Review: High West A Midwinter Nights Dram Rye Whiskey

High West released “A Midwinter Night’s Dram” Rye Whiskey earlier this year. It has taken some time to hit my area sadly, but I was finally able to procure a bottle. This whiskey is of the same blend of straight rye whiskeys that make up the distillery’s Rendezvous Rye bottling. It consists of a 16 year old rye whiskey from Barton distillery blended with a 6 year old 95% rye grain whiskey from Midwest Grain Products (MGP), formerly LDI. The final blended whiskey is then finished in both Port and French Oak barrels.

HighWestMidwinterNightsDramFront900_grandeHigh West A Midwinter Nights Dram Rye Whiskey, 49.3% abv (98.6 proof), $85/bottle
Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Familiar MGP (Former LDI) Rye rounded with more sweet notes. Mint, cinnamon, and gin botanicals meet dried dark fruits and berry aromas. Vanilla caramel sweetness anchors the nose.
Palate: Caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, raisin, and red berry syrup. Nice oak grip and balanced barrel notes.
Finish: The port finish lingers – dark fruits, caramel, and warm spices.
Overall: A Midwinter Night’s Dram is a delicious mingling of rye whiskeys enhanced by the finishing process, not overcome by it. In this case the fruitier, richer aromas and flavors from the port balance the base rye’s bright notes. In an industry that has seen independent bottlers go from sourcing whiskey and placing their label on it, to sourcing whiskeys and shoving it in a finishing barrel, any barrel, it’s nice to see a deft hand with finishing yield an improved product. Well done!
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Superb)

25 Comments

  1. RTR says:

    Good to see you back Jason. Definitely want to try High West.

  2. John says:

    I had no idea Barton distilled rye. As always, thanks for expanding my whiskey knowledge, Jason!

  3. GSR says:

    When I looked up the COLA I saw there was a formula listed which made me wonder if they flavor was artificial. I’m relatively new to getting to ‘this’ level of detail with my bourbon (used to just open, pour, drink, repeat), but I’m wondering if you have any info on what that formula means?

  4. Mike says:

    I picked up two bottles of this when it was available at my local store. Funny thing is, the second bottle cost me $25 more! Great stuff, I am only going to take it out on special occassions. Keep up the great work!

  5. Brent says:

    Thanks for the info. Saw a few bottles on the shelf day before Thanksgiving and passed. I may go back and grab one and try it out, if there is one still there.

  6. Jason, good to see you back in action. Thanks for reviewing the Dram. Glad you liked it. To GSR, there’s nothing I love more than an educated consumer (education helps appreciation). Great question. To answer: there is no added coloring or flavoring in Midwinter Nights Dram. We needed a formula (anyone should actually) because of the additional barrel finishing in the port barrel. If your whiskey is outside of the TTB designations, and barrel finishing is, you need a formula. We are actually going to change our labels to state that.

  7. GSR says:

    David – Thank you for the response. I’m realizing there is a lot of nuance in the world of whiskey/bourbon, and what threw me off was the absence of the formula on Willett’s XCF COLA. Based on your response it sounds like Willett should have a formula. I think now I’ll start searching for my own bottle of Midwinter. Cheers.

  8. There is a lot of “grey” area in the world of what we are supposed to do for the TTB. We probably didn’t have to apply for a formula but we weren’t sure and its better to do than not as you don’t know if your COLA will be approved. Obviously Willet’s cola got approved. That doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t need one however! Just depends on who is approving. Its a human thing at the end of the day!

  9. David thanks for chiming in right from the source. It seems the fact that you guys weren’t sure what you had to apply for with regard to the formula indicates the “grey” in which you speak. Makes a lot of sense though – it’s that way with nearly everything else associated with the government.

    As for “back in action” I prefer to think of it as never going away but clearly slowed to a crawl. I’m continuing to work my way into some semblance of consistency that I can commit to. I’ve quit promising what that will look like because I’m clearly under-delivering on those promises. However the intention is to invest more time and better scheduling. In particular I’d like to get more video reviews and “how-to’s” out there. Kids, day jobs, etc. etc.

    David, while we’ve got you, would you mind a few more questions? You may have to kill us if you tell us this, but are you free to share the percentages of 16yr vs. 6 year? The reason I ask is this one tasted younger than my memory recalled Rendezvous tasting (very important to note I’m only going by that). This had a lot more forward MGP flavors which worked well with the finishing, but the old guy (16) hid a little. I suppose it makes sense that the blend may not have changed but the MGP played more treble in the AMWND to the Port’s base. Thus the 16 was relegated to rythem. Is it possible for you to share how that shakes out or whether Rendezvous has evolved some in the blend makeup? I don’t mean to put you on the spot with that but thought I’d ask.

    Also one final question. Finishing – clearly a fun area for distillers and independent bottlers looking to try some different things, but we’re seeing more and more of this. It seems cost prohibitive for both parties (consumers and producers), but in limited release offerings makes more sense. Do you see this trend continuing or is this just “flavor of the month” type of thing?

    Thanks again David!

  10. Brent says:

    Went to Husk for lunch today. Saw it sitting on their bar. I believe it was $25 for 2oz. They think pretty highly of it as well. Just may stop on the way home today and pick up a bottle. Decorating the Christmas tree tonight. What better way to celebrate.

  11. Hi Jason,
    Good to hear back. To your questions:
    1) the percentages of 16yr vs. 6 year? I don’t get into the specifics of the proportions for a couple reasons. First, they do change a bit from batch to batch. Second, it actually takes us awhile to dial the blend in and there has to be a little mystery to the “savoir faire” as thats kind of our “special sauce”! Obviously the 6yo is a higher % than the older. Amazingly, you would not believe the impact of a 1% change in the components. For instance, when we did Campfire, it took about 60 different permutations and about a year to get it dialed in to what we liked. We had a big issue with bottle shock. We would think we had the ratios dialed in and 3 days later after it sat, the taste was completely different.
    2) Finishing – Do you see this trend continuing or is this just “flavor of the month” type of thing? You got me. It certainly is more complicated, takes more space, takes more organization etc. We are literally playing Tetris in our warehouse with the finishing barrels. But on the other hand, its so much fun for me and the team here at High West. We love the different flavor combinations and running the experiments on time and number of refills.

    I hope that helps! All the best.

  12. Helps a lot David – thanks for the input. I figured you wouldn’t be able to give us the scoop on the percentage – makes sense, special sauce and all. As for finishing, that’s about what I would expect. Fun, cool, and exciting, but not scalable perhaps.

    Cheers David – thanks again!

  13. japhy says:

    David,

    As a home grown Utahn, I have loved to see you guys do such great work and continue to innovate and make some damn fine whiskey!

    I just wanted to say thank you. Everything I have tried recently, from Midwinter’s to the barrel finished Double Ryes, have been ridiculous and fun and exciting. It’s been a while since we could say that in whiskey. Thank you thank you thank you.

    I’ll be visiting family in Utah over the holidays. Hope to run into you at the distillery!

  14. Japhy, you are too kind. Just email me (david@highwest.com) or call me (435-659-1078) when you get into town. We may have to have a few other ridiculous things together!

  15. Phillip Muckelvaney says:

    Per usual, great review! I look forward to the mentioned new video reviews – Hope one or two can work into your schedule soon.

    Cheers!

  16. RTR says:

    Jason: Good to have you back. It would be a hoot if You and Ralfy could do a joint video review! Maybe it is possible through technology. Anyway you are the main reference point when it comes to Bourbon, Rye and Tennessee whiskey. Thank you very much. Tony Rogers

  17. SKO says:

    Great Holiday Bourbon. Bravo to High West

  18. ChrisB says:

    Thanks for the review Jason. Although I’m a big fan of Rendezvous and have not had a chance to try this (sadly) I’ve yet to meet a Port finished whisky of any stripe that I take a shine to.
    I’ll chalk it up to mouth chemistry.
    The name alone would have me adding it to my whisky collection though ;)

  19. Chris I do like finished whiskeys, or have liked a number of them, but you are correct that it’s a mixed bag out there. I think it’s far more precise than just slapping it in a barrel. And I’ve tasted plenty of products that support that.

  20. Chris says:

    Jason, loving your reviews and videos. I have made a number of selections based on your input. I , being from the great state of Texas, was wondering if you had considered reviewing anything from the Balcones Distillery in Waco. Right now I have the Baby Blue and the Single Malt on my bar.

  21. Franco C. says:

    Jason, glad to see you back. I really enjoyed your video reviews in the past. Adds a very personal touch.Good to hear that you’re thinking of doing that again. Cheers.

  22. Tom Harrington says:

    I must say I am a big fan of High West’s products and this is no exception. I became aware of the Midwinter’s Night Dram from the High West website and couldn’t wait for it to hit my area. I was able to get a bottle the week of Thanksgiving. After the first sip I was hooked. So much so that I had to find another bottle as back up. Fortunately I was able to score another bottle. This is good stuff and Jason’s review is really spot on. Thanks Jason for the review.

  23. Chris says:

    Picked up a bottle last night…..worth every penny

  24. Alvin III says:

    Spotted a bottle of this a local store here in Chicago, and had to do some research. after seeing all the positive reviews, and as a general fan of High West, starting with a early batch of Rendezvous Rye, I brought a bottle yesterday. Completely worth it, and considering buying a back up bottle before the last 5 are gone.

  25. I’ve been mixing this rye with tremendous success! I want more expressions like this. Sherried Scotch whiskey is so prevalent, and for good reason. I can’t wait to see more finished American whiskey. I really want to try the new finished beam signature, though brandy and wine casks probably make a huge difference.