Difference between Rye and Whiskey

By: | Updated: Dec-21, 2017

Dark and intoxicating, whiskey is exceptional in taste, smell, and texture. However, since not all whiskeys are created equal, confusion can easily arise once several subsets under this alcoholic beverage come into play. This article explains the difference between whiskey and one of the terms commonly associated with it, rye.

Summary Table

A cultivated cereal grass used to produce flour, crisp bread, rye bread, rye beer and rye whiskey; also used to refer to rye whiskeyAn alcoholic beverage made from fermented wort such as barley mash, corn, wheat, and rye


glass of whiskey
A glass of whiskey

A distilled alcoholic beverage, whiskey is made from fermented wort such as barley mash, corn, wheat, and rye. The malted or fermented grain is given time to age in wooden casks, which explains its distinct taste, smell, and color. The wooden casks whiskey ages in are typically made of charred white oak.

Contrary to popular belief, whiskey exists in different forms. The fermentation and aging of grains, along with the process of distillation, are some of the factors used to classify the different types of whiskey.

glass of rye whiskey
A glass of rye whiskey with stems from rye grass in the background

Rye, on the other hand, is an extensively cultivated cereal grass. Since it is in the wheat family, it is closely related to barley, and it is used in many commercial products.

Aside from being cultivated as a main ingredient in flour and rye bread, rye grain is also used in creating whiskeys. A popular subset of this alcoholic beverage, rye whiskey is distilled from approximately 51% rye. Because of its distinct grainy and spicy flavor, rye whiskey is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages around the globe.

Rye vs Whiskey

So what’s the difference between rye and whiskey? While a lot of people use these terms interchangeably, they bear significant differences.

First, by definition, whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented barley, wheat, corn or rye. Rye, by contrast, is a cultivated cereal grass widely used in the production of commercial goods and products, including whiskeys. Rye whiskey is a kind of whiskey made with around 51% rye.

Since whiskey is a term referring to a particular class of an alcoholic beverage, it comes in different types. Types of whiskey include, but are not limited to, bourbon, scotch, and rye whiskey. Rye, on the other hand, is an ingredient used to create different types of whiskeys like bourbon and rye whiskey.

Comparatively, rye whiskey differs greatly from whiskey since the former is a specific class that falls under the whiskey family. Whiskey, on the other hand, is a generalized term pertaining to different types of alcoholic beverages made from fermenting wort such as barley, corn, and rye.

In terms of taste, rye whiskey has a distinct grainy and spicy flavor, while other types of whiskeys have their own unique character. Bourbon, for instance, is famous for its sweet and smoky taste.

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