What's The Difference Between Rye And Bourbon?

Bottles of Rye Whiskey



Bourbon well, is Bourbon

The main differences between Rye vs Bourbon. There are many different kinds of rye whiskeys (or “rye’s,” depending on your pallet). rye, rye whiskey, straight rye, bonded rye, and even malted rye. With so many types it can become confusing. 

Let’s dig into this subject.

Rye Whiskey is the true native spirit of these United States. Some say with Scottish Descendant others say Dutch. Distilled as early as the 1600s and later produced by President George Washington on his famous Mount Vernon Estate. Rye Whiskey has the deepest connection with American history and patriots.

All Natural, No Additives

Both Aged in American Oak Barrels

At Iowa Legendary Rye, we’re invested in our 100% natural recipe and we’d love to tell you what separates bourbon from rye whiskey.

  • While all rye whiskies are required to include 51% rye in their mash, Iowa Legendary Rye didn’t pull any punches in creating their old school prohibition-era rye, bringing the mash-bill up with a full 100% rye mash.
  • That traditional process lends it an equally classic flavor that makes for a perfect addition to rye cocktails and a low price point that means you won’t have to feel shy about mixing with it.

  • Rye’s standout flavor profile makes it a perfect addition for cocktails since it won’t get drowned out by other flavors

White label unaged rye whiskey by Iowa Legendary Rye.


What is the interpretation of a rye whiskey vs bourbon? Let’s dig into that. Bourbon is a whiskey, but not all rye whiskeys are rye. By definition and law, rye whiskey has a strict set of standards from the US Government that regulates the difference.

The U.S……. federal law requires that all rye be produced from a fermented mash of grain of at least 51% of its primary ingredient of rye. (The other ingredients in the mash are usually corn, wheat, or malted barley if turned into rye whiskey) aged two years or more in new charred oak containers.

With just a pinch of French

Bourbon is a type of whiskey, a barrel-aged distilled spirit made primarily from 51% corn. The name ultimately derives from the French Bourbon Dynasty. Bourbon has begun distillation in the United States in the 18th century.  

Bourbon has a French name, is made from a Native American crop, is fermented like German Beer, and is distilled and aged like Scotch Whisky. 

“Bourbon” was recognized in 1964 by the United States Congress as a “distinctive product of the United States”. Bourbon sold in the United States must be produced in the U.S……. from at least 51% corn and stored in a new container of charred oak.

Difference Between Rye And Bourbon
Buy A Barrel of Rye, Whiskey society, club, bar, liquor supply

Let's break down the ingredients

Rye Whiskey

  1. Made in the United States of America
  2. A fermented mash of 51% All-Natural Rye Mash
  3. Distilled in small batches in 26-gallon custom-built stills for an authentic historically accurate Prohibition-era taste at no more than 160 proof.
  4. It then spends 24 months aging in new 15-gallon barrels.
  5. Stored at no more than 125 proof in new charred white oak barrels.
  6. Free from additives with no artificial flavors.


  1. Made in the United States of America with its route from France.
  2. A fermented mash of 51% corn at least.
  3. Distilled at no more than 160 proof in 50-100 Gallon stills
  4. Stored at no more than 125 proof in charred oak barrels.
  5. Aged for a minimum of two years.

Because of this, all bourbon is not whiskey, and not all rye can be called rye whiskey.

The main differences between Rye vs Bourbon are as follows:

The rye mash used in rye whiskey has a spicy tone and dry taste, whereas the corn mash which is found in bourbon has a sweeter taste and full-bodied flavor.

Rye whiskey is more intense, whereas bourbon is sweet and easier to be tolerated Rye is distilled in no more than 160 proof (80 ABV), whereas bourbon is distilled in no more than 125 proof (62.5 ABV).

Understanding the subtle differences between a rye whiskey and your uncle’s favorite bourbon brands will help you craft an ideal cocktail when the moment arises and save you from an uncomfortable argument with a stanch connoisseur.

Whew! ” Rye whiskey ” can refer either to American whiskey, which must be distilled from at least 51% rye and aged two years or more, or Canadian whisky, which might or may not actually include any rye in its production process. (huffpost.com)

Broadly the basis of both bourbon and Tennessee whisky is corn, and the foundation of rye whiskey is rye.

They also work with a combination of malted barley rather than malted or “green” barley, and the combination of aged grains adds to the distinctive taste of the memorable drink.

Changes in any of the will create different flavor profiles and can impact the overall product which you have in the end.

Rye’s standout flavor profile makes it a perfect addition for cocktails because it won’t get drowned out by other flavors.

Rye whiskey can refer to two different, but related, types of whiskey: American rye whiskey, which is similar to bourbon whiskey, but must be distilled from at least 51 percent rye grain Canadian whisky, which is often referred to as (and frequently labeled as) rye whisky for historical reasons, though it may or may not actually include any rye grain in its production process.

Study Says No One Can Really Tell the Difference Between Rye and Bourbon as you don’t have to function as the scion of a wealthy Kentucky dynasty to know that whiskey lovers tend to have strong feelings about the differences between your various types of distilled alcohol consumption made from fermented grain mashes.

Today rye whiskey drinkers will never know the pain of searching the shelves and then come up empty-handed, as there are so many rye whiskeys that are readily available.

Okay whiskey drinkers, did I miss anything crucial?

As American palettes began shifting toward lighter spirits following WW II, rye with its bold and spicy notes continued to languish. By the end of the 20th century, it was basically a dinosaur.

There is a nice dark fruit top note that allows for the spicy notes to linger and develop on the palate.

Geography. ” Whiskey ” is produced stateside, while many other countries call their product “whisky.” However you choose to spell it, this distilled alcoholic beverage is made from fermented grain mash (barley, corn, rye, or wheat) and typically aged in charred white oak casks, giving it its can distinctive brown color.

The distillate must be aged in a freshly charred oak barrel. (Most often these barrels are white oak, but they can be any variety of oak.) If you distill a whiskey in your kitchen that meets all of these standards, congrats, you’ve made bourbon.

Difference Between Rye Whiskey and Bourbon You ask?

Or please check out the book on both Rye & Bourbon: The rise, fall, and rebirth of an American whiskey by Fred Minnick Tasting whiskey: an insider’s guide to the unique pleasures of the world’s finest spirits by Lew Bryson American whiskey, bourbon, and rye: a guide to the nation’s favorite spirit by Clay Risen The art of American whiskey: a visual history of the nation’s most storied spirit.



Rye whiskey carries at least 51% rye.

A 100% Straight rye is a delicate much harder process in the mashing stage. Thus, making the straight rye spirit in a small batch is the preferred technique when not adding additives or corn to the recipe.

But what’s the Proof?

When alcohol is distilled, it always derives off the still at a greater proof. But the method also removes everything that isn’t alcohol from the liquor, including its flavor. This is why our rye vodka is essentially tasteless. By carrying a maximum proof, it means that rye whiskey and bourbon maintain more of the flavors from the mash than would be absent with a double or triple distilling process.

ILR Bottles


For rye whiskey and bourbon whiskey. This style of Prohibition Era barrel charring, as opposed to toasted barrels or used barrels, grants a richer more flavorful color with deep tones. Both are aged with charred new American white oak barrels. 

Rye carries an aroma that carries a mixture of spice, grain, and hints of floral sweetness. With a taste of slight spice surrounded by flavors of caramel, coconut, and vanilla and a finish that’s long with a mild heat, from its aging process.

While bourbon carries a soft caramel with a faint sweet corn taste, oak, and vanilla notes linger in its depths.


Rye and Bourbon Aging determine the taste flavor and mix of a quality spirit. Overall the longer it ages in a charred oak barrel, the more flavorful it becomes. The law states that a rye whiskey must be aged for at least two years, but time is only one constant that determines how rye ages.

  • Un-aged White Whiskey – Sweet undertones with a fruity spicy zest and a hint of rye.
  • Matured Whiskey – Doesn’t advance as much as matured rye, which turns out to be more unobtrusive while as yet pressing its protected punch.
  • Whiskey flavors – Are simpler to endure as a result of their perceptible pleasantness and consistency.
  • Rye will in general have more extreme tastes that create a sense of taste.
  • Most of the color and most of the flavor in aged spirits comes from aging spent in the casks.
  • While there is no viable alternative, many producers still try to get around this method still today to procure these spirits faster.
Buy a Barrel of Rye Whiskey- Reserve a Barrel of Rye Whiskey at ILR Distillery, Templeton, Iowa

Rye Remains Best For Cocktails

and mixed drinks

For Neat and straight drinks both rye whiskey and bourbon as you expect both are great tasting. But for your mixed drink favors with rye’s contrast of sorry and spicy it ads a wonderful balance to cocktails.

White re or un-aged whiskey or moonshine as others call it. Has been even been seen lately to replace your vodka’s in various cocktails around North America as of late due to its smooth mild heat. With its taste of a more natural less commercial distillation process.

Both of these titans in American history remain excellent choices but to refine it down to who is the best. I would recommend the distillation process. 

Traditionally rye and whiskey where made with small pot still or small batch. Today you will find that companies have leaned more towards the commercial style column still for mass production and higher ABV.

Loosing much of the flavor in the process and leaning more towards additives and the aging process in oak to give you back that flavor.



Iowa Legendary Rye – Rye Vodka? White Rye? Private reserved red label or aged black babel Rye aged to perfection. Its sunshine to your lips with every sip. Don’t take our word for it try a bottle and see for yourself. Contact our distillery today and learn more about our reserved barrel sales. 

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Iowa Legendary Rye Distillery

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