If you follow the spirits circuit, specifically those of the barrel-aged corn and rye persuasion, High West Distillery in Park City, Utah, has probably been on your radar for a while. If not, you'll hear about this young craft distillery soon if for no other reason than rye in general — arguably the first truly American whiskey, depending on where you sit on the rye fence — has been making a comeback for the past decade or so.
Still, this young craft spirits company is deserving of all the attention on its own merit. We think their signature spirit, the Rendezvous Rye (a 16-year-old rye blended with a 10-years-younger gal), makes a mean Manhattan. And just last week, Malt Advocate's John Hansell dubbed High West owner David Perkins “Pioneer of the Year.” For the snifter glass and cigar set over at this buttoned up whisky/whiskey magazine (yes, they still differentiate the spelling based on where the spirit is from, as is traditional and factually correct), crowning a rye whiskey maker the winner is somewhat surprising.
Don't tell Emily Post, but Perkins is not a pedigreed bourbon maker who is bringing back the rye tradition. In fact, he's relatively new to this whole crazy moonshine thing. Oh, and Perkins isn't actually a distiller — for the current blended ryes, at least (he distills his oat vodka and the silver whiskeys in house; the ryes he has distilled are still too young to blend). For the rye, he blends whiskeys from other distilleries. But as Hansell says, “the fact is, whatever he's doing, he's bringing whiskeys to light that might otherwise have died a woody death, and making something great out of them, by blending them together.” We couldn't agree more.
High West's newest release is the Double Rye!, also a two-rye blend. An annoying name to those of us tired of wayward text message and Twitter exclamation points!! But we're letting the name slide as this is one bold, brash rye — and we mean that in a good way. As Jason Pyle of the blog Sour Mash Manifesto sums up quite efficiently, this rye “is a monster, an absolute kick in the ass.”
That Double Rye! has such an intense spicy flavor (think gingerbread cookies), we'd really like to know a little more about the whiskeys. The bottle label coyly dubs the pair “a feisty high rye 2-year-old and a saddle-smooth 16-year-old” (the young rye has a 95% rye mashbill and the older is a more traditional blend of 53% rye, 37% corn), and we are also told they are “from two different distilleries back east.” And so we can only imagine they must have been crowned jewels of the rye trade with some sort of bandit past that barely escaped a ritualistic dumping in a river somewhere deep, deep in the woods.
Fine. Maybe sometimes it's more fun if we don't know everything that went into our drink.
High West Distillery: The new Double Rye!, about $35, is currently available at K&L Wines. The Rendezvous Rye and other whiskeys are widely available, check High West's online retail store search. Several L.A. restaurants carry High West whiskeys (though not necessarily the Double Rye!), including Father's Office, Lucques, and Rivera, as well as bars with solid whiskey selections such as The Thirsty Crow, The Edison, and Seven Grand.