Review #63: High West American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Select Repeal Day 2018

For Repeal Day 2018 High West released a barrel select American Prairie finished for 2 years and 1 month in the 36th Vote Barrel Aged Manhattan barrels which were originally used to age rye whiskey. My folks went to the party and grabbed a couple bottles, one of which ended up being a gift for me! I got to try my dad’s bottle back in Utah and have already done some damage to this one so let’s get to the review.

Review

Age: 2-13 years and then finished for 2 years and 1 month

Abv: 101.98 proof

Color: A reddish amber

Price: $49.99

Neat

Nose: The Manhattan finish is clear from the nose with the prominent dark cherry and herbal notes backed by a subtle vanilla.

Taste: Excellent mouthfeel and rich dark cherry notes with tamer herbal and oak notes.

Finish: Longer than the regular bottling with warm spice and vanilla

On a rock

Nose: A little muted by the ice but still very Manhattany with the cherry note standing out and the herbal and vanilla notes in the background

Taste: Even better than it was neat with a more viscous mouthfeel and more balance between the cherry, herbs and oak. The vanilla for the nose is also there.

Finish: Very similar to the neat finish if a hair shorter

Conclusion

The finishing and higher proof definitely made this more interesting than it’s usual expression. It’s very flavorful, has a great mouthfeel and I’d be happy to use this on the rocks as a replacement for a Manhattan or to sip neat. Overall it’s a great bourbon and if I could grab another bottle at retail I definitely would.

9 - a favorite that I almost always have a bottle of on my shelf

This will be the last entry in my High West series and I’ll do a little wrap up post in the next few days covering the whiskey line up and the distillery experience.

You can also follow me on Instagram(@atxbourbon) or reddit to keep up with these reviews and my other whiskey-centric adventures.

Scale

My reviews are mostly about taste but occasionally take price into consideration generally dropping a point from whiskies in the 8-9 range that seem significantly more expensive than similar quality bottles.

10 - an all time favorite, must buy

9 - a favorite that I almost always have a bottle of on my shelf

8 - an excellent bottle I’d be happy to buy

7 - a solid whiskey I’d happily order at bar if they don’t have something 8+

6 - a decent whiskey that I don’t prefer but don’t avoid and would be fine having as a mixer or in a pinch somewhere with a poor selection

5 - I would drink it if offered and I didn’t have to pay for it

4 - Fine as a mixer, bring on the Coke Zero

3 - Maybe a mixer if I’m in pinch

2 - no thanks

1 - pouring out the bottle

Review #62: Glenfiddich Project XX

Today we’re picking up the Glenfiddich experimental series with the Project XX. This experiment involved 20 folks each choosing a cask from one of Glenfiddich’s warehouses and then blending them all together. This sounds like a really high budget version of an infinity bottle but let’s see how it stacks up!

Review

Age: NAS

Abv: 94 proof

Color: A deeper gold

Price: $67.99

Neat

Nose: Light and sweet with pear and floral honey notes

Taste: Warmer and fuller than the nose but still sweet with some spice perhaps pear and cinnamon? Nice, viscous mouthfeel

Finish: Longer than I expected as the sweet pear fades into spice and a bit of oak

On a rock

Nose: Very light with just hints of floral honey

Taste: Candied pear notes and vanilla without any of the spice from the neat taste. The mouthfeel is still very solid

Finish: Medium length with pear and warmer spice notes

Conclusion

This was a good dram but it didn’t really standout to me. The Fire and Cane and IPA Cask each tasted very unique whereas this tasted like a pretty generic Speyside scotch. It was sweet and fruity with a little something more to it. The higher proof was a nice treat as most Glenfiddichs are in the 80s but overall I preferred the other two experimental series. That said another solid and affordable scotch from Glenfiddich.

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

Scale

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Review #61: High West A Midwinter Night's Dram Act 6 Scene 5

s Dram

And now back to the regularly schedule High West series. Every winter since High West releases A Midwinter Night’s Dram which is a blend of port cask finished rye whiskies. This year’s is, I believe, the first year to contain actual High West distillate in addition to MGP and Barton’s juice. With that let’s get o the penultimate review for the series.

Review

Age: NAS for the aging or finish this year

Abv: 98.6 proof

Color: A nice deep reddish amber

Price: $99.99

Neat

Nose: The nose was just slightly but with rich herbal and sweet dark cherry notes

Taste: Herbal notes takes the lead but with more subtly and complexity than the usual dill forward MGP rye notes with a nice balance of sweet dark fruit and warm baking spice notes with an excellent mouthfeel

Finish: Long and lingering finish that starts with sweet dark cherries and becomes spicier as it goes

On a rock

Nose: Warm spice and sweet dark cherry notes

Taste: Less spicy but still with herbal and sweet cherry notes and a nice mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length sweet finish with more cherry notes.

Conclusion

This year’s MWND was excellent; a step up from last year’s which had a little more dill than I prefer. The balance between the sweet, spicy and herbal notes was excellent and I preferred it neat. That extra bit of proof over most High West offerings also helps the flavors and mouthfeel. I get a bottle or two every year and am very glad I snagged 2 for this year :) All that said it wasn’t as good as the Barrel Select Rendezvous Rye finished in Port Casks for 4 year and 7 months.

8 - an excellent bottle I’ll buy from time to time

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

Scale

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Review #60: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2018

I’m taking a quick break from my High West series to very cheesily review Old Forester Birthday Bourbon for my birthday! This is another bottle I failed to hunt in 2018 but was thankfully able to enjoy at bars including a couple pours tonight.

Review

Age: 12 years

Abv: 101 proof

Color: Deep dark brown

Price: $20 for a 1.5 oz pour

Neat

Nose: Robust holiday spices and strong, sweet brown sugar. Very nice.

Taste: Even more brown sugar than the nose but the distinct holiday spice notes fade into more generic warm baking spice notes; on the plus side some pleasant oak notes are there as well.

Finish: Surprisingly short though the sweet and spice were well balanced with hints of oak and a little more heat than I like

Conclusion

I’ve had a few pours of this from a couple different bottles and each time I nose it I get really excited and then by the time I get to the finish I am a little let down. That said it is still an excellent bourbon especially if you like things a little hotter. Not worth hunting in my opinion but I would happily buy a bottle at retail.

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

Scale

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Review #59: High West Valley Tan Batch 18G03

Valley Tan is a Utah whiskey that is actually made from 100% High West distillate. It is a blend of wheat and oak whiskey aged in a combination of new and used oak barrels. This one is bottle number 1941 from batch 18G03. This juice is supposed to be a throwback to the whiskey that the Mormons made in Utah back in the 1800s so let’s see if it stands the test of time.

Review

Age: 1 year

Abv: 87 proof

Color: A light, pale gold

Price: $50

Neat

Nose: Sweet honey and bright fruity notes with some unexpected harshness

Taste: Green apples and honey

Finish: Short, slightly sweet finish with just a bit of burn and a bit of oat

On a rock

Nose: Light fruity notes

Taste: Thin mouthfeel but nice honey, green apple and melon notes.

Finish: Even shorter than the neat though thankfully the burn is gone, the bit of oat remains though

Conclusion

Oddly this one reminds me more of a mid to low end blended scotch than an American whiskey. I don’t get much of what I expected from the wheat and oat whiskies this is blended from. I tried my best to pick notes out but it’s relatively smooth and a bit generic tasting. Overall it was better than not drinking whiskey but especially given the price I’d pass on this one.

5 - a whiskey with notable strengths but also held back by some flaws

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Scale

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Review #58: High West Rendezvous Rye Barrel Select Port Finish 2018

For my last day in Utah I headed out to High West in Wanship for their Refectory brunch. I knew that they often hold back some of their limited release bottles for the bar there and was hoping to be able to taste their most recent Double Rye! finished in MWND barrels but when I asked the server which Barrel Select whiskies they had and she said 3 I was optimistic. She came back and said “American Prairie Bourbon finished in Manhattan barrels, Double Rye! finished in MWND barrels and Rendezvous…” and I knew the rest. For my second pour I asked if I could grab a picture of the bottle and for the third pour I wrote up the tasting notes :)

This release is barrel 1713 and bottle 158 of 198 bottles.

Review

Age: 6-16 years plus 4 years and 7 months finishing in a Port cask

Abv: 106.9 proof

Color: A deep amber

Price: $14 for 1.5oz

Neat

Nose: Luscious dark cherry notes with just a hint of baking spice

Taste: More dark cherries and baking spice from the nose and some subtler herbal and oak notes. Very rich mouthfeel. Sweet without being cloying and spicy without burning.

Finish: A long, lingering finish with warm rye spice, dark cherry and oak notes

Conclusion

This was amazing. It was a combination of the best parts of a good rye whiskey and a good Port. Right up there with the Pappy Van Winkle 15 year and BCS 15 year for my favorite whiskey this year and my first 10/10 rating. I still wish I’d been able to snag a bottle but having 3 pours in the High West Refectory was an excellent consolation prize.

Oh and the brunch was good too.

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt

Scale

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Review #57: Henry McKenna 10 year Single Barrel Bottled in Bond Barrel #5254

Today is another vacation whiskey review as an excuse to day drink around the family. While I’m home I’ve been introducing my dad to a variety of affordable yet delicious bourbons and realized that I hadn’t reviewed McKenna 10 year Single Barrel Bottled in Bond yet. I am torn between feeling like that name is buzzword bingo style nonsense or that it is checking all my favorite whiskey boxes. If only it was also a store pick :P. Anyways this bottle is from barrel #5254 which was barreled on 4/22/08. Onwards to the review!

Review

Age: 10 years

Abv: 100 proof

Color: Medium to deep gold

Price: $31.99 in Utah

Neat

Nose: Predominantly vanilla and oak notes with a bit of old leather

Taste: Starts with stronger oak notes which give way to sweet butterscotch and warm spice. Excellent, viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm with more spice and butterscotch notes.

On a rock

Nose: Clean and sweet with vanilla and caramel notes

Taste: A sweet caramel note takes the lead on ice with subtler but clear oak and baking notes. The mouthfeel was still great.

Finish: Slightly shorter but still long and warm with a balance of caramel and baking spice

Conclusion

This is great bourbon and an amazing value, it’s right there with 1792 Small Batch for me for daily drinkers and is a great introduction to higher proof bourbons for folks looking to move beyond 86 proofers. All that said this whiskey embodies a whiskey that does everything right but lacks something special to put it over into the 9 or 10 range.

8 - an excellent bottle I’ll buy from time to time

Great - A great deal, I’d buy it again

Scale

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Review #56: High West Light Whiskey 14 yr Batch 3

I’m visiting Utah this week so obviously I’m going to High West’s various locations. Today I went by the bar in Park City and tried their 14 year light whiskey. It was super unique so I was happy to pickup a bottle at the gift shop. Light Whiskey is distilled to very high ABVs(80-94.5%) before entering the barrel and is typically used in blended whiskies. Neutral spirits like vodka are usually distilled to high ABVs like this as well. High West sourced some 14 year light whiskey to bottle as it was.

Review

Age: 14 years

Abv: 92 proof

Color: A light pale gold

Price: $99.99

Neat

Nose: Medicinal notes almost like high end vodka with smaller vanilla notes

Taste: Also somewhere between a vodka and a bourbon with clear vanilla notes and medicinal notes and a little bit of oak in the background

Finish: Long but a little hot especially for something with a 14 year age statement! More sweet and medicinal notes

On a rock

Nose: The ice gets rid of the medicinal notes and the vanilla note is clearer though it is the only note I can pick out

Taste: Still medicinal and vanilla notes but the oak is gone

Finish: Long and smooth like a nice vodka with a touch of vanilla

Conclusion

This one was hard to rate given how different it is and since it is my first ‘light whiskey’ but I was very glad to try it, would probably occasionally order it at a bar as a change up and definitely want to share with other whiskey loving friends. Overall it was great to try it in an unblended state and it’s a unique spirit that tastes good if somewhat one note.

5 - a whiskey with notable strengths but also held back by some flaws

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Scale

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Review #55: High West Double Rye! 2018

As my High West series comes to a close (until I score a 2018 MWND :)) we’re drinking their workhorse Double Rye! This is batch 2018B28 which I believe is still the 2 year MGP and 16 year Barton blend not the latest 2 year MGP and 7 year High West blend. They changed the blend during 2018 but I couldn’t find clear information on the batch numbers and blends.

Review

Age: 2years

Abv: 92 proof

Color: Amber but a shade on the lighter side

Price: $29.99

Neat

Nose: Strong allspice and herbal notes(clove and dill?) with a hint of something sweeter maybe floral honey

Taste: Sweeter than the nose with honeysuckle and herbal notes with a slight burn

Finish: Medium length finish with predominantly rye and allspice notes

On a rock

Nose: Mostly herbal notes with that MGP signature dill shining through and some sweet honey in the background

Taste: A strong clove note with dill and wildflower honey notes then allspice coming in before the finish

Finish: Rye spice, allspice and clove notes with a bit of linger but not as much as you would hope

Conclusion

This is good stuff, especially given the price, it’s a bit of safe play but there’s nothing wrong with that. This is great go to whiskey and I’m happy to drink it straight or in a cocktail but wouldn’t seek it out especially when Rendezvous Rye exists :)

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

Scale

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Reviews #54: High West Campfire 2016

Well I put off the Campfire and Double Rye! to the end but here we are with only days to spare before my trip so it’s time to buckle down and taste these starting with the 2016 Campfire which is a blend of MGP bourbon, MGP rye and a mystery scotch(not Islay though).

Review

Age: 5 years or ‘older’

Abv: 92 proof

Mashbill:

  • 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley
  • 95% rye, 5% malted barley
  • 100% malted barley

Color: A middling gold

Price: $54.99

Neat

Nose: Oak and smoke notes with some background sweet notes though they were hard to nail down through the smoke and wood

Taste: Less wood and smoke than the nose though those are still the primary notes for me with sweet dark cherry underneath

Finish: Smoky and a little spicy

On a rock

Nose: Gentle smoke and sweet floral honey, much tamer than neat

Taste: More honey and smoke with some oak notes as well, unfortunately the ice quashed the cherry note

Finish: Medium to short with somewhat faint honey and smoke notes

My attempt at Top Shelf Campfire 10 Year

Conclusion

Ah the black sheep of the High West family. I’ll start with the best part: the taste is dead on with the name and it’s fine to drink. To me it was this sort middling blend of bourbon, rye and peated malt which has the the basic elements of each but none of what makes them great. It’s an interesting whiskey and I’d definitely suggest ordering it at a bar at some point to try it but for me it wasn’t worth a bottle purchase. Yay for 375s! Also similar to the anecdote on the back of the label about being inspired by the smell of peat to make this blend I was inspired by this blend to make my own; see the bonus section below :)

5 - a whiskey with notable strengths but also held back by some flaws

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Scale

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Bonus Section

My attempt at a ‘Bonfire 10 Year’

Neat

Nose: Rich smoke notes dominate the nose with just a hint of sweetness and rye spice

Taste: The mouthfeel was nice and thick with primarily oak and caramel notes with a bit of smoke as well

Finish: This part was actually amazing: rich smoke and warm baking spice linger for days with just a touch of sweetness

Recipe

  • 1.5oz Eagle Rare 10 year
  • 1oz Willet 10 year
  • .5oz Laphroaig 10 year

The only MGP rye I had on hand was the Willet 10 so I decided to make 10 years the theme and grabbed an ER and Laphroaig. I wanted to stay some what close to the 92 proof so I went with primarily the 90 proof ER with the 115 proof Willet and the 86 proof Laphroaig which lands me at 97.6 proof. Eh close enough. The nose and palate were just fine but the mouthfeel and the finish were surprisingly good. The extra proof and age certainly helped there and this pour was definitely more expensive than Campfire(the Willet was $200 though the other 2 were in the $30s so not by much) but it felt good to make a blend that wasn’t awful. I mixed up a 2nd batch to be sure :) I’d like to see High West do a more premium version of campfire!