with a solid mix of confectionary, slightly herbal and spiced flavours, with some fruit here and there as well.

Really solid, great bang for buck, total crowdpleaser, easily available - good job, Rittenhouse!