Isn't Rye just Canadian Whiskey?
No. No, no, no, no, no. Although that is a common misconception, due that for a period in the middle of the 20th century, most rye whiskies did come out of Canada.
Below are some excerpts from an article written by Gary Regan for The Chronicle, but first, to answer Jobi's original question:
The best way to compare bourbon and rye is to do a taste comparison between two similarly-classed
examples. There is no point comparing a cheap & nasty bourbon with an expensive & classy rye - they aren't competing on a level playing field. Also, you have to consider the grains and the mashbill. A 100% malted rye is going to taste very different to a "straight rye" which - by law - need only contain a minimum of 51% rye.
So...in order to do a fair comparison, simply compare Jim Beam White Label with Jim Beam Yellow Label. THe White Label is a standard bourbon (the biggest selling bourbon in the world, so I believe), and the Yellow (or Gold) Label is their rye whisky, but it's not a 100% rye.
Below are some excerpts from Gary Regan's article....
Prior to Prohibition, straight rye was said to be even more popular than bourbon. And in the two decades that preceded the great drought, it was whiskey -- not gin, not rum, not Tequila and certainly not vodka -- that was the King of the American Barroom. Rye was a very popular dram indeed.
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, American whiskey distilleries fired up their stills, but concentrated their efforts on making bourbon, and more or less ignored rye.
Why no rye? Nobody's telling. It was probably because corn is less expensive than rye. The whiskey men had been out of business for quite some time, remember, and because whiskey isn't worth drinking until it's been aged a minimum of two years in oak, it would be at least that long until the newly made whiskey was deemed salable.
While American distillers were waiting patiently for their bourbon to mellow in charred oak barrels, Canadian rye whisky was being poured in the United States. Its popularity stuck, even though many Canadian whiskies are now made with no rye whatsoever. Until recently, many American bartenders automatically reached for a bottle of the Canadian impostor when their guests ordered rye.
(I added the underline)