Last month I reviewed a bourbon from Mile High Spirits in Denver, Colorado. This new-to-me distillery has seen a quick rise to multi-state distribution as their own distillate comes of age. In fact, MHS continues to grow their portfolio as their very own rye whiskey and high-rye bourbon begin to find their way to store shelves as we speak. Today I’m looking at their new rye whiskey. If you look back at my previous review of Fireside Bourbon, I noted that I found it to be very rye-forward in taste and on the nose. This suited my tastes even though the rye content was not any higher than many standard producers (MHS Bourbon is said to be 70/20/10). In the end, I attributed the impressively rye-forward flavors to the specific strain of rye that they sourced (from a local Colorado farm) rather than how much was in the mashbill.
Fireside Rye Whiskey Mashbill
Much to my surprise, I found out that Fireside Rye Whiskey seemed to go in a different direction concerning the recipe. The mashbill contains 93% malted German rye and 7% malted German Chocolate Rye. While using malted rye is not the norm in most rye whiskies, I’ve noticed that it is growing in popularity. Some describe malted rye as having a “funk” to it, but I typically find that it just increases the breadth of flavors and scents rather than coming off as strange. As for the chocolate rye, I know of only one who I’ve had before and found it to be very good; Corsair’s “Ryemageddon” (which I previously reviewed and enjoyed).
This rye whiskey has been aged for 3 years and is bottled at the same proof as the single barrel bourbon I previously tried: 52.80% ABV (105.6 proof). If you haven’t read that review, the fun backstory is that Fireside’s team noticed that their whiskey had a sweet spot of around 53% ABV. And since the city of Denver sets at a mile above sea level (5,280 feet), it would be fun to bottle their whiskey at that ABV as a sort of homage. If you’ve ever been to Denver, you know how important they take their elevation.
So what can we expect from this unique rye whiskey? I sat down with my trusty Glencairn to find out.
Nose: The nose is undeniably unique from any other rye whiskey that I own. Notes of Eucylptus and peppermint surround the entire experience while light cinnamon, cedarwood and a few whiffs of cigar smoke add spice and richness. But the most dominating and delicious aromas are the used coffee grounds and melted Hershey’s chocolate bar. This note is obviously from the chocolate rye and is absolutely amazing.
Palate: There is really one dominating note that keeps coming to mind with each sip: chocolate covered espresso beans. Sip after sip, it always hangs around (which is fine in my book!). But if you can look past that one dominant trait, you can tease out other rye flavors like red pepper flakes, peppermint and even pink bubblegum (which reminds me of some Kentucky-style rye whiskies). Throughout the session, a fresh, grassy background keeps it on the light side but somehow is absent of any youthful astringency. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are hints of leather and oak. It’s a very competent and well-rounded palate.
Finish: If there is one thing that has been absent so far, it’s the lack of ethanol throughout. This remains true on the finish as well. If anything, this finishes less like a whiskey and more like a “spiked” frappucino. The chocolate covered espresso bean flavors, which is my favorite thing about this dram, are still present long after the sip has been completed. I also find a strange note that I can only liken to “almond skins” which isn’t to say it’s nutty, but has a slightly chalky and woodsy taste. It’s pleasant and unique but also takes a little bit of the sweetness away.
I must give credit where credit is due; this is a very well-made and delicious rye whiskey. For years, I have bought into the fact that rye whiskey (or any whiskey for that matter) needs age to balance out the harsh, spicy and robust nature of this grain. But craft distillers are finding out that there may just be a couple of shortcuts that they can use in their favor: diversification in which type of rye they use and a larger percentage of malted grain.
Distillers of Scotch have known about the benefits of malted grain for centuries, which is how they can achieve such a wide array of flavors. I am a firm believer that this is what Mile High Spirits has found out and it’s paid off bigtime for them.
My score reflects an appreciation for not only how good this whiskey is, but how much I prefer it to other 4-6 year old rye whiskies in its same category. The tasting notes may lean more towards a “coffee liqueur” than a rye whiskey, but that’s not a bad thing. It makes it stand out in a crowd of 3-5 year old craft ryes. This brings me to my last point; in the crowded field of craft distillers releasing more rye whiskey on the market, it’s hard to decide which ones are worth your time. Fireside Rye Whiskey is easily tops among them and is well worth your time. It’s not just a great rye whiskey, but one of the most unique ones I’ve tasted. And that’s a win-win if you ask me.
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)
*Bourbon Culture is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.