RaggedReview [In Depth]

Green River Rye

Alex author
Founder, writer
green river rye header

Green River Rye Details

Distillery: Green River

Type & Region: Rye, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 47.5%

Composition: 95% rye, 5% malted barley

Aged: ~5 years

Color: 1.1/2.0 on the color scale (burnished)

Price: $35

From the company website:

Green River’s Rye with its easy-drinking appeal and memorable finish dazzles on its own or punches through in a cocktail. This Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is a blend of hand-selected 4 to 6 year old barrels, bottled at 95 proof, and boasts rich color and flavor. 95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley.

Green River Rye overview

The Green River brand is nearly as old as Old Forester or Evan Williams, but there were some twists and turns to get it to the version we know today, which is actually fairly new. From the company description and the fact that they are DSP-KY-10 (founded in 1885, one of the earliest registered distilleries in Kentucky), there’s a lot of history behind the name.
The reason why I write that it’s both old and new is because the distillery we know now hasn’t actually been operating that long. The original one closed in the 1950s and reconstruction didn’t start again until 2014, with distillation starting in 2016 (all of this information is on the Green River website). This new version of Green River is a craft distillery with a legacy name and location – a mix of old and new.
In summer 2022, Bardstown Bourbon Company made headline whiskey news when they bought Green River Distilling. Distilleries rarely buy other distilleries these days, especially one Kentucky distillery buying another one. Acquisitions like these are usually reserved for mega-beverage companies like Diageo, Campari, and Constellation who have portfolios of whiskey brands across various spirits types.
Since Green River had already been distilling for a few years, Bardstown Bourbon Co also bought whiskey already aging in rickhouses, including rye’d bourbon, wheated bourbon, and rye whiskey. I’ve reviewed the two bourbons, and now it’s time for the rye.
There’s one interesting coincidence I want to mention before I get to the core of the review – Green River Rye and Bardstown Bourbon Company Origin Rye have the same 95% rye mashbill. Considering that Green River started distilling years before the acquisition, I doubt that the two companies got together and decided to use the same mashbill.
I don’t have any answers or further insight, I just find it to be a strange coincidence. That said, this is also the same mashbill as MGP’s very famous and commonly used 95% rye / 5% malted barley mashbill. I guess that there’s no point of fixing a good thing.
Let’s find out if we have a gem on our hands in this Green River Rye review.
Thank you to Bardstown Bourbon Company for providing this sample. All opinion are my own (and I’m going to piss someone off one of these days).
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As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Green River Rye smell

The scents start with dense honey, licorice, grapefruit, apricot, and mint followed by toasted oak, vanilla, caraway seed, bubblegum, candied pineapple, and gushers candy. Off the bat, Green River Rye smells really nice.
As obvious as this sounds, it has many of the quintessential honey, tropical fruit, and herbal licorice rye characteristics that come off very sweet and fruity with a gentler earthy and woody background. There’s decent richness, expressiveness, and pep, although it’s still far from bold, but it’s not shy or flat.
After swirling and rest, I smell honey, grapefruit, vanilla, mint, candied pineapple, toasted oak, caraway seed, clove, strawberry, and gushers candy.
Green River is a vibrant, sweet, and tropical rye – I like that type of rye. It doesn’t go super deep with any trait or show any particular amount of complexity, but all in all it’s a fragrant, interesting, and enjoyable rye that smells really nice.
green river rye front

Green River Rye taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with honey, fennel, vanilla, and fresh grapefruit, then toasted oak, caraway seed, cinnamon, candied pineapple, strawberry, dried apricot and cherry, and mint.
Green River Rye is a fruit and herbal-forward rye with a woody, earthy, and slightly drying back end that already feels fairly well developed and has good viscosity and fullness. Sure, it could use more richness, pop, and depth, but I can tell that it’s already in a good spot.
With hard “chewing”, I get honey, vanilla, fennel, grapefruit, candied pineapple, toasted oak, caraway seed clove, mint, and bubblegum. There’s slightly rounder mouthfeel and richness than before, with only a hint of heat.
The finish has herbal honey, grapefruit, fennel, caraway seed, roasted oak, cinnamon, and candied pineapple with some background earthiness and dryness. After “chewing”, it leaves honey, grapefruit with a little bit of bitter peel, vanilla, licorice, earthy caraway seed, toasted oak, clove, candied pineapple, and a little bit of bitterness in the back.
Green River Rye continues to be a sweet, fruity, and herbal forward rye with a bit less oaky and earthy bite. The flavors are good, but don’t have much impact, pop, or depth. It nonetheless still tastes well done, and it’ll get even better with more time.
I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Green River Rye Rating

Mid shelf+
Alright Green River, I see what you’re doing and recognize that you’re doing great work. As much as I hate to admit, I haven’t been a big fan of the rye’d bourbon and wheated bourbon, but the rye whiskey has me nodding my head in approval.
As rye whiskeys often are, it has that really nice fruity, sweet, tropical, and bright personality. And as rye whiskeys often also are, there’s an earthy side to it, although it’s more subdued here. If you like rye whiskey such as Sazerac rye, Sagamore Spirit, or Knob Creek Rye, then Green River Rye will feel right at home for you. Actually, if you like rye whiskey then I think that you’ll enjoy this a lot.
It’s both good and not quite so good because it’s so familiar in a good way, but it also doesn’t have a unique or stand out trait either. Still Austin Cask Strength Rye has a distinct gingerbread thing going on and uh…that’s the main thing that comes to mind in terms of unique rye whiskeys. Having a distinct character is definitely easier said than done for everyone.
I always have to put this in my review. If you already know that you don’t like rye whiskey, then this won’t change your mind either. It still can be quite herbal, which can be a bit of an acquired taste. For me though between the rye’d bourbon, wheated bourbon, and this rye, I prefer the rye whiskey by a lot. It’s not even close.
This is 100% confirmation bias based on my experience, but I often find that younger rye outdoes its bourbon counterpart at the same age. I don’t know what it is about the rye grain, but it develops character so much more quickly than corn does, especially vibrant and tropical fruitness and herbalness. I’m sure that there’s some science behind it, but I only know what I know based on experience.
Anyway, Green River Rye is a well made whiskey for $35, and you cannot go wrong with it. It’s quite good to drink neat and probably does well in all sorts of rye whiskey-based cocktails too. If you’re looking for a more affordable rye that can handle double duty, then give this a try. It won’t blow your mind, but I think you’ll enjoy it and it won’t blow your wallet.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)