This is High West Rendezvous Rye finished in port and French oak barrels. It is a campfire pour. An arsenal of smoke, spice, and sweet, alternating back and forth. Just when you think the nuance ends, pronouncements of chocolate, cinnamon, plum, pepper spice, and barbecue. Its complexity hits a homerun, offering honey, red fruits, and citrus to a lingering, tickling, spicy finish. A must have. Sourced whiskey.
A blend of two whiskeys; a 6 year old made from 95% rye and a 16 year old made from 80% rye. These are very high percentages; a straight rye whiskey only needs to contain 51% rye to meet the definition. It was very clever to marry the vibrancy of a younger whiskey with the depth of a mature whiskey. Thanks to the high rye content, this whiskey is very spicy, with cinnamon, crisp mint, and fennel. Underlying sweet notes of caramel, molasses, vanilla, macaroon, cocoa, and candied fruit provide a calming effect and enhance the whiskey's complexity. But in the end, the rye is the victor, emerging with a vengeance and giving the whisky a bold, warming, spice finish.
A bottling from only five barrels of 95% rye whiskey produced at the former Seagram’s distillery in Indiana. It’s the American whiskey equivalent of drinking Ardbeg Supernova. Powerful and invigorating are words that come to mind. Crisp mint, warming cinnamon, dried citrus, cocoa, roasted nuts, and subtle botanicals are soothed by caramel, molasses, and honeyed orchard fruit. Brisk, bracing, spicy finish. The notes are clean, and the whiskey’s not just a one-trick “rye” pony. The sweetness balances the rye spice quite nicely. If you just can’t get enough rye in your whiskey, then this one’s for you. (Available only at the High West Distillery in Park City, Utah.)
High West A Midwinter Nights Dram (Act 4, Scene 5), 49.3%
Rye Whiskey | $80
A blend of straight rye whiskeys finished in French oak and port barrels. Gobs of fruit (red and black raspberry, plum, dried citrus) and crisp mint on a bed of caramel and vanilla. Lingering cinnamon and fruit on the finish. Distinctive and impressive.
Straight bourbon and rye whiskeys aged from 10 to 14 years, this nicely balances its dry oak, almost cedary, aromas with bourbon sweetness and a rye finish. The initial hit of orange peel, caramel, and vanilla flan yields to a spicy finish of lemon zest, peppercorns, and ginger.
High West made a momentous change to its recipe for Double Rye! this year, for the first time adding its own house-made pot still rye to a blend that was previously fully sourced from other distilleries. Apple blossom, yuzu, chamomile tea, walnut shells, pine boughs, and green-apple candy on the nose shift into an oily palate that starts off soft and then picks up speed and spice. Flavors of lemon, black pepper, walnut-and-apple chutney, dark chocolate, and a lively hit of green apple make this a satisfying pour—especially at the price. Above all, it validates High West’s skill as both blenders and distillers in their own right. Number 14 in the 2018 Top 20
An oddball that crosses the divide between American whiskey and scotch by literally mixing the two, Campfire combines straight Indiana rye, straight Indiana bourbon, and peated blended malt scotch, marrying them together in heavily toasted French and Hungarian oak wine barrels. The scotch adds hearty, meaty flavors to the dry, spicy, and rich bourbon and rye. This is a robust and beefy whiskey, with smoke reminiscent of Southern barbecue. Earlier releases of this ambitious whiskey didn’t quite hit the mark. Now, it’s right on target. Number 14 in the 2017 Top 20
This hybrid of bourbon, rye, and blended malt scotch is the dusty trail made liquid flesh. Smoke and cooked meat up front, balanced by sizzling rye spice, red fruit, and dark chocolate. Seaweed, salt spray, and peat are happy to share the spotlight. Barbecue ribs dry-rubbed with paprika, chili powder, and clove, with a smoldering finish. Hot, powerful, and beguiling. A great improvement over earlier releases (2016 batch).
A beautiful rye nose of clove spice, sandalwood incense, warm cinnamon toast, and vanilla sugar leads to a palate that is both creamy and juicy, with abundant apricot, orchard, and citrus fruit; the citrus smacks of ruby-red grapefruit with its hint of bitterness. Shows a good bit of heat and power, as the seamless flavors and well-integrated spice coast through a long finish. The first bottling to include High West’s own-make spirit. Tasted blind against previous batches.
Harmonious and symphonious throughout, starting with the nose of cooked cherries, sarsaparilla, spearmint, clove, cinnamon, dill, maple syrup, tobacco leaf, and loads of oak. The chewy, broad palate yields bowls full of cherries and blueberry jam, along with roasted peanuts, dark chocolate, white pepper, spearmint oil, cinnamon, and dried chili. There’s more chili, bittersweet chocolate, dried blueberries, and lengthy oak to finish.
High West has changed the recipe for Campfire to include its own-make rye, along with sourced rye, bourbon, and peated malt whisky from Scotland. The nose is sweetly spiced and subtly smoky, with Lapsang souchong tea, kelp, beach bonfire, cigar box, orange peel, cinnamon, white pepper, and crème brûlée. Sharply herbal at first taste, it warms up to reveal orange oil, cherry cola, cough syrup, cigar wrapper, iced tea, roasted walnuts, caramel, and savory smoke. Chili heat on the finish is balanced by oak, dark chocolate, tobacco, and grilled apple.
This is a blend of straight bourbon and two straight rye whiskeys: thus the name. Very interesting indeed. But how does it taste? It’s clean, crisp, and quite vibrant (especially on the nose). The rye note is evident throughout. It starts out more like a high rye-content bourbon, with the molasses, caramel, coconut cream, sweet corn, and honey-kissed fruit marrying nicely with the dried spice (vanilla, cinnamon, brisk mint). But then on the latter half of the palate, the rye really kicks in. The whiskey gets bold, the rye becomes intense (almost piercing), with a dried spice finish. Some whiskeys are even keeled throughout. This one is more of an adventure. Not complex enough for “classic status,” but a very distinctive, enjoyable whiskey.
An exciting blend of straight rye whiskeys finished in French oak and port barrels. Beautifully spiced (warming cinnamon, crisp mint), tamed by caramel and vanilla fudge. Red and black raspberry, plum, dried citrus, and wood shavings add complexity. Warming finish. Nicely balanced and very distinctive. (Distillery onlyuntil October 1st, then nationally)
A blend of two straight whiskeys: a very young 2 year old high rye content whiskey and a 16 year old rye whiskey with a lower rye content. Perhaps the spiciest American whiskey I have ever tasted, yet at the same time, quite tame and mellow. Complex notes of mint, clove, cinnamon, licorice root, pine nuts, and dark chocolate, with a surprising dose of gin botanicals throughout. A soft underbelly of caramel, sweet corn, and soothing vanilla provides an interesting counterpoint. Very easy-drinking, too (hard to believe it’s 46%). Intriguing, and a must-try for rye whiskey aficionados — even if only to satisfy your curiosity.
This sixth edition of Midwinter’s, which is Rendezvous rye finished in French oak and port barrels, includes High West’s own-make rye for the first time. A nose of gingerbread, allspice, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon melds with fragrant cedar chest, leather, and oak. The palate offers sweet blackberry, chocolate, raisins, and dried plums, along with toasted oak and tobacco, leading to a spicy finale. A beautiful balancing act and a wonderfully indulgent treat.
This is a batch of 100 barrels of MGP light whiskey, an American whiskey using higher distillation proofs and used cooperage. It reminds me of 1980s Crown Royal, with floral vibrancy, honey, and a slight hint of chocolate, followed by licorice, allspice, and vanilla. Its spice hits early and often with balanced black licorice. Blackberry, blueberry, and ginger come down the final stretch for a nice medium-length finish. Sourced whiskey. (Distillery only)
Back on the market again, but with a tweaked formula (a blend of 9 year old bourbon with 10 and 16 year old rye whiskeys). This Bourye sports a rye freshness, crispness, and zing. Notes of cinnamon and mint are balanced by caramel, vanilla, and bright glazed fruit, with a lingering honey-rye finish. It leans more toward a rye whiskey than a bourbon in flavor profile. Sourced whiskey.
High West 21 year old Rocky Mountain Rye (Batch #2), 46%
Rye Whiskey | $130
Made from a mash containing 53% rye, and aged in used barrels. The relatively low rye content, along with being aged in used wood, means this is one soft, smooth rye whiskey. Gentle mint, green tea, cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted nuts, glazed fruit, and candied corn all lie on a bed of vanilla and caramel. I tasted a “work in progress” sample last year which showed more oak. This expression is much better. Not as complex or dynamic as the flagship “Rendezvous Rye” from High West, but I could drink this stuff all day long.
This blend of straight ryes finished in vermouth and syrah barrels now includes some of High West’s own whiskey, distilled in Utah. The nose is fresh and herbal, with spearmint, tarragon, dill pickle, fresh celery juice, and a candied note of orange Kool-Aid. Fruit, nut, and spice flavors temper some of the wild herbaceousness of the palate: blueberry jam, peanuts, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. Lengthy finish, with more dark fruit, nuts, spice, and oak.
High West American Prairie Bourbon (Barrel #2683), 50.1%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50
Finished 2 years in Quady Black Muscat barrels. Deep amber, ruby hues. Richly sweet, with raspberry preserve, pipe tobacco, dark chocolate, prune, honeysuckle, vanilla, and black tea. Dry leather finish cuts through the sweetness. Unique and peculiar. (Loch & K(e)y exclusive)
High West Double Rye is transferred into vermouth and Syrah barrels, making for an interesting limited release. Herbs, blackberries, black currant, and black pepper are vibrant, followed by a medicinal hint of mint. The vermouth comes alive, with earthy notes meeting the rye’s traditional spices, a welcome back and forth with hints of black fruits. The warm, medium-length finish offers another hint of mint. If you like vermouth, you’ll love this.
A blend of bourbon, rye, and peated single malt Scotch whiskies. This is an adaptation of the original release that spent additional time in Hungarian and French oak barrels. The finishing produces a creamier, smoother, more rounded, more mature, and improved version of Campfire, showing notes of honey, vanilla, dark berries, soft mint, and smoke. Distinctive and unique.
High West American Prairie Reserve Blend of Straight Bourbons (Batch #1), 46%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40
A blend of two different bourbons—one 6 years old, the other 10 years old—with different mashbills. Nicely balanced sweet notes (caramel, butterscotch), fruit (orange, sultana, cherry) and gentle spice (vanilla, cinnamon). Nothing fancy or exotic here; just a solid, versatile, well-rounded bourbon. (Available at the High West General Store.)
High West has a second version of Valley Tan. The “Utah oat whiskey” was distilled to 87.5% (about the same proof as single pot still Irish, and technically a “light whiskey”), aged 2 to 4 years in new and used cooperage. A light golden color; nose is somewhat spicy, with a licorice/peppermint tinge and some alcohol heat. It's quite smooth, almost Irish in its drinkability, with grainy notes graced with that light peppermint and biscuit sweetness. Pleasant sipper indeed.
When you close your eyes and think of an American whiskey, this is what it smells like: leather, caramel, vanilla, oak, and a hint of smoke. It becomes ever more interesting with introductions of citrus, baked fruit, and a hint of oregano; and then the baking spice and pepper follow the finish home.
High West 16 year old Rocky Mountain Rye (Batch #1), 46%
Rye Whiskey | $80
Made from a mash containing a whopping 80% rye. The antithesis of the 21 year old reviewed above. This is one bold rye whiskey which gets more powerful as it develops on the palate. It’s crisp, clean, and very spicy (cool mint, hot cinnamon), with molasses, caramel, honey, golden raisin, kiwi, coconut shavings, and a dusting of cocoa. A lighter-weight whiskey when compared to High West’s flagship Rendezvous Rye, but this whiskey throws a mean punch!
High West Valley Tan Utah Whiskey (Batch #19G03), 43.5%
American Whiskey | $50
Delicately expressive on the nose, with lemon icebox cookies, pistachio ice cream, almonds, lemon-lime soda, toasted oak, and a hint of dried chili. There’s zingy citrus zipping through the oak-led palate, which also has sweet vanilla, hints of nuts, spice, and some savory dried chili. It finishes short, with sweet oak. A blend of whiskeys made with wheat and malted barley, and oats and malted barley. (Utah only)
High West Double Rye Single Barrel (Cask #1097-2), 50%
Craft Whiskey | $47
Traditionally, this release has been a showcase for the raw power and spice of both young and old rye. In this single barrel release, the spice and fire have been considerably tamed by deep caramel, vanilla, and sweet corn. The spice is still there, with oak, rye, and cinnamon, but is no longer the star. The proof shows up in the finish, which is long and quite dry. An understated expression of one of High West’s flagship releases. Sourced whiskey. (Drink Up New York only)
A blend of bourbon, rye, and smoky Scotch whisky. The foundation here is bourbon sweetness (caramel, toffee, vanilla) with a tug-of-war between rye spice (cinnamon, evergreen, nutmeg) and peat smoke. Tobacco and honey-soaked berries round out the palate, with additional leather notes on the finish. Not something I would drink every day, but this whisky packs plenty of intrigue. (sourced whiskey)
High West now has aged whiskey of their own make. This oat whiskey was aged “less than two years” in used cooperage, and that’s just what it looks like, about chardonnay color in the glass. The aroma is mellow and sweet, with a hint of flowers and grapes. Clean and surprisingly mellow sweet grain flavors, even a bit creamy, but the 46% delivers a high bite. Very nice finish. (Limited annual release in December.)
A blend of straight bourbon and rye whiskeys. A younger-tasting expression when compared to High West’s original Bourye. Pleasant enough to drink neat or with a splash of water, but that certainly wouldn’t be my first choice. Sweet foundation (caramel, vanilla custard, candy corn), along with honeyed fruit, macadamia, cinnamon, nutmeg, and soft mint. Comes across as a bit confused at times, and the flavors aren’t always well defined.
It seemed a good idea to revisit OMG after High West had four years’ experience under their belt. The wet grain and green apple are still there, with the bitter fringe of rye crisping things nicely. Pure rye High West spirit, no oak, and you see where this may go. A smooth, almost creamy entry—smooth for the proof—and the rye takes over, though grainy sweetness refuses to quit. More polished now. Hope there’s plenty in wood.
Wheat has been swapped for oats in this release, but the agenda remains the same, a very primary whiskey with grain at the forefront and just a hint of oak roundness to the surprisingly creamy palate. Fresh flour, violet candies, hints of clove spice, and persistent sweetness, the palate gives the impression of warm breakfast cereal laced with banana and lemon, a testament to the quality of the distillate.
High West American Prairie Bourbon (Batch #16B16), 46%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $35
A blend of straight bourbons. Light straw color. An expressive dark cherry, cooked grains, and wood nose opens up to a bevy of custard, roasted pine nuts, and herbs, with hints of tobacco and smoked hazelnuts. A grain-forward approach leaves it slightly unbalanced, until roasted nuts save the day with a tinge of vanilla and caramel-flavored popcorn. Sourced whiskey.
Barely aged white whiskey. Huge new-make nose, soaked grain and green apple, then rye-driven mint and spice. Bursting spice and mint in the mouth, quick hot fireworks, long gripping finish; somewhat drying. Hot, but holds your attention. Lower distillation proof (134) leaves more room for flavor on this one, and some water makes it enjoyable...if I could just get past that new-make nose I can't help thinking of as “too young.”
Barely-aged white whiskey. Light, sharp fruit (brighter than the High West Single Malt), a brittle sweetness, new-make greenness. Quite smooth, even a bit creamy, with a light float of vanilla and a hit of grain in the middle. It all wafts away on a razor-edged cloud of a finish. Smooth for a white, but I'd like more substance.