This review of Rendezvous Rye and A Midwinter Nights Dram is essentially part 2 of an earlier review of High West Double Rye! and Yippee Ki-Yay. As we wrote in that post, High West has made a name for itself in the whiskey industry not for its own distillation (though, one day that may change), but for its artful sourcing and blending of whiskey from other distilleries.
For its rye products, Double Rye!, Yippee Ki-Yay, Rendezvous Rye, and A Midwinter Nights Dram, the rye is sourced from MGP in Indiana and Barton Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.
High West should also be recognized for its vision. It wasn’t too long ago that there was a glut of rye whiskey available for purchase by large distilleries, such as MGP, to upstart non-distilling producers. In a recent article interviewing Eddie Russell, he was quoted as saying that “in 2009 there were 89,000 barrels of rye in the whole world. Last year  there were 600,000.”
High West locked in some of this rye before the trend took effect, which has served it well in the last several years.
In addition to its vision and sourcing, High West has also succeeded in its finishing efforts. As we wrote about before with the Yippee Ki-Yay, High West has experimented with finishing its sourced rye to impart additional flavors.
Turning now to the Rendezvous Rye and A Midwinter Nights Dram, they are essentially the older siblings of Double Rye! and Yippee Ki-Yay. Double Rye! is a blend of 2-year rye sourced from MGP’s high-rye mash (95% rye and 5% malted barley) and 16-year rye sourced from Barton’s low-rye mash (53% rye, 37% corn, 10% malted barley).
Rendezvous Rye is a blend of older rye ranging from 5 to 19 years. These ryes are also sourced from MGP and Barton, but it is a bit more opaque as to who supplied which rye. To add to the mystery, High West reveals that there are three ryes that are included in the blend: 1) a high-rye mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley; 2) a low-rye mash of 53% rye, 37% corn, and 10% malted barley; and 3) another high-rye mash of 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% malted barley. Just as with Double Rye!, High West does not disclose the proportions for the blend.
Rendezvous Rye (92 proof)
Nose: Floral and herbal, you can tell this is a rye immediately. The herbal notes are strongest with dill, basil, and light mint. There is also some ginger, light anise, and black pepper. Some sweet scents, almost like bubbleicious, open up after more time to breathe. The floral notes also develop with time, as well as some light oak , caramel, and vanilla. (3.5/5)
Palate: A quick blast of dill and black pepper, before turning sweeter with demerara sugar. The back end of the palate has a texture reminiscent of the chalky/baking soda feeling after brushing your teeth. (3/5)
Finish: Not as long as expected given the age of the blend. The flavors are also very delicate. There is some plum, salted caramel, and then the herbal profile comes back, but a bit drier. (2.5/5)
Overall: The nose is the highlight on this one. The mouthfeel and finish gave an odd impression, making us wonder if this was perhaps due to this particular bottle and not truly representative of the product. Be that as it may, it was still a satisfying dram and one that highlights some of rye whiskey’s finer qualities. (3/5)
Value: At $60 retail, getting a rye whiskey at this age is tough to beat. Though, in comparison with its younger sibling Double Rye!, it is a bit overshadowed in the value department by costing twice as much. Nevertheless, given what it is and relative to the rest of the market, there should not be any buyer’s remorse. (3/5)
Just as Yippee Ki-Yay took a twist on Double Rye! by finishing it in vermouth barrels, A Midwinter Nights Dram takes a twist on Rendezvous Rye. The exact same juice that goes into Rendezvous Rye is finished in French oak port barrels for an unspecified amount of time.
Here is our review:
A Midwinter Nights Dram, Act 5 Scene 7 (98.6 proof)
Nose: The herbal notes from the Rendezvous Rye are present and not completely masked by the sweet red wine notes. It is not a terribly complex nose, but a very satisfying combination. The red wine notes give off overripe strawberries and some earthy/purple grape skin. The port influence dissipates more with time in the glass. (4/5)
Palate: Difficult to describe – but in a good way. There is some salted caramel, strawberry fruit leather, bubble gum, and some bright red delicious apple fruit. The chalky texture from the Rendezvous Rye is completely absent. A slight metallic/medicinal note emerges mid-palate that is slightly off-putting. (3.5/5)
Finish: Long, with chew caramel, light salt, vanilla extract, and strawberry rhubarb. A wonderful finish. (4.5/5)
Overall: This is a bottle that is marketed superbly for what it delivers. The scents and flavors for this dram are truly best enjoyed on a cold winter night. Though not overly complex, the combination of sweet and spice on the nose, palate, and finish are very pleasant. (4/5)
Value: This bottle retails for closer to $90, but competes well enough at what we purchased it for locally at $109 (3.5/5).