Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey ($14): From the same Kentucky distillery as Jim Beam. A good transition whiskey for those who appreciate a fine bourbon; smells of licorice; spicy and almost fruity in the mouth with just a touch of sweetness; it's fairly easy to take; dry on the finish.
Michter's US 1 Straight Rye ($29): As ryes go, this is smooth; with a stewed-raisin, spicy nose and a rounded, easy-drinking character in the mouth.
Jim Beam Straight Rye Whiskey ($13): Classic, assertive, ryeaggressive and a little hot; finishes very dry on the palate.
The Classic Cask Straight Rye Whiskey ($65): This fifteen-year-old has a sweet-vanilla nose, like a rum, and a dark, maple-syrupy color. Wood flavors dominate at first sip, but this rye, at 90 proof, packs a real wallop and has a strong, bitter finish.
Wild Turkey Straight Rye Whiskey ($19): At 101 proof, not much to smell except waves of nose-burning alcohol. This is a ferocious whiskey: hot, spicy, fiery.
Anchor's Old Potrero Single Malt Whiskey (around $70): A curious artifact from the Anchor distillery in San Francisco (of Anchor Steam Beer fame), this 100 percent malted rye whiskey is closest to what early Americans drank. Completely unlike anything else in the rye category: pale gold color; smells grassy and raw; close your eyes and this tastes more like an Italian grappa than an American whiskey. It is one weird bottle. Shame to see it, and other high-octane ryes, go undrunk.