MGP

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 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.


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: 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: Willet Family Estate Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Willet Rye 2.jpg
ABV
59.6%
Aging
7 yrs; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller MGP (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)

Willet, until the last few years, sources a number of bourbon and rye whiskies and put them under their family estate brand, a brand which now contains some of the most sought after whiskies in America because of Willet's skill at aging. Willet is now producing their own stock, but there are still terrific sourced barrels floating around.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Barrel 136; Aged 7 Yrs.

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A really nice bottle.

A dense, rye-filled nose that you can’t appreciate without adding water: rye, rye flakes, buckwheat pasta, oak, dill, caramelized fennel root, anise seed...the grain character is so condensed and sharp – I am in love. Icing sugar, sticky toffee pudding (think dates and caramel sauce), bitter coriander, lemon peel, beetroot..I haven’t had a rye so defined and sharp since I tasted Masterson’s batch 1 in 2015. The palate is oaky, tangy, but full of sharp rye, acacia honey, dill, and lots of brown cardamom. Terrific tanginess and caramel, too – brilliant at full strength as well as diluted. It fades to anise, dill (lots of it), black tea, apples, and clove. There is a nice elderflower note I often find with Willet, too. The brown cardamom is still quite present on the finish, which is quite candied. (As an aside, if you’ve never cooked with brown cardamom – buy some just to smell it. a fabulous spice) This drinks very well at 48%.

Terrific rye. If you can ever find a decent willet rye at cask strength, they are amazing value – though very hard to find these days.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Average (based on $158)


Review: Whoop & Holler American Whiskey (Orphan Barrel) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Taylor Strategy, for Orphan Barrel Distilling Co.

Image courtesy of Taylor Strategy, for Orphan Barrel Distilling Co.

ABV
42.0%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 28 Years
Recipe
84% Corn, 8% Rye, 8% Malted Barley
Distiller George Dickel (Tullahoma, Tennessee)

This orphan barrel comes from Diageo's George Dickel distillery, and, consequently, we get more information about the whisky - mashbill, how it was distilled (and charcoal mellowed), and aged for 28 years. It's an old bourbon! This is the ninth release of the Orphan Barrel series, which showcases limited edition American whisky. By the way, Whoop & Holler is an enthusiastic howl.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Rich dried fruit, and lots of oak. Dried pineapple, plum, brown sugar, mulberries, marzipan, toast, and lots of rich oak. The palate has some fairly clean corn, applesauce, pear, and a lot of spices and oak on the finish. If you drink this quickly – it feels over oaked. However, I drink quite slowly, and this is very nice – my favorite of the orphan barrels. The grain is rich, the oak is buttery and creamy, and it is balanced with a nice array of fruit. Quite light overall, given the low ABV. I think this would be pretty awesome at higher strength. Creamy, oaky finish – and ever so lightly bitter, which I like. I quite like it!

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

Value: Very Low, based on $300.


Review: The Gifted Horse American Whiskey (Orphan Barrel) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57.5%
Aging
New Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller N/A (Indiana & Kentucky)

The back of the label describes this as “a whopper of a mistake” – a blend of 39% 17 year oldKentucky straight bourbon with 61% 4 year old Indiana corn whisky. Was it actually a mistake? Marketing stories make you wonder but those blending rooms probably could afford some mistakes in mixing...either way, it's that taste that matters anyway. It is another Diageo "Orphan Barrel" - a set of somewhat rare and somewhat limited releases.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L6012K1001

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

The nose has some terrific dry grain on the nose, oak supreme, tangy dried apricot, dried peach, and light spices. It is still light and fruity, yet contains much of the richness of the heavier earthy and dried fruit notes. The grain notes are intriguing – I even get some dried wheat. It goes down very easily for the strength. The palate is sweet, with lots of vanilla and dried corn. Light spices carry on in the background, playing second fiddle to the oak. Grain and oak laden on the finish. It is very enjoyable, and soft for a cask strength bourbon, no major flaws, but not that interesting.

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

Value: Low, at $87.


Review: Virginia Black Decadent American Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
2-4 Yrs; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller MGP (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)

This whiskey is sourced from MGP, which Virginia Black states (to their credit) - most whisky producers who source from there avoid this fact. Some bottles even say "Not Made in Virginia". The whiskey was created through a collaboration between Drake and Brent Hocking (who also created Deleon Tequila) – and it is a blend of 2, 3, and 4 year old bourbons with a high rye content. The liquid itself is very dark in colour (almost black) – I can’t imagine that it is natural, as, I suppose, is true of most whiskies...sadly enough.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L63091

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

The nose shows lots of rye, and a good bit of fresh oak. Bitter caramel, dried apricot, dried rose, cinnamon, butterscotch – sweet, woody, and fruity. Slightly sour, and slightly raw. The palate is oaky, with some tannins, vanilla, dried apricot, dried rose, and wood char. The finish is quite sweet and fruity, with spice and light tannins emerging. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. The bottle seems a bit obnoxious at first, but it is actually pleasantly eye catching in a liquor shelf - it does stand out. As a connoisseur whisky, it isn’t much – but that isn’t the audience.

It is flavorful, slightly punchy, fruity, spicy, sweet, and at a relatively moderate price point – actually just about right for the modern younger palate. If it was a bit older it would bring in a bit better balance and it would soften, and easily increase the score. MGP does make good juice.

Drinking it with ice (as perhaps, intended), you get a lot of rye laden fruit, nuts, and maple - the finish is all oak, with some dried fruit mixed in. The rough edges are smoothed out, but I actually prefer it neat – it is more alive.

Value: Low, at $50.


Review: Bulleit 95 Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Bulleit Rye.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller MGP (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)

This whisky, along with so many others (Templeton Rye, George Dickel Rye, Redemption Rye, Smooth Ambler, High West Rye, along with others) is not produced at the distillery of the brand name (if indeed, the brand even has a distillery) but rather at Midwest Grain Products (MGP) in Indiana where the whiskies are mashed, distilled, and aged. Their classic rye mash bill uses a recipe of 95% rye, which is very high for American straight ryes – for example, Wild Turkey Rye and Rittenhouse Rye are only 51% rye. MGP was originally owned by Seagram’s, a Canadian company, at a time when they also owned Four Roses and the yeast used is the same as the “V” yeast of four roses (as used in their Single Barrel bottling, among others). High rye whiskies are more common in Canada, but they are (unfortunately) not often seen as their own bottlings because they are usually used to flavour blends, as spices flavour food. The whisky doesn’t have an age statement, but is likely relatively young (perhaps 4-6 years).


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Oak, and the grain comes through beautifully with a bit of mint as well with a bit of a menthol feel to it. This is a solid, big nose with a nice balance between the oak and the herbal rye. Apricot jam, pine needles, a corn-type butteryness (though there’s no corn here!), vanilla, root beer also come through, and some earthiness that is almost moldy (though it sounds so – this is not bad).

Taste: Lots of rye here, with a good menthol and herbal kick as well. The mouthfeel is fantastic. Oak, dark, a good bit of vanilla, and a bit earthy. Very solid.

Finish: Dry, slightly spicy – long, and bold. A bit tingly too. It carries on the same theme – oak, spice – like clove and caraway – and herbal rye. A bit tannic too, and this is not balanced by quite enough oak flavour.

This is very nice – it feels very firm and solid the whole way through, with a nice mix of flavours. A classic straight rye really, but it lacks some of the complexity and elegance that I wish for. However, it’s consistent all the way through and is a beauty to sip and mix. I like it a good bit more than their bourbon.

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

Value: High, at $39.