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Category Archives: High West

Review: High West Campfire

One late April evening I was in a peated scotch whiskey mood. That’s somewhat rare. I’m not overly fond of peaty whiskies. I tend to feel the phenols overpower the subtle sweetness and fruitiness of the malt. There are a few that I do enjoy however. On this particular evening I was sipping the last of my Compass Box Flaming Heart, and moving my way into a pour of Compass Box Peat Monster. What I enjoy about these two whiskies is the peat presence is absolutely felt, but not at the expense of the malt, the fruit, and the toffee. In short they are balanced.

As I continued sipping, pondering Compass Box’s ways with the art of blending whiskey, I thought, “Geez, why doesn’t a distiller or independent bottler in the U.S. get a hold of some peated malt whiskey to add to a bourbon blend?” To me it just made sense – the rich, sweet, and sometimes spicy qualities of the bourbon seems like a perfect compliment to the smoky quality of a well made peated malt. I quickly dismissed the thought, “that would be way too costly.”

About a week later I received an email from David Perkins, proprietor of High West Saloon and Distillery. After a relatively tame 2011 (by High West standards) Perkins and co. were working on a new whiskey release called Campfire Whiskey. David explained that High West had finished the blending of 3 different batches of Campfire Whiskey and wondered if I would be interested in trying them along with some fellow enthusiasts.

A sample tasting ensued and I was able to try each of the blends. My favorite, oddly enough, happened to be the one (Sample C) with the highest percentage of peated whiskey in the blend. High West however was going after a much more subtle peat influence, and selected Sample A for public release. In hindsight – probably the smarter move, but more on that later.

Here’s the gist of Campfire Whiskey. Its a blend of a six year old bourbon distilled and aged at Midwest Grain Products (Formerly Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana or LDI), a 5.5 year old rye whiskey also distilled at the former LDI and aged in the upper floors of the famed Stitzel Weller Warehouses in Kentucky, and finally an 8 year old peated Scotch whiskey from the Scottish mainland. Global blending anyone???

David Perkins is not at liberty to divulge the origins of the peated whiskey based on agreements (understandings rather) with the source distillery. And honestly, I’m sure some will complain about that, but I can live with not knowing. What I do know is High West is the first American Distillery (that I can recall) to produce a blended whiskey of this type.

It’s a wildly unconventional blend, and has a name that pays homage to the peat contained within. How does it taste?

High West Campfire Whiskey, 46% abv (92 Proof), $49.99/bottle

Color: Deep Golden/Amber

Nose: Bright and fruity up front with a tang of honey, golden dried fruits (apricot, apple, peach), hints of cinnamon, toffee, and only a lingering peat smoke note. The peat is faint as a whisper on the nose, but very much threaded throughout.

Palate: The bourbon and rye influence is felt first, balancing honey, dried golden fruits, and vanilla with a spark of the rye spices. There’s a bit more “zip” in the spice quotient on the palate. As these flavors fade, the smoke and peat adds a great deal of interest and needed complexity.

Finish: Quite fruity with lingering peat and a smoky quality.

Overall: Leave it to a bunch of whiskey outlaws in Utah to spit in the eye of conventional whiskey blending. The result is without question one of the most groundbreaking whiskeys of recent years. Overly dramatic? I don’t think so. High West has managed to “mingle” (Jim Rutledge term) global whiskeys into something that stands on it’s own. It’s not overly complex, but it works well together. I know what you may be thinking. This is a gimmick right? No, it’s not. Rather than be heavy handed with the peat, High West has shown a great deal of restraint with Campfire. The result is a whiskey that is livened up and made far more interesting with a kiss of peat. Unlike the name implies – there’s no fire here, just great whiskey.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Superb/Outstanding)

Review: High West Son of Bourye

High West Son of Bourye is the latest “blend” of straight whiskeys from the boys in Utah. Like its father Bourye, this whiskey is a blend of a bourbon (5 year old with a mashbill of 75% corn and 20% rye) mingled together with a rye whiskey (3 year old 95% mashbill). The remaining 5% in each is barley malt. Bourye utilized older whiskeys for the blend (10, 12, and 16 years old).

Let’s see how this SOB tastes………

High West Son of Bourye, 42% abv (92Proof), $40

Color: Medium Amber

Nose: Sweet mint, vanilla, honey and golden fruits lifted by juniper, evergreen, fresh herbs, flint and wood/oak.

Palate: Soft and honeyed right at front entry, but builds swiftly to a spicy mid palate of mint, chili, and cinnamon red hot candy. Very bright and very drinkable!

Finish: Increasing warmth, wood notes, and big cinnamon flavors. Medium in length.

Overall: The folks at High West know how to bring together good whiskeys and make them so much better than the sum of their parts. Son of Bourye lacks the depth of Bourye, but is a more harmonious whiskey in my opinion. The rye plays lead, but the bourbon keeps it grounded as you would expect. I’m not sure what the ratio of the blend is but I’m guessing it pushes 75% rye to 25% bourbon. I’ll try to get David Perkins of High West to at least let me know if I am close. This is an excellent whiskey if you are looking for something extremely drinkable that is also lively, spicy, and fun.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

High West Showdown: High West Double Rye! & 12 Year Old Rye

High West Double Rye!, 46% abv (92 Proof), $35/bottle
This is an advance tasting of High West Double Rye!, a new product release for High West slated to hit the market within the next month. I’m very excited to be one of the first to publicly review and rate this whiskey. It turned out to be an excellent one indeed. Double Rye! is a blend of a 16 year old 53% Rye Whiskey (37% corn, 10% Barley Malt) and a 2 year old Rye Whiskey (95% rye).

Color: Pure Gold
Nose: Gin Botanicals, Juniper, Pine Sap, Evergreen, Eucalyptus, Menthol, Mint, Fresh herbs, Honey. Green and fresh with a lurking sweetness and oak character. Truly unique!
Flavor: Immediate rye punch of prickly spices, then Gin, menthol, mint, eucalyptus, wildflower honey, and confectioners sugar flavors abound. Those fantastic fresh notes the nose hinted at are present, but with a really pronounced spiced honey flavor that pieces everything together.
Finish: Long and lingering with honeyed sweetness and warm, prickly rye spice.
Overall: Simply put, one of THE most unique whiskeys I’ve ever tried. The nose is unlike anything I’ve sniffed. Truly it smells of gin and evergreen. These young, fresh flavors I assume come predominantly from the 2 year old rye, while the older 16 year old adds its subtle sweetness and depth as you sip. On the palate the gin-like flavors remain but are softened and rounded by the honey notes. If you enjoy Rye or want to try a really different product than what’s available on the market – Double Rye! fits that bill well. It should be coming your way soon.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.1 (Superb/Outstanding)

AND

High West 12 year old Rye, 46% abv (92 Proof), $49/375ML bottle
High West sells this big ole rye whiskey directly from their Saloon and Distillery in Park City, UT. I believe they have somewhere around a half dozen barrels, so not quite enough to get it out to the masses, but worth a drop by to pick up if you are in the area. David Perkins has done a great job sourcing some of the best rye whiskey made. This one I feel is his very best.

Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Rich and deep at first, then yielding intense rye spice, caramel, honey, mint, anise/licorice, and Juicy Fruit gum. A “wow” rye nose.
Flavor: Caramel and honey entry then yielding to rye heat, clove, nutmeg, chili, and well integrated toasted oak. As the nose hinted, this one is big and rich. An almost bourbon drinker’s Rye. Thick and viscous in mouth feel – delicious!
Finish: Long, Intense, your whole tongue tingles with spice and warmth. Dry oak and rye is interplayed nicely with honey and caramel flavors.
Overall: One of the finest Rye whiskeys I have had in some time. Deep and rich with incredible rye intensity, well balanced sweetness, and oak. I mentioned almost a “bourbon drinker’s rye”. Clearly this is an unmistakable rye whiskey, but it carries a richness with it that few ryes can match. It gets our top marks for the year in the Rye category so far. That is saying a lot because I felt Whistlepig might be my favorite straight rye of the year. This one tops it. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.5 (Superb/Outstanding)

High West Distillery and Saloon
703 Park Ave, Park City, UT 84060
435.649.8300

Note: Samples were provided by High West

High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey

High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey, Batch 47, Bottle 421, 46% abv(92 proof), $40-45

A big ole nose of cinnamon stick, clove, vanilla, peppermint, and burned sugar is freshened up with crisp Green Apple. One of the more interesting noses I’ve been introduced to this year. The first sip is intense with rye spice, volumes of vanilla, some barrel char, and an extremely rich and viscous mouth feel – quite oily and coating. The finish takes hold with huge rye spice, cinnamon, mint, and vanilla and it lingers for ages. Outstanding finish to this whiskey. Drink neat at room temperature to get the full experience, but don’t hesitate to add a few teaspoons of spring water to cool it down a shade. Feel free to mix, but with a whiskey this fantastic, why would you? (Highly recommended).

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Outstanding/Superb)

Note: As mentioned in the video review, High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey was sourced (read: not distilled by High West) from an undisclosed distillery. It’s a blending of two Ryes, a 6 year old 95% Rye and a 16 year old 80% Rye. This product has been out for a couple of years, but High West being a new distillery, wanted to put a whiskey out to market and did not have enough aged product to do so. Rendezvous Rye was the result. Whatever your opinion may be on “sourced” vs. distilled, or whether or not that’s a true “micro” or “artisan” distillery, the proof is always in the pudding. When these arguments are removed from the equation, this Whiskey stands on it’s own merit. High West does distill other products, namely Vodka, and to my knowledge is producing and aging its own whiskey.