SpiritsHandpicked by IWSC

Award-winning American rye whiskey

With American rye whiskey on a meteoric rise, read on to discover 12 of the best examples of the complex, spiced style of spirit from the IWSC 2023

Words by IWSC judges

whiskey in glass with ears of rye
Handpicked by IWSC

While there’s plenty to be said about the flavour imparted to a whiskey from the cask it rests in, the choice of cereal from which the spirit is made is playing an increasingly important role in the final flavour. It’s no wonder American rye is on a meteoric rise, production of the drink almost doubling since 2015.

American rye whiskey has long been popular in cocktails, a key ingredient in classics such as the Sazerac and the Manhattan. But now drinkers are sipping it neat or on the rocks, enjoying the more complex, spiced aromas and flavours when compared to the sweeter vanilla found in barley-based spirits. Some of the best American rye whiskey can even be packed with peppery notes of caraway and cardamom, offering something new for whiskey lovers to savour.

rye whiskey manhattan cocktail with cherries
American rye whiskey is the base spirit in a classic Manhattan cocktail

While the use of rye in whiskey is obviously nothing new – with early settlers in America distilling spirits from rye grains – bringing it to the fore of the mash bill is a trend that’s bearing fruit for distilleries such as Heaven Hill and Wild Turkey, who both won Gold medals for their rye whiskies at this year’s IWSC.

Scoring a mightily impressive 98/100 points was the Heritage Collection 12YO, praised for the cinnamon, nutmeg, rye bread, minerality, citrus and glazed-fruit flavours on the palate. With 96 points, Wild Turkey’s 101 Kentucky Straight Rye was ‘beautifully aromatic’ and showed a slightly lighter side to rye whiskey, with notes of blossom, honey, lemon and peach. One thing is for sure, if you’re looking for something with character in the glass, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for the best American rye whiskies from the IWSC 2023.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, winner of the IWSC Bourbon Trophy 2019
Buffalo Trace Distillery, whose Colonel E.H. Taylor rye whiskey was awarded a Silver medal at the IWSC 2023


We run a tightly structured, rigorous spirits tasting process. That means that each spirit sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC spirit judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the drinks industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.


Only the best spirits sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, spirits have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.


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