Empire Rye

The Whisky Style of New York State

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Standard of Identity

Only a whiskey made according to the precise standards agreed upon by the Empire Rye Whiskey Association may be called Empire Rye and bear the mark on its bottle.

-Must conform to the New York Farm Distiller (Class D) requirement that 75% of the mash bill be New York grain; in this instance that 75% MUST be New York State-grown rye grain, which may be raw, malted or a combination. 

-The remaining 25% of the mash bill may be composed of any raw or malted grain, New York-grown or otherwise, or any combination thereof.

-Distilled to no more than 160 proof

 -Aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels at not more than 115 proof at time of entry.

-Must be mashed, fermented, distilled, barreled and aged at a single New York State distillery.

-A blended whisky containing no less than 100% qualifying Empire Rye whiskies from multiple distilleries may be called Blended Empire Rye.

+ How do I know if a whiskey is Empire Rye?

Any bottle of Empire Rye will carry the certification mark either as a small label on the bottle or incorporated into the primary label. If it doesn't have the mark, it ain't Empire Rye. Simple as that!

+ I have a bottle of rye whiskey that was made in New York State. Does that make it an Empire Rye?

Not necessarily. In addition to being made in New York State an Empire Rye must meet several rigorous process requirements (explained above) to conform with the style. Again, when in doubt, look for the Empire Rye symbol--all Empire Ryes must have it somewhere on the bottle. That being said, there are many fine non-Empire Rye whiskies made in New York State--even some from Empire Rye producers--and we encourage you to try them, too!

+ Is Empire Rye regulated by New York State or the federal government?

At this time Empire Rye is a collaborative project of individual whiskey distilleries throughout the State of New York. The Empire Rye Whiskey Association hold trademark of the Empire Rye name and certification mark.

+ Why does Empire Rye set barrel entry proof at a 115° proof maximum, rather than the legal maximum of 125° proof?

Low barrel entry proof is the only specific production methodology mandated for Empire Rye. Low barrel entry proof was a standard practice in the pre-prohibition northeast ryes. In fact, 100° proof was the norm for barreling. It made a very different and--we believe--more flavorful whiskey. We adopted this practice to firmly differentiate the Empire Rye style from almost all other ryes on the market.

When a higher percentage of the whiskey you are aging is water the result is a higher percentage of water soluble compounds extracted from the oak. These have different flavors than the ethanol soluble compounds we are used to in modern American whiskies.

Additionally, more water in the barrel for aging means less water added to get to the desired bottle proof. Think about the fact that most whiskies are barreled at the legal maximum of 125° proof and bottled at the legal minimum of 80° proof. That means the distiller is diluting their aged whisky a full 45 degrees of proof with flavorless water before bottling. Some Empire Rye producers barrel as low as 105° proof and bottle at 96° proof--a difference of only 9 degrees of proof, or 5X less dilution than conventional whiskey.

+ Who can make Empire Rye?

Any licenced distillery within the State of New York producing a whiskey that meets the Empire Rye criteria may request use of the name and mark.