High West Master Class Plus a Review of High West Double Rye

High West Distillery is a company that gets a lot of love from whiskey geeks, myself included. They are located in Park City, Utah. Though they do distill some of their own stuff, they’ve really made their reputation on the ability to obtain interesting spirits and then blending them together to make something even more interesting.

So it was with real interest that I attended the master class Whiskey: An Organoleptic Journey at Sunday’s Whiskey on Ice Festival. The class was lead by Brendan Coyle, Lead Distiller at High West. During the class he discussed the whiskey making process in great detail. Everything from sourcing the grain down to bottling the finished product. 

The coolest part of the class was that it wasn’t just “first you mill, then you mash, then you ferment.” Instead he went into great detail about how and why you might want to do things a certain way and how it would affect the finished product. For example: He didn’t just say you mill the grain, but showed a diagram of a hammer mill and described the relative courseness of the resulting flour. And why you’d want to mill at the speed you do so you don’t risk scorching. 

Plus I really liked the dive into the science behind the processes. Things like why you might want a little bit of bacterial fermentation to go along with your yeast fermentation (complexity). The differences between the grain-in method of fermentation that American whiskey typically uses and the grain-out method used in making malt whiskey and why those methods are used (ease of filtration). Or why you would want to make your cuts at certain times and a bit of how you’d know when those are (taste/aroma + proof measurements). 

And of course he went over distillation and aging. Each of these were illustrated with a small taste of whiskey. We tasted six whiskeys* during the course of the class. First were two silver whiskeys Western Oat and OMG Pure Rye. After that were four aged blends: Double Rye, Rendezvous Rye, Campfire and the newly-reintroduced Bourye. I enjoyed all of them on some level except the Campfire. It tasted a bit too much like it’s namesake for me. 

All in all, if you get a chance to see one of Brendan Coyle’s talks, do it. My only regret is that it only lasted an hour. I could easily have sat through one twice as long.

High West Double Rye

Purchase Info: $32.99. 750 mL. Casanova Liquors, Hudson, WI (on a Sunday, out of state, for those who are watching Minnesota politics)

Details: 46% ABV. Batch# 14E20. Bottle# 3488. Blend of two straight rye whiskeys: a 2 year old 95% MGP rye and a 16 year old 53% Barton rye.

Nose: Mint, cedar, bubblegum, clove and licorice.

Mouth: Spicy. Toffee, mint, clove and licorice.

Finish: Mint, cedar and a nice lingering warmth

Thoughts: When I tried this side-by-side with the Rendezvous Rye during the class, I noticed that this one had much more of the typical “MGP” character. Which is perfect for me, because I really like that. It has more complexity than your typical MGP bottling though due to the addition of the much older Barton rye. This is a nice sipper with plenty of heat and at $30-$40 the price is right too. I like this. It’s an easy one to recommend.

*If you want info an any of these whiskeys visit www.highwest.com. The other cool thing about High West is how transparent they are about the details of their whiskeys. They will tell you what makes up each blend and we even got to see what proof the tails were cut at for the stuff they distilled during the presentation.

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