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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

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon, 50% abv (100 Proof), $32/bottle

Color: Deep Amber/Gold

Nose: Mint, anise, coconut, spiced honey, vanilla, chili, red berry fruits, cigar box, and cedar.

Palate: Nicely structured and almost tight (in a good way). Mint, clove, nutmeg, licorice, barrel char, and eucalyptus are all wrapped around a sweet core of crushed pineapple, red berries, honey, and vanilla fudge. This nice core of sweetness anchors the spice notes well. Elegant, full of finesse, and clearly well crafted.

Finish: Long and lingering mint, nutmeg, clove, fruitiness, honey, and dry oak. Very vibrant!

Overall:I have such admiration for Jim Rutledge and Four Roses. They make elegant, sophisticated bourbons that are so well balanced. The Single Barrel is one of my favorites out there. For the money it provides extremely good value. It’s a truly unique whiskey that begs to be drunk neat and savored slowly so you can appreciate all the nuances it brings to the party. Highly recommended!

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.1 (Superb/Outstanding)

Wild Comparison: Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve vs. Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve, 45% abv (90 Proof), $30/bottle

Russell’s Reserve is the gentle giant (only not TOO gentle) of the Wild Turkey lineup with a creamy, sweet nose of brown sugar, heaps of vanilla, toffee, custard, and dusty rye spice. Even some hints of black pepper. The nose is overall balanced, sweet, and moderately spiced. The flavor in the mouth echo’s much of the nose with brown sugar, toffee and vanilla flavors playing front and center. Added to that is rich maple syrup and rye spice warming around the mid palate through to the end. In the back of the mouth the dry, toasted oak takes over, leading to a finish of moderate length. Your left with a nice mix of oak, char, sweet toffee, and spice. Delicious, balanced, and just an excellent pour of bourbon. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Excellent/Outstanding)

VS.

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, 50.5% abv (101 Proof), $23/bottle

Few bourbon noses disguise what’s about to kick you in the mouth more than Wild Turkey 101. Scents of spiced honey, honey suckle, dried apricots, dusty rye notes, light vanilla, and faint char rush forward. Then you take a sip……….and this brooding monster hits your lips like a porcupine running at 60 MPH. Heavy rye and prickly spice start from palate entry on through mid palate, where that honey comes to your rescue, calming things down just enough. The honey and confectioners sugar sweetness really anchor the spice well in your mouth and are ever present. This is one beautifully crafted whiskey that’s thick in the mouth and finishes with spicy cinnamon candy and barrel char. What a value – highly recommended!

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Excellent/Outstanding)

Bourbon Style Comparison: Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Bourbon Whiskey has a vast range of styles. Here’s an example of two on opposite ends of the spectrum: Rare Breed with it’s rye-heavy and barrel proof offering and Maker’s Mark with it’s soft, younger, wheated style. There’s something out there for everyone – give ‘em a try.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky, 45% abv (90 Proof), $25/bottle

To many folks, Maker’s Mark IS bourbon whisk(e)y. Regardless of your stance on where it sits amongst its peers, Maker’s Mark is a well executed wheated bourbon made with a “forward” flavor profile in the mouth. The nose and sip mirror one another with chewy caramel, vanilla, nougat, toffee, toasted nuts, and light oak. Very minimal spice, moderate body in the mouth, and a clean finish that falls off sharply leaving little trace of warming heat or spice. A great “gateway” bourbon for those that are looking for some classic bourbon flavors without the burn and spice. But you sacrifice complexity, nuance, and finish mightily. Still, it’s well crafted and extremely easy to drink.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.4 (Good/Solid)

AND

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon Whiskey, 54.1% abv (108.2 Proof), $40/bottle

Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a barrel proof, uncut, and rye-forward Bourbon Whiskey. The nose is almost savory with tobacco, leather, barrel, charred oak, sour dough bread, pancake batter, and maple syrup. There’s some rye spice lingering, ready to assert itself with that first sip. The flavors of this bourbon are somewhat bracing and hard with a leathery, resiny grip from the barrel, some maple syrup sweetness, and then a punch of rye spice that moves along the spine of your tongue. The finish is long and hot with plenty of spice. Unfortunately, bitter tannins assert themselves a bit too heavily on the mid-palate through finish. In lengthy tasting sessions with this bourbon I found it best straight up without any water added. The high proof seems to combat some of the bitterness. Diluting with water subdued the alcohol punch and sweetness, thus elevating the tannins. I can’t help but wonder how good this whiskey could be if it had more balance. Personally I find this whiskey very solid, if unspectacular, and a bit overrated. Still, it’s a good expression of barrel proof, rye-heavy bourbon.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.8 (Good/Solid)

WhistlePig Rye Whiskey Review

WhistlePig Rye Whiskey (10 Year Old), 50% abv (100 Proof), $70/bottle

As one of the few 100% rye whiskeys on the market today, WhistlePig has an interesting story. First off, any rye whiskey must be at least 51% rye grain (in the grain recipe) to technically be called “Rye Whiskey” in the U.S. Typically most rye’s don’t exceed much more than 60-65%, with corn and/or barley making up the remainder. But then again, this ten year old WhistlePig doesn’t have just any man (or men) behind it.

During a year plus long search, David Pickerell, previous Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark for 14 years through 2008, came across this wonderful expression of rye in Canada. That’s correct, WhistlePig was not distilled by Pickerell and WhistlePig distillery (yet), but rather “sourced” or “found” and bottled. Pickerell partnered up with Raj Bhakta, an entrepreneur and former “Apprentice” reality show contestant, to form WhistlePig and get this great rye whiskey to the public. Today it is bottled at Bhakta’s 500 acre WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. It has been said by a number of sources that their goal is to create a fully sustainable “farm to bottle” distillery, growing the rye grain that will eventually become WhistlePig Rye Whiskey. But until they have their own distilled product we’ve been given a little gift to satisfy our thirst.

WhistlePig is pure rye without the training wheels. The nose brings a big burst of spearmint, wintergreen, menthol, licorice/anise, and woody spices. All this freshness is anchored with a nice core of sweetness that exudes spun sugar, cotton candy, and some light maple syrup. The nose as a whole is extremely complex but also airy, fresh, and lively for a 10 year old whiskey. I found myself nosing this rye forever to uncover all of the nuances it has to offer. The first sip explodes in the mouth, again with sweet southern red stem spearmint and wintergreen, rye grain prickliness, licorice, a big dose of honey, and dry oaky flavors. Texturally, WhistlePig takes over the mouth with it’s intense spices and lingers on long after it’s “down the hatch”. You’re left with those wonderful spearmint, honey, oak, and licorice flavors.

WhistlePig Rye Whiskey is an outstanding pour, and one of the most unique I’ve ever tasted. It’s currently only available in large markets like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, so order quickly online before all 1000 cases are gone. I highly recommend it.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Superb/Outstanding)

****Note: Most of the information above came from some general forums and various websites. But I want to point out a couple of websites in particular that have some great background on WhistlePig. Davin De Kergommeaux of http://canadianwhiskey.org has a fantastic article on WhistlePig. He also has a great site loaded with Canadian Whiskey info. Second, Chuck Cowdery is a Bourbon Hall of Famer and a true historian. His site, http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/ is a fantastic source of information on Bourbon and American Whiskey. Give both of these great sites a visit!****

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.