American Whisky

Review: High West Rendezvous Rye Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

High+West+Rendezvous+1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
Blend of 6 and 16 year old straight rye
Distiller Multiple (USA)

Perhaps the most well known product from High West, Rendezvous is a blend of 2 rye whiskies – a 6 year old and a 16 year old. 6 year rye from MGP (95% rye, 5% barley) and the 16 year old rye is from a mashbill of 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% malted barley from Barton. This uses a large proportion of unmalted rye. Now, the 16 year old rye from Barton is being phased out, replaced with High West’s own rye.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 16E11

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A nice, rich, oaky nose – full of spicy mint and some terrific underlying floral notes. A terrific nose – great underlying dried fruit, cherry, earth, brown cardamom, corn husks, and some light mineral notes. Much richer and broader than double rye – buttery, oaky, and full of such rich rye to boot. The palate is spicy, broad, and complex – with a contrast between the sweet oak, spice, and rye floral notes. And great underlying vegetal notes. I do love floral rye. The finish shows some dried apricot and toasted macadamia. Terrific!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Great whisky, but fairly pricy too.


Review (2019)

  •  Batch: 17C23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

This rye is still using the 16 year old rye from Barton, but it’s one of the last batches to do so.

Loads of dill, sweet and sharp oak, vanilla, cinnamon, rich marsh, arugula, mint, mixed berries, and some toasted fennel. What a nice whisky! The palate is oaky, spicy, and lightly fruity. Chipotles, oak, dill, maple, charred oak, sorrel, and a touch of nutmeg. The finish has some nice dill, oak, and clove. A nice mix of leafy, spicy vegetables (radish sprouts, arugula), baking spice, oak, and sweet oak.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

The taste is on the edge in terms of this rating category, but this is such a classic example of a deep, complex, and broad American rye – it really is quite unique. Furthermore, it’s not too oaky and has a nice elegant touch to it as well. It’s one of my favourite – if not my favourite – American rye that is fairly easy to find.

Value: Average. It’s a very nice whisky, and sits in the average price range for a whisky of this qu


Review: High West Yippee Ki-Yay by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
A blend of 2 straight rye whiskies finished in vermouth casks
Distiller Multiple (USA)

This is very unique - a blend of 2 straight rye whiskies (the same as in Double Rye), finished in Syrah wine and vermouth casks. Talk about interesting!


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Very interesting notes – a huge nose. Lots of fruit, nuts, and combined with spicy rye. Caramel, red tannic wine, raisins, oak, cinnamon, black cherry, almonds, cookie dough, and oxidized wine. A lot of black cherry. The palate is full of vermouth – rancio, spices, wine – sour, sweet, and spicy. It’s remarkable, but a bit too vermouth-y for my sort of whisky. Lots of cinnamon, star anise, and dry spices. The finish is terrific – buttery, oaky, and spicy – and I do love rancio.

A very interesting whisky, and a great one to have for the sake of diversity – but it is pushing the boundaries of whisky since it tastes more like a liquer than a whisky. Not a bad thing, but I do like grain and oak. If it were a bit less liquer-ish I’d rate it higher, but exceedingly complex and interesting. But the dynamics at play aren’t really driven by whisky, it’s just a vehicle.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is one of the most unique whiskies I’ve tasted…

Value: Low. I don’t quite like it enough to pay this for it, but it is rather unique!


Review: High West Campfire Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
>5 yrs old
Recipe
A blend of Scotch, Straight Bourbon, and Straight Rye Whiskey
Distiller Unknown (Scotland) and MGP (Indiana)

This is not something you see often (if ever) - a blend of blended malt scotch whisky,  straight bourbon, and straight rye. The scotch is peated, but not Islay, the bourbon is from MGP (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley) and the rye is from MGP (95% rye, 5% malted barley).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 14K20-A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

The nose is incredible – smoke, cedar hedges, wood, floral rye – lilacs and geraniums, buttery corn on the cob, bourbon – a terrific crossover between some great spirits. The peat character itself is quite dry, mineral, and woody – and marvelous with all the spices. The palate is buttery, peaty, spicy, and yet with the grain character of corn and rye – not something you see in Scotch, for even blended scotch is produced without showing the character of the underlying corn or wheat grains used. The finish is lightly sweet and confectionary, and yet with sharp smoke, spice, and a terrific thread of rye. Brilliant! High West is definitely a distillery to follow.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A bit expensive, but it is rather unique and it’s quite good!


Review: High West Double Rye Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Multiple (USA)

Called „the spiciest rye in the world”...not quite in my books (I think Wiser’s Triple Barrel even tops this). A blend of two different rye whiskies – the founder really liked a 2 year old rye from MGP, and wanted to tame it with an older rye – a 16 year old from Barton. 95% rye, 5% malted barley combined with 53% rye and 37% corn and 10% malted barley.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 15D15

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Very spicy, with complex, young rye whisky – anise, peppercorn, celery, cinnamon, green oak, chicory, clove, mint, radish, pine, and corn husks. There is an ever so light oiliness that works great. A bit brash with all the youth – but still very nice. The palate continues, full of spice but tempered a bit with a middle that has some pear and peach, which carries it to a surprisingly soft finish – much like vanilla and spice poached peaches. The finish is nicely drying, and there are some great undertones of juniper, too. This stuff works really well. The rawness of the youth brings it down a touch, but it is still immensely interesting and well put together.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review: High West American Prairie Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2, 6, and 13 yrs old
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Multiple (USA)

This whiskey is a blend of a 2 year old straight bourbon from MGP (Indiana), and a 6 and 13 year old straight bourbon from Four Roses (Kentucky) of the B recipe (60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley). 10% of proceeds from the bottles goes to the American Prairie Foundation which builds wildlife preserves.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 3

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose is fruity and spicy with quite a lot of rye in the mix. Apples, peaches, oak, stewed fruit, mint, plums, tobacco leaf, and some hot spice like white pepper. Dry, fresh oaky tones grow with time – vanilla and buttery notes too. An interesting nose – complex compared to the typical bourbon. The taste is sweet, with lots of broad grain character – lots of corn, dried apricot, dried rose petals, mint, fennel seed – finishes on the side of stone fruit with light spices, like fennel and white pepper, and light tannin from the oak. The spicy and dry interplay on the finish is very nice. Slightly rough, with the younger components making their say.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It isn’t expensive, so it sits in the mid-range in terms of what you get flavour-wise.


Review: Whistlepig 15 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Whistlepig 15.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
15 Yrs; New Charred Oak & Bourbon Barrels & New Charred Vermont Oak
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

Whistlepig is getting closer and closer to having their own grain to glass rye whiskey on the market, but, in the meantime, they've released a number of ryes from Alberta and MGP (in Indiana) stock. Generally, it's easy to tell which is which because the alberta is 100% rye (such as the 10 year old) and MGP is 95% rye (such as the Old World Series).

The 15 year old is Whistlepig's oldest product to date, being triple matured - first in a charred new oak cask, then in a refill bourbon barrel, and finally in a heavily charred Vermont oak barrel. Whistlepig's quest is for the "perfect rye" and experimentation with aging abounds - but this also adds to the list of whisky which has been matured in 2 different new charred oak barrels, showing the emphasis on oak coming from the US these days.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Woody and sweet on the nose, with lots of vanilla-laden oak and apple. Some peppery vegetal notes like arugula and watercress are at the fore – lots in fact – with lots of caramel, wood, and marmelade. Some nice medicinal notes too, and lots of spices - even some fenugreek. At the core, though, there are three main elements which strive with one another on this nose: wood, rye, and sweet caramel or wood sugar. The palate is quite sweet, with very sharp rye both in terms of spice and in terms of vegetal notes – but it is lightly bitter with all that oak. Creamy wood notes come in mid-palate to smooth out the sharpness of the rye. It finishes nicely with strong oak, dark cacao, arugula, spinach, and dill pickle. Quite sweet, once again, with all of that oak.

This follows the recent trend of very highly oaked whiskies. If you like lots and lots of oak, here is your whisky, otherwise I think a lot of the complex distillate is masked with the all-consuming oak. Though rye is big enough to stand up to quite a bit of oak, this is slightly over the edge and brings in too much bitterness and sharpness for good balance. Still, though, very enjoyable.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. Pretty steep stuff (~250$ CAD).


Review: Old Grand-Dad 114 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57%
Aging
New Charred Oak
Recipe
~63% Corn, 27% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This is a terrific whisky - and incredibly cheap (it isn't even really fair) - coming in at 25$ in many places for a near-cask-strength and great bourbon. Sadly, it seems this will get harder and harder to find, and some suspect it might disappear. If you see any, get it.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L4309CLA 013601642

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

A dark, rather dense nose at first. A bit of musty oak, corn husks, dry forest floor, orange peel, stewed apricot, browned butter, and slightly sour corn. The palate is big, full of sweet corn – a huge hit of corn, in fact. Molasses, lots of black tea, and the rye is present and is floral – it is integrated beautifully. It comes in with caramel, and fades to spices. Big, rich whisky. Finishes with apple seeds, brown sugar, a bit of reed-marsh earthiness, and more corn. Not the most amazing whisky, but incredibly enjoyable. The quality of the distillate is evident. If I could get this for $25…I would be stocking it regularly. However, it seems this one might fade away…it manages the proof very well. I quite like this style of bourbon. Beautiful oiliness too.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. How often do you find a 57% and decent bourbon for a bit north of 20$? Great value.


Review: Old Charter 10 Year Old by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
10 Years
Recipe
~75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This brand is old - since 1874 - and the 10 year old is still kicking around in places, but the age statement has now been dropped to 8 years. It is from their mashbill 1, which includes Eagle Rare 10 Y.O. and Buffalo Trace.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 11348

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Fruity, oaky, and complex: clean fruit - cherries, apples, with a good chunk of spice in the mix which rise up especially at the end. The corn is quite rich in the midst of it all - oily and sweet - and we see two sides to the oak - both a light earthy quality to it, but also a freshly-sawn oak feel - fresh, smoky, and full of vanilla.. At the end, dried apricots and white grape come through.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $32.


Review: Blanton's Gold Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51.5%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 15% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Another single barrel product from Buffalo Trace - this time at higher proof compared to the standard Blanton's. Otherwise, it's from the same warehouse, and, interestingly, isn't for sale in America. In Canada, it comes through, but only from time to time and for short periods. The whiskey is non-chill filtered, comes off the still at 70%, dumped into the barrels at 62.5%, and uses a 6 month seasoning (air drying) on the staves before they were put into the barrels.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Barrel 23; Warehouse H; Rick no. 4; Dumped 3.30.12

  • Bottling Code: B1209308:451

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Quiet on the nose, relative to other Blanton’s – soft oak, caramel, sweet corn, hazlenuts – with less of the dried fruit, flowers, and berries immediately than the other Blanton’s bourbons. But more sweet wood. On the palate, terrific feel, with dried apricot, tinned apricot, and a nice showing of corn with wood and spice coming through nicely on the finish. The finish is full of dried stone fruit – peaches, apricots, prunes – and a light dose of sweet wood still, and a bit more woody than the “original” bottlings that I have tried. Finishes with some strawberry jam and lovely fresh oak.

At first I thought this was less in the distinct floral/dried fruit style of other Blanton’s, but it just took a while to open up. 30 minutes in, the nose opens up brilliantly and the terrific blanton’s style shines through. This mashbill is the same as that used in the Elmer T. Lee single barrel – you can tell I’m a fan? Blanton’s may well be my favorite brand of bourbon – complex, not too much oak, and unique in a great way. This barrel, at least, seems a tad less on the nose but bigger on the palate and the finish than the last “original” barrel that I reviewed. Terrific stuff.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average (based on $100).


Review: Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

At one time, the only bourbon named after someone who is presently alive. Sadly, Elmer T. Lee passed away in 2013, after working in the bourbon industry since the late 1940s. He was responsible for choosing the barrels going into this whisky, even up to the end of his life after he retired.

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