Rocky Mountain Rye, 21 (Batch 2)

High West Rye 21
I’ve made fun of High West a little bit before in my review of their Rendezvous Rye, but I did enjoy it and also my batch of their Campfire (a blend of bourbon, rye and peated Scotch). And I must also admit that my teasing was somewhat unfair as High West is quite upfront about the fact that the whiskies they are releasing while their own matured spirit comes online do in fact originate at other distilleries. That is to say, High West do not really represent the honesty gap on display in so many parts of the American whiskey industry. And so I’m not going to make fun of them in this review of Batch 2 of their Rocky Mountain Rye (Batch 1 was a 16 yo).

As per High West’s website the mashbill for this whiskey was 53% rye, 37% corn and 10% malted barley. Which makes it “barely legal” rye (the minimum requirement to be labeled rye is 51%). However, it is unusual in that it was matured in used barrels.

High West 21, Rocky Mountain Rye Batch 2 (46%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Pine and clove and cinnamon make the first impression but there’s a softer sweet note below all of that–light maple syrup, and with a bit of time some toffee and a bit of dried orange peel. Very mellow as ryes go, and very, very nice. Gets fruitier as it sits with some apricot joining the orange peel. More of the fruit still with a drop of water and less of the obvious rye notes.

Palate: Mellow on the palate as well with the clove leading the way followed by some caramel and then just a little bit of toasted wood. Dangerously drinkable. On the second sip the sweetness shows up earlier and it’s not so much caramel now as the maple syrup from the nose mixed with some honey and some orange peel. Gets brighter and pinier as it goes. Water corrals the pine and brings out more of the wood.

Finish: Long. That lightly toasted wood hangs around for a while along with a warm cereally sweetness. Gets brighter/mintier with time. Water extends the finish and really emphasizes the “cool” notes.

Comments: A lovely nose. The palate’s quite good too. Some people who know American whiskey far better than I do rate the Rendezvous Rye far above this but I think I liked this better–which may only be a sign of my preference for relatively lower rye mashbills. I wish I had a bottle. Oh, and I thought water did good things to it.

Rating: 88 points.

Thanks to Patrick for the sample!

2 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain Rye, 21 (Batch 2)

  1. Not sure if MAO remembers, but a local chain had this for ~$40 for a few weeks. I hoped it might be similar to Sazerac 18. It’s not. Only got 1 bottle. Hate to admit it but the last 1/3rd of the bottle made a few great Manhattans. Regardless, I think the future of American whiskey lies in slow maturation in used barrels.

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  2. Right, I remember you telling me about it at the time. I should have got a bottle–I obviously liked this far more than you did. I think the combination of a low rye mashbill and used barrels puts this right in my rye sweet spot.

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