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New York State Of Mind: Empire Rye Whiskey

New York State Of Mind: Empire Rye Whiskey


Written by Thomas Adams 
September 27, 2013

There’s no better spirit to put you a the New York state of mind than this New York whiskey. Meet Black Button’s Straight Empire Rye whiskey. Our Straight Empire Rye Whiskey is as New York as bourbon is Kentucky. We love it because of it pays homage, in our humble opinion, to the finest state in our great nation. You’ll love it for its rich and bold taste, with hints of spice and fruit. So, sit back, fire up some Billy Joel, and learn more about this quintessential New York spirit.



While rye whiskey and bourbon whiskey both fall into the whiskey category, there are many differences between the two spirits. Rye is made primarily from rye grain, while bourbon is distilled from corn. Both whiskeys are barrel aged. To be considered rye whiskey in the US, the spirit must be made from at least 51% rye. The other 49% of the mash is typically corn and malted barley. It’s distilled to no more than 160 proof and aged in charred, new oak barrels.


Rye whiskey was particularly popular in northeastern states, with the center of production in Pittsburgh, PA in the late 1700s to early 1800s. Rye was the natural and obvious choice for early New York distillers due to the state’s climate. During Prohibition, rye whiskey ceased production for almost 14 year. But what was perhaps more detrimental than the end of the rye whiskey production was the loss of knowledge during the time. Resultantly, rye whiskey failed to recover as well as its corn-based counterparts like bourbon.


Distilled since the 18th century, bourbon whiskey must be made from 51% corn. Like rye, it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels and distilled to no more than 160 proof. The consistent use of bourbon as the name for this signature spirit has been traced to Kentucky since the 1870s. Although bourbon can be distilled anywhere in the US, it is strongly associated with Kentucky and the south.


In flavor, bourbon is characteristically sweet, typically opening with caramel and vanilla, and finishing with smoky notes from the charred oak. Conversely, Rye is bolder and spicier than bourbon.


Do not confuse rye or bourbon with Canadian whisky, which is also known as rye whisky (sans “e,” friends). Historically, much of contents was made from rye but there is no requirement for rye to be used to distill Canadian whisky.




In 2015, six leading New York distilleries, including Black Button Distilling, created a consortium dedicated to establishing a distinct whiskey for the empire state. In a world where craft spirits are everywhere, there was a need to honor New York’s distilling heritage by creating a spirit known to the region. From this empire rye whiskey was born. Bearing the emblem of Empire Rye New York, the whiskey would be held to same high standard as any other whiskey in the world.


The standard to be considered empire rye whiskey varies from traditional requirements of rye whiskey, most notably the rye content in the mash bill. To be considered empire rye whiskey, the spirit must:

·         Contain 75% New York state grown rye

·         Be distilled to no more than 160 proof

·         Age for minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels at no more than 115 proof

·         Crafted from mash to completion at a single, New York state distillery


Capturing the spirit of the empire state, Black Button’s Empire Rye Whiskey is distilled from 94% rye and 6% malted barley. Bold as America is red, white, and blue, it’s spicy and fruity, with a slightly nutty character. Unfiltered to provide you with true and authentic flavor, our rye whiskey is best enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a traditional whiskey cocktail. We recommend a New York Sour.


New York Sour

1 ½ oz. Empire Rye

¾ oz. lemon juice

¾ oz. simple syrup

¾ oz. port

Lemon twist as garnish

Directions: Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain. Float port and garnish with lemon twist.


Visit our Tasting Room to buy a bottle of Empire Rye Whiskey or buy online for direct shipping: 


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Upcoming Event


Join us in celebrating all things Rye with a special screening of Fire, Water & Grain: The Story of Empire Rye while sipping on a Rye Old Fashioned and nibbling on Rye Ravioli!

Fee Brothers Bitters Event

Upcoming Event

Meet the Makers

Black Button Distilling and Fee Brothers Bitters proudly present our first ever collaboration: Citrus Forward Gin Barrel-Aged Citrus Bitters.