New York Distilling Launches Rye Whiskey Using Rare Varietal

When cocktail and craft beer legends Allen Katz and Tom Potter founded Brooklyn, New York-based New York Distilling Co. (NYDC) in 2011, they knew they wanted to develop a rye whiskey that captured the flavors and history of New York, while creating something completely dynamic and new. Over a decade later, NYDC is proud to introduce Jaywalk Straight Rye, meticulously crafted and built on an historic varietal of rye native to New York. Making a world-class rye whiskey takes time, determination, risk taking, purposefulness and most of all, patience—all which are proven by how each bottle of Jaywalk captures quality, flavor and NYDC’s defiant sensibility.

Jaywalk Straight Rye’s journey started with a small envelope of just 10 seeds. Aided by the small-grains experts at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture, the search began for a varietal with deep historic and distilling roots in New York. Research and experimentation led the team to Horton Rye – a singularly unique grain whose origins date back to 17th century Rye, New York – and began the process that would create Jaywalk Rye.

Horton’s size – significantly smaller than conventional rye – packs a concentration of sugars, minerals and starch compounds that make for a truly distinct flavor profile; and a rare one at that, as most distilling enterprises wouldn’t consider cultivating a grain with yields that would limit commercial profitability. That didn’t matter to Katz and the team’s ongoing pursuit of outstanding flavor. NYDC partnered with Pedersen Family Farm in Seneca Falls, one of the largest organic farms in New York, to grow all of their rye. “We started in a series of ceramic pots, moved to a greenhouse and then to field tests. In all, it took 5 years just to have enough rye to start distilling.” says Katz. 

As fields were planted and harvested, the initiative has grown to more than 200 acres under cultivation. During those years the distilling, aging and blending began under the care and guidance of co-founder and Head Distiller, Bill Potter. The team experimented with six, seven, and eight-year old whiskey, all aged in 53-gallon char #3 oak barrels, and created its landmark blend: Jaywalk Straight Rye. “We bring forward flavors beyond the generic ‘spice’ too easily associated with contemporary rye whiskies,” said Katz. “The use of Horton Rye in every blend affords a focus on darker caramelized sugars and a subtle range of tropical fruits from candied pineapple and mango on the palate and honeyed notes of ripe apricot on the nose.” 

Jaywalk Straight Rye is bottled at 92 proof and its artfully crafted blend makes it an ideal ingredient for rye-based cocktails. Use it as a go-to when you’re in the mood for an authentic Manhattan or soothing Old Fashioned. “Rye whiskey was instrumental in the earliest days of American cocktail culture,” says Katz, “and when we designed Jaywalk Rye, we wanted it to be a delicious drinking rye with the versatility to shine in cocktails.”

Jaywalk Straight Rye is joined by two other labels under the Jaywalk imprint, both of which are built on the Horton rye varietal. Jaywalk Bonded Rye showcases a blend of exclusively 7-year-old whiskey at 100 proof and Jaywalk Heirloom Rye is an annual offering of scrupulously selected single barrels, bottled at cask strength (114-116 proof). 

All of Jaywalk’s offerings showcase flavors that are distinctly New York, but a sip of the spirit also captures something more: a hint of New York’s essence. Jaywalk’s name was inspired by the unwritten attitude that pervades the streets of the distiller’s hometown. “New Yorkers are dreamers,” says Katz. “Whether you’re born here or feel compelled to make this city your home, we share a drive to find joy in personal creativity, our own as well as others. It’s not a city for everyone.” For Katz and the Potters, New York provided the catalyst to be entrepreneurs, to understand and be unafraid in pursuit of a dream. 

Jaywalk Straight Rye is available at a suggested retail price of $50 for 750ml, Jaywalk Straight Bonded Rye is available at a suggested retail price of $55 for 750ml, and Jaywalk Heirloom is available at a suggested retail price of $119 for 700ml. Launching in February 2024, Jaywalk is distributed for purchase in New York with plans for expansion into other domestic and international markets throughout 2024. It is also available to ship nationwide through the NYDC website. For more information, visit and follow @nydistilling on Instagram.

Editor’s Note: Read more about adventures in growing and distilling heirloom rye.

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