When you think of bourbon and whiskey-producing states outside of the big 3, Colorado may not even register on your radar. But the Centennial State has given us quite a few names that have reached national-distribution in a relatively short time. Names like Stranahan’s, Tincup and Breckenridge have all became common sightings from coast to coast. Mile High Spirits also hails from Colorado and their distillery is nestled into the heart of Denver. Although they’re smaller than their Colorado brethren, that hasn’t stopped them from being distributed into other states. But we’re here today to look at their Fireside Bourbon.
Fireside Bourbon is a straight bourbon whiskey that is produced entirely by the team at MHS and is not blended with any other outside distillate (like Tincup and Breckenridge does). They age their whiskey in a local warehouse that only has one floor consisting of 6 tiers for a more equal aging process. MHS wanted to make a ryed-bourbon mashbill that could be sourced from locally grown grains but also would be sufficiently spicy and flavorful. To that end, they found a local farmer that was growing what they were looking for. They must have liked it a whole lot because their mashbill is on the high side of rye content at 20% (Fireside’s mashbill is noted as 70/20/10). In the very near future, their lineup will also include an even higher rye-bourbon mashbill as well as a rye whiskey.
Mile High Spirits uses a sweet mash for their distillate and distills through copper pot stills before putting it into standard 53 gallon barrels sourced from Kelvin Cooperage. The barrels use a char level 3 which is the same char level that distillers like Heaven Hill use. The reasoning why they chose a level 3 over the more ubiquitous level 4 is that they believe the color of the bourbon is usually more indicative of the flavor you’re going to experience. They found the caramelized sugars to be noticeable enough without having to bump up the char to a level 4.
Fireside Bourbon typically comes in a batched, 80 proof bottling that is aged a minimum of 2 years, but their single barrel line sees a nice bump in age and proof. The bottle I’m reviewing today has an age statement of 3 years and 3 months with a proof of 105.6. An Easter Egg for those familiar with the mile-high city (5,280 ft above sea level) is that the ABV comes out to 52.80%, which was both intentional and coincidental as the distiller’s found their product tasted best proofed down to roughly 53% ABV anyway. Barrel Proof single barrels are also available, but for today I’m tasting this one. So how is it? I sat down with this bottle over the course of a few weeks to see what it was all about.
Nose: The nose initially comes off very similar to a rye whiskey. There are scents of mint and bubblegum as well as sweet hay. I even detect a decent amount of gingerbread. The sweet aromas in this glass lean more towards molasses but aren’t as sweet as you normally expect from a bourbon. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on your expectations, but I generally enjoyed it. There’s an underlying grassy-ness that seems to follow around many of the other scents but is light enough to not obscure them. As the glass opens up, I also found some lighter seasoned wood notes.
Palate: My first few sips would make it hard to convince me that this isn’t a rye whiskey. Wherever this rye comes from, it’s an extremely potent strain! (insert Colorado + marijuana joke here) There are herbal and floral notes and even cedarwood planks. If I had to pinpoint what it is I’m tasting, I’d say it’s more like a mix of Double Mint gum and Bazooka Joe gum in my mouth at the same time. However, barrel char and “new leather” flavors chase the other flavors around during the whole sip, leaving the impression that this bourbon is much more tannic than its age suggests. The sweet flavors do eventually catch up as the session goes on with notes of fruit leathers, plums and charred citrus rinds.
Finish: Lingering flavors of sweet grass and mint oil settles on my tongue and cheeks. Spicy notes like dry cinnamon and ground pepper add a nice pop of heat. There’s enough sweetness (now in the form of honey) that helps keep the finish in balance. Lingering notes of citrus peel and semi-ripe strawberries combine with a touch of vanilla custard to help extend this pleasant finish.
I am a sucker for a good rye whiskey. But Fireside Bourbon is not a rye whiskey. This made me conflicted on just how I should rate it overall, but flavor is flavor regardless of what the bottle label says it is. I find that barrels aged in higher altitudes and drier climates make for a generally drier tasting whiskey, which is what this bottle exhibited.
I also think that the rye grain used here may be more potent than the rye that the larger distillers source from; meaning it is much more distinguishable. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on your tastes, but it appealed to me. I think that one thing that drives consumers away from rye in general can be a harsh and astringent taste, but this whiskey does not have that trait.
Great whiskies of all types exist at every price point from the main distilleries. When you’ve drank enough of them to know what you like, yet you still want to try something new, the process of finding a craft distillery product that you actually enjoy can be daunting. But Fireside bourbon is actually a safe bet that delivers potent, unique flavors in every sip. If you like the dry spice and oak of Old Forester products, the floral, botanical and spicy notes of a Four Roses F, K or Q strain or the citrus and grassy notes of a Canadian rye whisky, then Fireside Bourbon could be for you!
Note: If you live in Colorado, Wyoming, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgian, North + South Dakota or Nebraska, you may be able to find this and other Mile High Spirits, so keep a look out!
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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