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.


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


  • Port Chilkoot Distillery


  • Santan Spirits
  • Rodeo Rye Whiskey


  • Rock Town Arkansas Rye Whiskey


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


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


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


  • Painted Stave Distilling

District of Columbia

  • One Eight Distilling


  • Timber Creek Distillery
  • NJoy Spirits Distillery
  • Manifest Distilling


  • Resurgens Rye
  • Moonrise Distillery
  • Independent Distilling


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.


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


  • Koval Distillery
  • FEW Spirits
  • Oppidan Spirits


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


  • Templeton Distillery


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.


  • 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


  • Nola Distillery
  • Exclave Spirits


  • StroudWater Distillery
  • Tamworth Distilling


  • Sagamore Spirit
  • Baltimore Spirits Co


  • Short Path Distillery
  • Chattermark Distillers


  • Coppercraft Distillery
  • Grand Traverse Distillery
  • Iron Fish Distillery


  • Far North Spirits
  • Tattersall Distilling


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


  • Still 630
  • Woodsmen Distilling


  • Wildrye Distilling
  • Glacier Distilling Company


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.


  • 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


  • Oilfire Whiskey
  • Leadslingers Fighting Spirit Rye


  • Oilfire Whiskey
  • Leadslingers Fighting Spirit Rye


  • Oregon Spirit Distillers
  • Burnside Whiskey
  • Stein Distillery


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • High West Distillery
  • Sugar House Distillery


  • Mad River Distillers
  • WhistlePig
  • Appalachian Gap Distillery


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


  • Woodinville
  • Fremont Mischief

West Virginia

  • West Virginia Fruit and Berry
  • Catoctin Creek


  • Driftless Glen
  • Great Lakes Distillery


  • Bush Creek Distillery
  • Pine Bluffs Distilling