Nose: If you’re looking for a classic rye profile on the nose, you’ve come to the wrong place. That being said, you’re still greeted with a great nose. On first pass it smells as if someone made a Manhattan versus pouring rye whiskey into my glass. I’m immediately hit with the smells of Maraschino cherries, sweet vermouth, and a healthy dose of alcohol vapors which you normally don’t find in the standard High West Double Rye. Lingering longer I notice hints of angostura bitters, field grass, light oak, and then finally your typical Double Rye.
Palate: The influence of the extra aging in the Manhattan barrels is immediately evident in full force on the palate. The standard profile and spice of the Double Rye takes a back seat on this bottle. On first sip, I’m immediately greeted with an immensely sweet rye, with Maraschino cherries that have been soaked in a lightly spiced rye. Hiding behind the Maraschino cherries is a slight hint of licorice along with sweet vanilla and a noticeable amount of oak. It’s not a super deep palate, however what it does contain, it highlights nicely. This is such a radical change from the standard Double Rye that you would be hard-pressed to realize it started as the same base whiskey if you were to do a blind side-by-side comparison.
Finish: The typical rye flavor profile missing in the nose and palate makes itself known in this long finish. While the taste of cherries continues to pull through, I am mainly greeted with classic rye spice flavors. Additionally, the finish has a pleasant low heat that lingers for quite some time allowing me to enjoy it for several minutes after each sip. To me this will be perfect to sip on and enjoy when you just want to take a quiet moment to relax and enjoy nothing more than contemplating a nice, complex glass of whiskey.
Uniqueness: This is one of the more unique barrel-finished whiskeys I’ve had. I’m not sure if it’s best to describe it as an over-proofed Manhattan or an over-sweetened Double Rye. Either way, the flavor profile is one I haven’t found in any other product on the market. Additionally, at 104.8 proof you’re getting a chance to taste a higher proof High West whiskey which is not very common. It makes me wish that they’d release more of their whiskeys at higher proofs because with the exception of the nose, the flavors really pop without imparting too much alcohol on the flavor profile. It’s interesting to note that the standard Double Rye also pops without much alcohol in the profile, which might be evidence that this is the reason for it as opposed to the barrel-finishing.
Value: At only a $15 premium over the MSRP of the standard High West Double Rye, this is a great price for this unique whiskey. It’s right in line with the pricing you usually see for other barrel-finished High West whiskeys. To put this in comparison, High West’s own barrel-finished Manhattan, “36th Vote Barreled Manhattan,” retails for $45. While that product offers you a nice premade Manhattan, with this bottling you’re able to get a bold, higher than average proof High West product that brings with it a unique Manhattan inspired flavor profile. A fantastic offering for the price.
Overall: Seeing that I was part of the group that went to High West to choose this particular barrel, we choose it for a reason. The unique and fantastic flavor profile is incredibly delicious and something that I just haven’t found in anything else on the market. While this was a one-off bottling for the Single Barrel Project, High West does do this style for other private selections as well. In fact, I’ve noticed private store selections pop up from time to time, with the major retailer Binny’s being an example of a retailer that has offered private barrels of this particular offering in the past. While each barrel will offer its own unique nuances, my assumption is the basic underlying flavor profile will be found in other barrels as well.
It should be noted however that this barrel-finished rye won’t be for everyone. If you’re not a fan of Manhattans or sweeter flavor profiles, you’ll probably want to stay away. Additionally, if you’re looking for a classic rye flavor profile, you won’t find it with this bottle. That said, if you’re at all inclined to enjoy a sweeter flavor profile or just looking to try something new, I’d highly recommend a hunting down a similar bottle from another private selection. You won’t be disappointed.
To sum it up: A fantastic Manhattan-forward rye that exemplifies just how much of an influence barrel-finishing can have on the end result.
-Jordan - Reviewed: 12/2015
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