High West, A Midwinter Night’s Dram

Midwinter Night's Dram
This is another of High West’s high concept whiskeys. It is a blend of two rye whiskies, one a 6 yo 95% rye, and the other a 16 yo 80% rye, finished in port and French oak casks. In other words, it’s the Rendezvous Rye finished in port and French oak casks. As to whether it goes into the finishing casks in sequence or whether some fraction is finished in one and the rest in the other and then vatted together, I have no idea.

I tasted this in late December at the home of Fabulous Florin (head of small animal husbandry at the San Diego Wild Animal Park) and do know that I liked it a lot; more, I think, than I had the Rendezvous Rye itself. I’ve since found a store in the vicinity that has a bottle and so I’m interested to taste it again and see if that initial impression is confirmed.

High West, A Midwinter Night’s Dram (49.3%; from a sample received in a swap)

The bottle’s label also says this is Act 2.9, Scene 1322, which may or may not be specific batch information but is certainly annoyingly cutesy.

Nose: All straightforward rye at first (cold tea, pine, dill) and then the red fruit begin to show (cherry, a bit of plum). Gets sweeter as it sits, and there’s a hard candy’ish thing going on. Increased salt as well and it’s nuttier too with more time. Not very straightforward rye anymore. Water pulls out the wood and the sweeter notes expand too, turning a little perfumed.

Palate: Here too it starts out as relatively straightforward rye but the wine notes kick in even faster, softening the impact, especially of the dill and mint notes that had begun to expand. Very nice, soft mouthfeel. On the second sip, however, it’s much spicier: cinnamon, pepper and even a bit of chilli powder. Caramel below all that and finally some cough syrupy notes. Let’s see what water does. It pushes back the wine and makes it more like a regular rye.

Finish: Long. The spicy and cough syrupy notes fade out slowly; nothing new develops. Spicier and/or less sweet with water. A touch of dusty wood at the very end.

Comments: I’m not usually a huge fan of port or red wine finished single malt whiskies, but I thought this worked really well. The spicier notes of the rye are able to stand up to the wine, keeping the whole from seeming like wineskey. I thought the interplay of the wine and rye on the palate made this more than just the Rendezvous Rye with a wine layer but an interesting new whiskey with a different rye character emphasized. Masterfully blended. Okay, I think I am going to have to go see if that bottle’s still around. This is quite a unique whiskey and I’d like to have it around as an occasional change-up drink (especially as a digestif).

Rating: 87 points.

Thanks to Florin for the sample!

4 thoughts on “High West, A Midwinter Night’s Dram

  1. The price is high, but for me it’s different enough from everything else out there (while still being good) that I’m willing to pull the trigger on a full bottle. The port works better here than on any finished single malt I’ve had. Your mileage may vary—especially if you’re more of an American whiskey purist than I am.

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