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Review: High West 21 Year Rocky Mountain Rye Classification: Whiskey Company: High West Distillery: Sourced (Rumored Barton or LDI) Released: 2009 Proof: 92 Age: 21 Years Color: Light Gold MSRP: $130 Notes: Mashbill is 53% rye, 37% corn, and 10% barley malt. Aged in used oak barrels, so not technically a legal “Rye.” Only 75 barrels total which were aged in the lower three tiers of the rickhouse. Official Website: Breaking Bourbon Ratings: Nose: 
Palate: 
 Finish: 
 Uniqueness: 
 Value: Overall:

Nose: Alcohol at first which disappears entirely after about 3 minutes in the glass. Then it gets subtle - light vanilla and caramel. Maybe a hint of spice, but only if you sniff hard enough.

 

Palate: Is there even alcohol in this? It’s very smooth with almost zero burn. Vanilla, caramel, very light spice, cinnamon, and brown sugar all come together wrapped up in a candy coating.

 

Finish: Medium length but with a resonating sweetness.

 

Uniqueness: This is not technically a rye because it was aged in used barrels. To stay legal, they call it “Whiskey Distilled From Rye Mash Stored 21 Years in Reused Cooperage,” which makes it more interesting to me. I couldn’t find anything definitive about what the barrels had been used for before this, but it is doubtful it was anything too far off from a bourbon or rye because there aren’t any noticeable additional flavors. If it was wine or rum I think it would be more evident. The most notable thing about this whiskey is how smooth it is. Combine this with its complexity and good flavor do make it unique in a sense. As a comparison, Barterhouse is incredibly smooth, but it almost tastes like they added too much water to proof it down. The Rocky Mountain Rye could easily go unnoticed as special by anyone not paying attention to the subtleties it offers. However, there is something good going on here.

 

Value: It’s 21 years old and there were only 75 barrels total. This certainly makes it seem special. At an original price of $130 and upwards of $200 or more if you’re lucky enough to locate a bottle today you would expect something special. It’s certainly high quality, goes down easy (maybe a little too easy), and it’s very enjoyable. I doubt you’d find any whiskey drinker that could say they don’t like this. Unfortunately it seems to be missing the X-factor. It just doesn’t have that hard-to-describe element that makes it really stand out. Because of this, I think it’s overpriced for what you’re getting. It’s delicious, no doubt, but the age and scarcity dictate the price in this case. You’re likely to find near-equal competition in the $50-$70 range.

 

Overall: Smooth. So smooth. I can’t say it enough. It’s hard to believe this is 92 proof. It’s also hard to believe it’s even a rye and aged for 21 years in a barrel. It’s light in color and low on spice. I could drink this all day every day - I’d stock my shelves with this if it was available and more reasonably priced. This is an impeccably balanced whiskey with a delicious flavor profile. I find the Sazerac 18 to be subtle - this is like an even more subtle version of that. Don’t get me wrong, this is a phenomenal whiskey. However, the 21 years are not absolutely obvious, and it has less spice than I typically want in a rye. It's very good but not quite as amazing as I had hoped.

 

To sum it up: If there was a dessert whiskey this would be it -  smooth and sweet with a hint of spice.

 

-Nick - Reviewed: 6/2014

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