High West is a distillery based in Utah that is yet to bring any of its own distilled spirit to market. While their own spirit matures they have released a number of “sourced” whiskies–a very common practice in the American industry where there are far more faux distilleries than real ones. High West, of course, is a real distillery, albeit not yet bottling their own whiskey, and they have a real blender too who has put together a number of interesting sounding experiments with bourbon and rye. I have not tried any of those (Bourye, Son of Bourye etc.) but this release, the Campfire, caught my attention as it is a blend of straight bourbon, straight rye and an undisclosed peated malt from Scotland. It was part of the American whiskey tasting (traditional and experimental) that I hosted a few months ago, but, frankly, between the classic bourbon glory of the Pappy 15 and Four Roses Small Batch Ltd. Ed. 2012 and the less than classic, less than glorious assault of the Balcones Brimstone, the Campfire got lost. I haven’t tried it since (and hadn’t before) and have almost no memory of it except that I liked it. So, this is my opportunity to review it more carefully.
High West Campfire (46%, batch 6, bottle 1135; from my own bottle)
Nose: Maple syrup, caramel and rye. The peated scotch is nowhere to be found, at least at first. Dark raisins, brown sugar, clove and cinnamon. I’m trying but I’m not finding any peat smoke. It smells like a lovely rye-forward bourbon though–I would happily pour this over buttered pancakes or vanilla ice-cream. In fact, with time the aromas I get that are reminiscent of Scottish single malts are more from the sherried Speyside end of the spectrum. If I were more experienced with bourbon and rye I’d probably be more able to put a finger on something that might be different here, but as it is, on the nose I would very easily believe that there is no peated malt whisky in here whatsoever. Gets a little dusty with time but we’re still in the world of intense caramel, toffee, clove and cinnamon. With a lot more time there are notes of cold black tea (not ice tea, but hot brewed tea that’s gone cold). With a lot more time I’m getting a maritime air here that I don’t associate with bourbon/rye but not smoke per se. And water doesn’t bring it out either.
Palate: As on the nose. In fact, it’s exactly on the palate as it is on the nose. Very nice but very, very bourbon. There may have been some peat smoke in here once, but it’s gone now. Will water draw it out? Hmmm, I’m trying to talk myself into it but not succeeding. It does get saltier though.
Finish: Spicy and warming. No smoke here either. As on the palate, water makes the finish saltier.
Comments: Where’s my peat smoke, Lebowski? Actually, I don’t really care that I couldn’t find any tonight–it’s a very enjoyable whiskey without worrying about it. In fact, I’m going to have to get another before it all disappears (or is this an ongoing series?).
Rating: 87 points.