If you’re unfamiliar with High West Distillery out of Park City, Utah, then allow me to make an introduction.
High West Distillery does distill and age whiskey, but not what you see on retail store shelves. As High West waits for its own juice to age (some has purportedly been released, though none in Kansas), it has sourced whiskey from some of the country’s largest distillers. But, unlike many other companies that source whiskies from these same distilleries, High West does something different. And, it’s this difference, in my opinion, that has set them apart in the industry.
Truthfully, High West does two things differently. First, it blends the whiskies it sources to formulate unique combinations. Each of its current products contains some sort of blend of various whiskies. High West’s current product line includes a Scotch-bourbon-rye blend and a bourbon-rye blend. This sort of blending is slowly becoming more common, but High West has been doing it for almost ten years.
Second, High West separates itself from others in the industry by unabashedly disclosing its products’ ingredients – where the whiskey was sourced, its age, and the mash bills. This practice stands in stark contrast to non-distilling producers who appear to claim that their whiskey was distilled and aged in-house, rather than sourced from elsewhere.
Two of High West’s products are being reviewed here, one of their mainstream releases and one of their limited releases: Double Rye! and Yipee Ki-Yay.
High West Double Rye!
This whiskey is, as its name suggests, a blend of rye whiskeys. The blend contains two straight rye whiskeys ranging in age from 2 to 16 years.
The 2-year rye is sourced from MGP of Indiana. It is a high-rye mash bill, made up of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.
The 16-year rye is sourced from Barton Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Its mash bill is closer to a “barely legal” rye, made up of 53% rye, 37% corn, and 10% malted barley.
The blend is non chill-filtered and 92 proof.
Nose: Herbal mix of dill, mint, and anise; the rye spice is also accompanied by some cinnamon and caramel.
Palate: Soft peppery rye spice initially, which transitions into the herbal mix, most notably the dill; some sweetness emerges with some honey, cinnamon, and caramel.
Finish: Medium-long; the rye spice dances around the mouth in the unique way that only rye spice can.
The one detail that High West does not disclose is the blend’s proportion. Based on the lack of deep oak notes and the forefront herbal profile (and just common sense), I suspect the 2-year rye is greater than 80% of the blend. One way to examine this blend is on how much it enables the 2-year rye’s positive attributes to shine and minimizes its shortcomings. In other words, don’t buy this bottle desiring to find a shortcut to the small class of 15+ year-old ryes. Buy it because it gives you the best of what a younger rye has to offer, without having to sift through the undesirable qualities.
Why did High West decide to insert an exclamation point in this product’s name? I don’t know. But, if I had to guess, maybe it’s because the bottle is only $34(!).
The duration of time that the whiskey was finished is not disclosed. However, the resulting effect is easily seen in the color.
This is a limited release bottle. Here in Kansas, it is quite difficult to find. And, its retail price is more than twice than the Double Rye! ($79.99).
Nose: Smells like a Manhattan cocktail; the Vermouth stands out in a mix of floral and fruity aromas; the rye’s spice and herbal mix underlies the nose.
Palate: Again, the Vermouth and red wine notes are forefront; dark fruit and tart blackberries along with the rye spice and dill notes, and some barrel-imparted caramel and very light vanilla.
Finish: A bit longer than the Double Rye!; the Vermouth and Syrah qualities are mouth coating, but also leave some bitter tannin notes.
This benefits from resting in the glass for at least 10 minutes, which allows the nose to open up and balance out the flavors. This bottle is sure to be polarizing, not unlike a classic Manhattan, or even Vermouth generally. The mix of dark fruit and bitter notes are off putting to some. But, for those who enjoy a good Americano, Negroni, Boulevardier, and, of course, Manhattan, this is a treat.