Rye Whiskey on ice with American flag on table hero

The Best Ryes in America Broken Down by State

Are you curious about the best rye whiskeys in the nation? We were, too, so we put together this handy blog. 

We started Locke + Co inspired by a great American tradition—the art of rye whiskey. 

From the cowboys passing a flask of their finest as they roamed the range to Jazz musicians sipping manhattans, rye is an inescapable expression of American identity. 

To celebrate a genuine classic, we’ve assembled a little guide to our favorite American rye facts, figures, and lore, plus a list of the best rye whiskeys you can find in every state.

Let’s start with the basics. 

Photo Collogue of Rick Tally, Owen Locke & Locke +Co-Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey

What is rye whiskey?

Rye whiskeys must adhere to strict legal requirements to distinguish themselves from other whiskey styles. 

First, there’s the rye itself—regulations (and tradition) state that over half the mash bill must be rye. Producers supplement their rye with other grains and starches to provide the sugars necessary to kick off fermentation, including wheat, malted barley, or corn. 

The liquor produced by this mash can’t be mixed with any other spirits to be considered pure rye. 

Then there’s the time it takes to make it. 

That initial liquor produced by the fermented wort is extracted and diluted to around 125 proof before aging, as certified rye whiskey can’t be higher than 160 proof. To create straight rye, producers need to account for at least two years of maturation, which helps create a rich, complex liquor.

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Old Fashioned sitting on a wood coaster in front of a bottle of Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey on a wood table with a silver mid century sputnik in the background

Why is rye whiskey so good?

Women in a hat drinking Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey straight from the bottle

Compared to bourbon, rye is known for its spicier, more complex, and generally more assertive flavor. While tasting notes vary from brand to brand, rye is usually known for oaky, smoky, and spicy notes that make for a profoundly satisfying sipping experience. 

So what makes rye whiskey so dang delicious? There are several factors, but for us, the barrel makes the beverage. 

Aged with mature aspen discs, our rye has irresistible caramel apple, toffee, and butterscotch notes that remind us of the feeling of sitting around a Colorado campfire. 

If you compare a bottle of Locke + Co’s finest with some of our other favorite producers on the list, you’ll quickly see that rye has a distinctive terroir that means no two bottles are alike.

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Which state within the US produces the best rye whiskey?

Bourbon is strongly linked with Kentucky, which produces around 95% of the juice on the market, but the rye world is a little loosy-goosy. And in our opinion, that’s a good thing!

Historically midwestern states like Indiana and Pennsylvania were known for their ryes. Still, these days a lot of the action is happening out west, in states like Colorado, Wyoming, and California, which are gaining attention for their growing small-batch distillery movements.

If you’re someone who likes your rye handcrafted and carefully brewed, the west is a great bet.

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Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey Barrels Aging and Two American Flags hanging from the ceiling

What state produces the most whiskey?

Although they specialize primarily in bourbon, Kentucky is considered the nation’s top whiskey-producing region, churning out approximately 2.4 million barrels a year, the highest rate in modern history, with Tennessee close behind.

These days, Kentucky also leads the nation in rye production, churning out 56% of all rye on the market, although states like Vermont and Utah are hot on their trail.

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What are the different Rye styles?

There are as many rye styles as there are producers, but here are the significant categories of rye that connoisseurs should know:

  • Kentucky or Straight Rye

Based on the classic 51% blend, this full-bodied and spicy rye style is sometimes called “barely legal” rye whiskey since it contains a minimum percentage of the grain. 

  • Pennsylvania or Monongahela Rye

With little or no corn in the mash, this style is a big whiskey with notes of warm spices that captures all the tasting notes of a classic rye recipe.

  • Maryland Rye

A corn-based mash makes this rye style extra sweet. They were fortified in the old days with fruit juices and prunes for sugary appeal.

  • Indiana Rye

A high level of rye in the mash (up to 95%) is big on flavor, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla notes.

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The Best Rye Whiskey in Every State

Now you know the rules of rye, let’s find out where to get the best bottles in every state!

A note before we begin—some states don’t yet produce rye (heartbreaking, we know). In those instances, we’ve tracked down a great local whiskey producer where you can pick up a bottle, enjoy a tour, and maybe drop some hints about stepping up their rye game while you’re in town. 

But that’s only three states. Every other producer on this list makes mean American rye, just what you need for a patriotic tasting of your own.

Alabama

  • Clyde May’s – Since 1946
  • Black Patch Distilling Company


Alaska

  • Port Chilkoot Distillery


Arizona

  • Santan Spirits
  • Rodeo Rye Whiskey


Arkansas

  • Rock Town Arkansas Rye Whiskey


California

  • Wolves Whiskey
  • Redwood Empire Whiskey
  • Sonoma Distilling Company
  • Alley 6 Rye Whiskey
  • Blinking Owl Rye Whiskey
  • Spirit Works Distillery
  • California Distilled Spirits
  • Lost Lantern


Colorado

  • Locke + Co. Distilling
  • Bear Creek Distillery
  • Leopold Bros.
  • Deerhammer Distillery
  • Laws Whiskey House
  • Woody Creek Distillers
  • Axe and The Oak Distillery


Connecticut

  • Litchfield Distillery
  • SONO 1420 American Craft Distillers
  • Mine Hill Distillery
  • White Hills Distillery


Delaware

  • Painted Stave Distilling


District of Columbia

  • One Eight Distilling


Florida

  • Timber Creek Distillery
  • NJoy Spirits Distillery
  • Manifest Distilling


Georgia

  • Resurgens Rye
  • Moonrise Distillery
  • Independent Distilling


Hawaii

Hawaii doesn’t have local rye available in mainland stores, but if you’re in Maui, stop by Hali’imaile Distilling Company for an unforgettable tour and tasting experience.


Idaho

  • Seven Devils Rye
  • Glacier Distilling Company
  • Rose City Distilling
  • Bardenay Distillery


Illinois

  • Koval Distillery
  • FEW Spirits
  • Oppidan Spirits


Indiana

  • Rossville Union
  • Doc Swinson’s Whiskey
  • Stellum Spirits
  • Hard Truth
  • Starlight Distillery
  • Bone Snapper Rye Whiskey
  • Copper & Cask


Iowa

  • Templeton Distillery


Kansas

Available only in person at their distillery in Kansas City, J. Rieger & Co is the first Kansas producer to make a straight rye whiskey since prohibition.


Kentucky

  • Buffalo Trace Distillery
  • Michter’s American Whiskeys
  • Old Rip Van Winkle ‘Pappy Van Winkle’s
  • Angel’s Envy
  • Willett Family Estate
  • Sazerac
  • Barrell Seagrass Rye Whiskey
  • Pikesville Distillery
  • Rittenhouse Rye


Louisiana

  • Nola Distillery
  • Exclave Spirits


Maine

  • StroudWater Distillery
  • Tamworth Distilling


Maryland

  • Sagamore Spirit
  • Baltimore Spirits Co


Massachusetts

  • Short Path Distillery
  • Chattermark Distillers


Michigan

  • Coppercraft Distillery
  • Grand Traverse Distillery
  • Iron Fish Distillery


Minnesota

  • Far North Spirits
  • Tattersall Distilling


Mississippi

  • Cody Road Rye Whiskey
  • O.H. Ingram River Aged


Missouri

  • Still 630
  • Woodsmen Distilling


Montana

  • Wildrye Distilling
  • Glacier Distilling Company


Nebraska

Nebraska hasn’t gotten into the rye game, but if you’re passing through Moorefield, stop at the Lazy RW for a sip of frontier whiskey and a distillery tour.


Nevada

  • Frey Ranch Whiskey Farmers


New Hampshire

  • Tamworth Distilling
  • Flag Hill Distillery and Winery
  • Dj Inn Spirits


New Jersey

  • Long Branch NJ Distillery
  • Colts Neck Stillhouse
  • All Points West Distillery
  • Claremont Spirits


New Mexico

  • Taos Lightning
  • Taylor Garrett


New York

  • Black Button Distilling
  • Coppersea Distilling
  • Finger Lakes Distilling


North Carolina

  • Mother Earth Spirits
  • Fainting Goat Spirits
  • Doc Porter’s Rye


North Dakota

  • Glacier Distilling Company


Ohio

  • Oilfire Whiskey
  • Leadslingers Fighting Spirit Rye


Oklahoma

  • Oilfire Whiskey
  • Leadslingers Fighting Spirit Rye


Oregon

  • Oregon Spirit Distillers
  • Burnside Whiskey
  • Stein Distillery


Pennsylvania

  • Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey
  • Wigle Whiskey
  • Bluebird Distilling
  • Liberty Pole Spirits


Rhode Island

  • Sea Fog Rye Whiskey


South Carolina

  • Virgil Kain Ribbon-Rail Rye
  • Burnt Church Distillery


South Dakota

  • SD Strong Distilling


Tennessee

  • Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey
  • George Dickel Rye Whisky
  • Riverset Rye
  • Standard Proof Wildflower Rye
  • Prichard’s Rye Whiskey
  • Nashville Barrel Small Batch Rye


Texas

  • Balcones Distilling
  • Garrison Brothers Distillery
  • Ranger Creek
  • Devil’s River Whiskey


Utah

  • High West Distillery
  • Sugar House Distillery


Vermont

  • Mad River Distillers
  • WhistlePig
  • Appalachian Gap Distillery


Virginia

  • George Washington Distillery
  • Appalachian Heritage Distillery
  • Copper Fox Distillery
  • Five Mile Mountain Distillery
  • Reservoir Distillery

Washington

  • Woodinville
  • Fremont Mischief


West Virginia

  • West Virginia Fruit and Berry
  • Catoctin Creek


Wisconsin

  • Driftless Glen
  • Great Lakes Distillery


Wyoming

  • Bush Creek Distillery
  • Pine Bluffs Distilling



The Top Colorado Whiskeys for 2022

Need some help finding your new favorite Colorado whiskey? 

Look no further than the brands on this list. 

Maybe our famous crystal clear mountain waters make Colorado’s whiskeys so exciting. Or, perhaps it’s our high-altitude climate and rugged western spirit. 

Whatever the case, it’s undeniable that Colorado is making its mark on the lips of serious whiskey drinkers nationwide. 

If you’re exploring the world of whiskey, Colorado-style, our list is an excellent starting point. 

Here are our picks for the top ten Colorado whiskeys you should search high and low for in 2022. Whether mixed in a cocktail, sipped neat from your Glencairn, or enjoyed straight from the bottle (after all, it’s Colorado, and we’re rugged), here’s what we’ll be sipping this year. 

Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey

We put our aspen-aged rye whiskey in the top spot. Why? Because it’s the perfect introduction to Colorado’s unique flavors, and it’s our favorite whiskey to sip neat. 

We’re whiskey-loving artisans, and we use heritage distilling techniques to produce one of the best rye whiskeys available. 

Locke + Co Aspen-Aged Rye Whiskey features notes of burnt sugar caramel, poached pear, and a complex woodiness imparted by the hand-cut and hand-charred aspen discs included in each barrel. 

For our money, it’s the best Colorado rye whiskey for unwinding around a campfire—or sitting in your living room.

A Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey Bottle in an Aspen tree

Stranahan's Mountain Angel

At over one hundred dollars per bottle, Stranahan’s Mountain Angel is considerably pricier than most whiskeys on this list. Still, it’s an excellent special occasion sipper. 

Mountain Angel is Stranahan’s oldest, rarest release. The juice is aged ten years in charred oak barrels amid Colorado’s arid, alpine climate, boosting the evaporation commonly known as the “angel’s share.”  

This creates an ultra-concentrated high-quality whiskey with notes of sweet molasses and dark caramel – best served over ice.


Deerhammer American Single Malt

At over one hundred dollars per bottle, Stranahan’s Mountain Angel is considerably pricier than most whiskeys on this list. Still, it’s an excellent special occasion sipper. 

Mountain Angel is Stranahan’s oldest, rarest release. The juice is aged ten years in charred oak barrels amid Colorado’s arid, alpine climate, boosting the evaporation commonly known as the “angel’s share.”  

This creates an ultra-concentrated high-quality whiskey with notes of sweet molasses and dark caramel – best served over ice.


Breckenridge Rum Cask Finish Bourbon

If you enjoy whiskey with an unexpected flavor twist, you’ll probably love Breckenridge Rum Cask Finish Bourbon. Infused with fruit and spices, it’s excellent in a tropical rum punch.

Aging happens in barrels previously used to create spiced rum, soaking in the flavor of roots, barks, herbs, spices, and dried fruit peels to develop this unique whiskey. 

The whiskey moves in once the rum is finished, creating a mild yet sweet spirit perfect for folks starting their Colorado whiskey journey.


Leopold Bros Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey

In 1999, two brothers at the forefront of America’s burgeoning craft whiskey movement founded Leopold Bros. Today, the brand is one of Colorado’s most beloved and respected spirits producers.

One of their latest creations, Leopold Bros Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey, has a spicy cinnamon coffee charm, with a subtle toffee sweetness that makes this bottle perfect for blending into an Old Fashioned.

Keep it simple: bourbon, bitters, maraschino cherry, orange peel, sugar cube – muddle, stir with ice, sip, enjoy, rinse and repeat.


Woody Creek Colorado Straight 100% Rye Whiskey

This Colorado rye whiskey earns its place on the list for both the drinking experience it offers and the locally minded ethos behind its creation. 

With a subtle, ultra-dry flavor featuring floral aromas and notes of black pepper, Woody Creek’s Colorado Straight 100% rye whiskey is a smooth drinker true enthusiasts will appreciate.


291 Small Batch Colorado Bourbon

Like our top pick, Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey, 291 Small Batch Colorado Bourbon is finished with aspen for an ultra-complex finish.

The staves 291 uses are toasted, making this small-batch whiskey incredibly smoky, with a strong campfire aroma that undergirds a maple sugar sweetness. Perfect for use in a classic whiskey sour.


Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon Bonded

We love this bottle from Laws because it’s like sipping a sliver of Colorado whiskey history.

The makers of the first Bottled in Bond whiskey in Colorado history, it’s produced following the requirements of the 1897 Bottled in Bond Act, using a seriously old school approach.

Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon Bonded is aged in a federally bonded rickhouse for four years.

It’s the product of a single season, per the act. With an orange blossom and honey sweetness, it’s a delicious sip of the past that makes a great Manhattan!


TIN CUP Straight Rye

While it’s one of the best-known Colorado whiskeys for casual drinkers across the US, TIN CUP has a little secret—it’s distilled and aged in Indiana!

But it still earns a place on any list of Colorado whiskeys because it’s named after the town of Tin Cup, a storied mining community where miners carried whiskey and gold in the same small tin vessels. So with a cute tin lid to sip from, it’s a nice homage to Colorado whiskey’s roots.


Old Elk Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Like TIN CUP, Old Elk isn’t a straight-up Colorado-made product, as it’s made in distilleries in New York, Indiana, and Fort Collins, Colorado.

With a robust burnt oak and caramel flavor, Old Elk Straight Bourbon Whiskey also has a light coca sweetness, with a hint of cinnamon spice. With a mild, velvety mouthfeel, it’s easy to sip neat as you contemplate the whiskey wonders to come.


So there you have it—our list of Colorado’s top ten whiskeys in 2022; it’s time to get sipping.


Locke + Co Old Fashioned on a wood table next to a bottle of Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey

Locke + Co. at Vendetta's in Vail, CO

Locke + Co. Distilling: Check out our featured house cocktail at Vendetta’s Italian Restaurant in Vail, Colorado!

locke + co

old fashioned

The Locke + Co Old Fashioned is our take on the traditional cocktail, featuring Locke  + Co Aspen-aged rye whiskey, simple syrup, bitters, orange, and Luxardo cherry.

Don’t miss your chance to indulge in this high-country libation at Vendetta’s Italian Restaurant in Vail, Colorado.




Rick Talley and Owen Locke in the Colorado mountains in front of a tasting table with Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey

Locke + Co. Events

friday, April 1st


argonaut wine & liquor hand sale | 3:00-6:00pm

760 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203

Are you looking for an afternoon break? Pick up a bottle and learn the history of Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye straight from Owen Locke.


Friday, April 8th


bubbles liquor world hand sale | 3:00-6:00pm

675 Genoa Way, Castle Rock, CO 80109

Come learn about the award wining Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey and its history from Brand Ambassador Bill Carter. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle for yourself or for your Easter Celebration.


Saturday, April 16th


biggie wine and liquor | 3:00-6:00pm

5587 Conifer Rd # 125 Conifer, CO 80433

Come learn about the award wining Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey and its history from Brand Ambassador Bill Carter. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle for yourself or for your Easter Celebration.


Thursday, April 21st


the whiskey lodge rye tasting | 4:00-8:00pm

3911 Ambrosia St #103 Castle Rock, CO 80109

Located in beautiful Castle Rock, The Whiskey Lodge is hosting Owen from Locke + Co. Distilling for an exclusive tasting of Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey.


Friday, April 29th


walkabout durango tasting | 4:00 - 7:00pm

Durango, Colorado

Taste Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey from owner Owen Locke at the Walkabout Durango Tasting. Find out the history of this award winning rye whiskey and why it is the best rye in the market.


Saturday, April 30th


durango private tasting - the bookcase & barber
| 11:00am - 12:00pm

601 E 2nd Ave B, Durango, CO 81301

Taste Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey from owner Owen Locke at the Durango Wine Experience private event at The Bookcase & Barber. Find out the history of this award winning rye whiskey and why it is the best rye in the market.

Saturday, April 30th


durango wine experience public tasting at the bookcase & barber
| 12:30pm - 11:30pm

601 E 2nd Ave B, Durango, CO 81301

Taste Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey from owner Owen Locke at the Durango Wine Experience public tasting event at The Bookcase & Barber. Find out the history of this award winning rye whiskey and why it is the best rye in the market.

Saturday, April 30th


durango wine experience grand tasting | 3:30 - 6:30pm

Smiley Building Lawn in Durango, Colorado

Under the BIG tent at the Smiley Building taste Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey from owner Owen Locke during The Grand Tasting. Find out the history of this award winning rye whiskey and why it is the best rye in the market.

Saturday, April 30th


bubbles liquor world hand sale | 3:30-6:30pm

675 Genoa Way, Castle Rock, CO 80109

Come learn about the award wining Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey and its history from Brand Ambassador Bill Carter. Pick up a bottle for yourself or for a rye lover in your life.


Owen Locke holding a bottle of Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey at Rino liquors

University of Denver Interviews DU Alum Owen Locke

Our very own Owen Locke & DU Alumni recently sat down with Sarah Satterwhite of the University of Denver to discuss all things Locke + Co (and more).

Owen Locke holding a bottle of Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey at Rino liquors

We’re a humble bunch, but we’ll occasionally sit down for a drink and a chat, especially with our local university, and share our passion for whiskey and community.

And that’s precisely what Locke + Co co-founder Owen Locke recently did with his alma mater, the University of Denver.

So visit their site to learn about Owen’s journey from DU graduate to producing Colorado’s finest aspen-aged rye whiskey.

And if you’re attending DU or plan to, learn why his journey at Daniels College of Business was paramount in achieving his entrepreneurial goals.

So, what are you waiting for?

Head over to the University Denver to read the feature. 


RepYourWater Black Manhattan Cocktail on a table with lure making materials, Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey & a bottle of Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters

RepYourWater Black Manhattan

RepYourWater’s inspiration this winter is a warming cocktail and sparse flies.

Ingredients

Preparation

  1. Mix all ingredients in a RepYourWater Predator Crystal Glass

Source
RepYourWater

RepYourWater Black Manhattan Playlist

13 songs, 47 min

RepYourWater Co-founder Garrison Doctor created this playlist to be played while drinking this cocktail from Locke + Co distilling. Enjoy the RepYourWater Black Manhattan Playlist and hit play.

Even though Garrison has no direct family members that fish, his love for fish and fishing was evident at a very early age. After he begged his dad for his first fly rod on his 10th birthday, this passion was sealed. His love for art and design also carried throughout his life. RepYourWater is a combination and vision of these pursuits. If he is not in the RepYourWater office working on a new design, he may be out in “Big Blue”, his trusty raft, throwing a streamer at a juicy bank and soaking in the wild.

Garrison Doctor Holding a fish in a river

picture provided by Garrison Doctor

RepYourWater Black Manhattan Cocktail on a table with lure making materials, Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey & a bottle of Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters

picture by RepYourWater


Bacon, Egg & Whiskey Cocktail on counter with a bottle of Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Ryes Whiskey & a Bag of Savage Honey Blaze Bacon

Bacon, Egg & Whiskey

Description

Locke + Co. Distilling & Savage Bacon has teamed up to create the perfect breakfast cocktail to be enjoyed any time of day.

Ingredients

Preparation

  1. Step One: Infuse Savage Honey Blaze Bacon Jerky in Locke + Co Aspen Rye overnight
  2. Step Two: Add ice and all ingredients into a shaker tin and shake well
  3. Step Three: Serve over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with an Orange Twist & Savage Bacon

Source

Savage Jerky Co.


Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey Bottle in front of Aspen Colorado Town & Mountains

Locke + Co. in The Roaring Fork Valley

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Co-Founder Rick Talley sitting outside in chair in front of a fire-pit with a bottle of Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey

Voyage Denver Interviews Locke + Co’s Rick Talley

Our very own Rick Talley recently sat down with Voyage Denver to discuss all things Locke + Co (and more).

Co-Founder Rick Talley sitting outside in chair in front of a fire-pit with a bottle of Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey

We’re a humble bunch, but we’ll occasionally sit down for a drink and a chat with respected local media outlets who share our passion for whiskey and community. 

And that’s precisely what Locke + Co co-founder Rick Talley recently did with Voyage Denver. 

So visit their site to learn about Rick’s journey from brewing beer in a Littleton, Colorado garage as a teen to producing Colorado’s finest aspen-aged rye whiskey. 

And if you’re a budding entrepreneur (we know many of you are), you might also find some inspiration to help you keep fighting the good fight. 

 

So, what are you waiting for?

Head over to Voyage Denver to read the feature. 


A bottle of Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey in the Snow

Locke + Co. in Vail

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