Whiskey Reviews: High West

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Photo: Barrett Doran

When someone throws out the word “craft” in the alcohol industry, my first instinct is to assume they are talking about beer. David Perkins (head whiskey-maker at High West) is pioneering professional distillation in Utah and  it is looking like that title ought not be reserved for beer alone. Perkins’ skill in his craft is one to fear in the distillation industry–after only being on the map for a couple of years, High West’s Rendezvous Rye has already become the flagship for their success, regularly medaling and making a name for them in the craft spirit industry. The renovation of their distillery in Old Town Park City is nearly complete. It will be the first distillery in Utah not monopolized by the Mormons (See Brigham Young’s distillation endeavors) and the worlds first ski-in distillery. Yes, you read it correctly. Ski-in!


Rendezvous Rye
ABV: 46 percent
Price: $39.99
Description: Lightly splashed into my snifter, this rye leads my nose into aromas of cinnamon, clove and a definite amount of spice character, all of which is tucked beneath a caramel and toffee backing. When it grazes my palate, I am overwhelmed with a whole new level of hedonistic pleasure. It is the perfect balance of new and old whiskies, blended with amazing precision.
Overview: As I write this, for you the reader, my head is throbbing, because I felt the need to consume as much as possible. And hell, with this bottle, how could I not? There is a damn good reason that I like to have this on hand at all times. What stands out most about this bottle is the flawless blending. By law, “rye whiskey” on the market must be comprised of 51 percent rye or more. Rendezvous is a blend of a six-year-old whiskey at 95 percent rye, five percent barley and a 16-year-old whiskey at 80 percent rye, 10 percent corn and 10 percent barley. These elements made for double gold medal winner at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. I wish I could talk this up more, but you need to find out for yourself.

Rocky Mountain Rye 16 Year Old
ABV: 46 percent
Price: $79.99
Description: Off the dram, there is a pungent rye aroma, clove, cinnamon followed by the faintest amount of nutmeg blended with vanilla. The taste is always a bit more violent than the sip before, but in an exquisitely amazing way. It is rough on the palate, but the spice from the rye manages to carry on the tongue for a while.
Overview: This is for the people who just drank the standard Rendezvous Rye, and said to themselves, “I wish there was more kick.” Either that means you have been chewing on pavement recently or you just like rye. If I am ever in a situation where I am just craving the complete flavor of rye, I reach for this guy every time.  The potent mash bill of 80 percent rye, 10 percent corn and 10 percent barley make this well over the standard for rye intensity.

Rocky Mountain Rye 21 Year Old
ABV: 46 percent
Price: $129.99
Description: This is as full in the nose as my wallet was before I bought it. There is a delicate blend of everything right in well-aged rye whiskey: honey, mint, then some tropical fruit glazed in molasses. Shit that’s complex. The flavors raise off your tongue with characteristics of herbal tea, all-spice, a spike of fruit and then a soft oak finish.
Overview: The 21-year sips like a sweetly aged scotch that is balanced enough to give you a reason to start drinking in the morning. Hell, there is breakfast beer, breakfast whiskey anyone? Wondering how in the hell these guys are selling 21-year-old whiskey, when they have only been open for a couple years? They are still purchasing the whiskey from out of state, but are currently in the process of distilling and aging their own. Knowing their crew and operation now, I will say that anything that will be coming out of this Park City distillery in the future will be worth looking into.

Vodka 7000
ABV: 40 percent
Price: $29.99
Description: Simple. In my glass, this is straightforward in its softly sweet aroma and impeccable build. The body is dense and creamy and glides down your palate leaving no rough edges like most commercial examples.
Overview: With how easy drinking this is, it is no wonder it recently took a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Its simplicity is brought about by their use of only the finest locally grown oats and Utah’s highly rated water. After tasting this, I would not rely on any other label for quality vodka, not to mention I get the opportunity to buy local! By the time this issue hits the stands, there will be the release of the peach vodka made with only the finest of Brigham City peaches. I had a chance to try an advance sample of this, and it was amazing. So opt for that over what ever Absolut piece of shit you may want to pick up.
 

Photos:
Photo: Barrett Doran