Want your old-fashioned cocktails to pack an extra punch?
Then swap the bourbon for a bottle of rye and surprise your tastebuds with extra spice and oak notes you’ll only find in these types of whiskeys.
But before you shop for a new bottle, check out this roundup of the best rye for Old Fashioned cocktails.
Why You Should Use Rye Instead of Bourbon in Old Fashioned Cocktails
Bourbon was developed later. And though bourbon-based ones are delicious in their own right, they might not please traditionalists.
The best reason to swap bourbon for rye is the different flavor profiles. Bourbon tends to be sweeter, which is not a bad combination for an Old Fashioned.
But rye Old Fashioned drinks are something entirely different. Rye has a spicier taste, which stands out among the bitters and sugars in the Old Fashioned.
It also packs a stronger punch than the smoother bourbon, which is great for experienced whiskey drinkers.
Best Ryes for Old Fashioned Cocktails
- Woodford Reserve Rye: Best Overall
- Lot No. 40: Runner Up
- Old Overholt: Strongest Rye Flavor
- Basil Hayden Dark Rye: The Best Rye Blend
- Piggyback 100% Rye: Best for Pure Rye
- Balcones Texas Rye: Best Finish
- Wild Turkey 101 Rye: The Best Smoky Flavor
- Four Roses Single Barrel: Best Premium Rye
- High West Double Rye: The Best Affordable Rye
- Redemption Rye: The Best Traditional Rye Profile
- Knob Creek Rye Whiskey: Best for New Rye Drinkers
- Alberta Premium: The Best Rye Grains
1. Woodford Reserve Rye: Best Overall
- Rich honey color
- Long-lasting finish with a slight sweetness
- Apple, honey, mint, and clove taste
Woodford Reserve Rye pays homage to traditional American rye whiskeys and uses a 53% ratio of rye, just like they did before the Prohibition.
It’s a rich-flavored drink that provides strong notes of spice and tobacco. Perfect for whiskey connoisseurs, the Woodford Reserve Rye is a solid choice for anyone who wants a unique and strong Old Fashioned cocktail.
2. Lot No. 40: Runner Up
- 100% rye grain
- Slightly sweet finish
- Oak, dried apples, and raisin aromas
- Light notes of vanilla and coffee
Old-fashioned cocktails are made best with old-fashioned rye whiskey, and that’s exactly what Lot No. 40 is.
This drink is distilled in a traditional copper pot one batch at a time to ensure all the flavors and spices are preserved in every bottle.
It’s one of the best Canadian rye whiskeys that can offer a refreshing hit to your Old Fashioned cocktails.
3. Old Overholt: Strongest Rye Flavor
- Full-bodied and flavorful
- Notes of spice, dark fruit, and vanilla
- Dark honey color
Old Overholt is James B. Beam’s oldest whiskey, with a lineage tracing back to 1810.
It’s the best rye for drinkers who want the distinctive, strong taste of this type of whiskey.
Newcomers might find it too flavorful on its own, but the Old Overholt blends well in an Old Fashioned cocktail.
4. Basil Hayden Dark Rye: The Best Rye Blend
- Sweet and spicy finish
- Notes of caramel, dried fruits, and oak
- Deep amber color with ruby undertones
Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye is a delicious blend of rye whiskey and port. This mix creates a unique sweet and warm finish that rye newcomers can find appealing.
The whiskey gives Old Fashioned cocktails a distinctive fruity taste, thanks to the touch of port. The sweetness isn’t overpowering, and you can still taste the classic oaky notes of good rye whiskey.
5. Piggyback 100% Rye: Best for Pure Rye
- Cinnamon, black peppercorn, and citrus scents
- Notes of cocoa and cardamom
- Long-lasting finish with notes of vanilla and baking spices
The Piggyback 100% Rye doesn’t complicate things when it comes to rye percentages. All you get is rye. This creates a bold flavor profile that many rye whiskey drinkers look for.
Old-fashioned cocktails made with the piggyback will hold strong notes of spice, leaving no room for doubt as to which type of whiskey was used.
6. Balcones Texas Rye: Best Finish
- Notes of toffee, pepper, coffee, and nuts
- Charred oak, black tea, and pepper scents
Balcones’ Texas Rye is all about an impactful finish.
It must be tasted neatly at least once to allow your tastebuds to feel the long-lasting notes of peanut butter and dark chocolate that linger.
The Texas Rye mixes well with sugar and bitters. While it won’t overpower the cocktail, it will leave a smooth aftertaste.
7. Wild Turkey 101 Rye: The Best Smoky Flavor
- Notes of caramel, vanilla, and honey
- Long-lasting finish with notes of vanilla
The Wild Turkey 101 Rye is a rich, aromatic drink that packs a punch. In a cocktail like an Old Fashioned, it stands out among the other ingredients and offers distinctive notes of vanilla.
Aged a minimum of 4 years, this rye whiskey sets itself apart for its strong smoky notes.
8. Four Roses Single Barrel: Best Premium Rye
- Dried spice, cocoa, pear, vanilla, and maple syrup scents
- Notes of plum and cherry tastes
- Long-lasting finish
If you want a premium, single-barrel rye whiskey that doesn’t break the bank, give Four Roses a shot.
This smooth and delicate whiskey provides a long-lasting finish when drunk neat and complements well with other cocktail ingredients, including the Old Fashioned ones.
9. High West Double Rye: The Best Affordable Rye
- Licorice, cinnamon, pine, and gin botanicals scents
- Tastes of mint, eucalyptus, and herbal tea
The High West Double Rye is a bold sip that goes down smoothly even when you drink it neat.
It’s a blend of column and pot-distilled whiskeys aged for at least two years.
Cheaper rye doesn’t mean less impressive taste, and High West provides this with strong botanical aromas that linger just enough after tasting, combined with pleasant minty-fresh notes.
10. Redemption Rye: Best Traditional Rye Profile
- Notes of citrus, black spices, and black pepper
- Toasted oak and allspice scents
- Minty finish
Redemption Rye is the closest thing you’ll get to rye whiskey as it was in the 1800s.
It’s designed to feature rye’s distinctive aromas in full in a throwback flavor profile that proves you can’t beat the classics.
Redemption Rye is even richer in old-fashioned cocktails when complemented by bitters.
11. Knob Creek Rye Whiskey: Best for New Rye Drinkers
- Sweet caramel and vanilla with notes of apple and leather scents
- Black pepper, sweet vanilla, and caramel taste
- Pleasant finish with notes of oak and rich spice
Knob Creek’s Rye Whiskey is the best entry-level bottle for newcomers.
The flavor profile still features the distinct spice of classic rye whiskey, yet it’s well-balanced with sweeter notes that make each sip tame but still delicious.
Rye traditionalists can also appreciate this whiskey, especially in an Old Fashioned, as it gives a stronger sweetness to the cocktail.
12. Alberta Premium: Best Rye Grains
- Rich gold color
- Taste of banana, toffee, and light spice
- Smokey finish with hints of vanilla and spice
Alberta Premium uses authentic prairie rye to achieve a unique flavor profile. Their rye is aged for a minimum of 5 years and made by blending two distinct whiskeys.
Thanks to the low temperatures around the distillery, Alberta Premium gets a slow aging process that helps preserve its spice and punch.
There’s nothing wrong with a bourbon-based Old Fashioned, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the distinct profile of a good rye whiskey cocktail.
If a neat or on-the-rocks rye whiskey seems too much for you, the Old Fashioned is an excellent opportunity to expand your horizons with this powerful and spicy blend.
Check out any of the twelve brands on this list and get yourself a great rye whiskey to start mixing Old Fashioned cocktails the traditional way—some will even say it’s the best way.