Over the past couple months I’ve been able to taste my way through the new whiskies being released by Mile High Spirits in Denver, CO. MHS previously sourced their bourbon from MGP in Indiana while their own distillate continued to age at high altitude. Now that they all have begun to hit 3 years old, the spirits have started to show the qualities that they were waiting for. In my previous reviews, I was excited about the rye-forward nature of their standard 70/20/10 bourbon and even more wow’ed by their rye whiskey. So how would a heavy-rye bourbon mashbill fare?
MHS went all out for this mashbill by using the minimum amount of corn to still be called a bourbon while fitting in as much rye as they could. Obviously they had to leave a little bit of room for some malted barley to provide the enzymes to break down the starches, but that’s commonplace. The rye is sourced from a local farm in Colorado and had a ton of bright flavors when I last tasted it in their regular bourbon.
It’s all been aged in #3 charred barrels which should also help limit the amount of youthful, bitter tannins that can sometimes show through in a younger spirit. And finally, just like their other single barrels I’ve tried, this was proofed down to 52.80% ABV which is done deliberately both for taste and as a shoutout to their origins in the Mile-High City (altitude: 5,280 feet above sea level).
I typically prefer high-rye bourbon mashbills in everything from MGP to Four Roses to Jim Beam (Little Book Chapter 3 was awesome!). Would I find that to be the case this time around? There’s only one way to find out! I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: For all the more my nose usually picks out rye spice notes first, this time around I’m getting a mixture of maple syrup, honey and cinnamon first. It’s the sort of sweet aromas that really make me anticipate everything that’s yet to come. As it opens up a little bit more, I’m starting to get some of the bubblegum notes that I previously detected in the standard Fireside bourbon. There is also the scent of melted peppermint ice cream which brings back memories of holiday parties from my youth. The rye is definitely responsible for the wisps of wildflowers and cherry blossoms I’m picking up too. Curiously, the one note that doesn’t really belong is best described as “Grape Nuts Cereal” which is a scent I typically find in single malt whiskey. I don’t know what it’s doing here, but it’s pleasant and adds more depth.
Palate: The flavors that immediately hit my tongue surprise me because they’re all so bold and powerful. Seasoned oak, cinnamon stick, roasted chestnuts and semi-burnt toffee all pack a wallop. When I compare them to their standard bourbon’s relatively bright and light flavors, these stand out in stark contrast… and I like it! The heavy rye content kicks up some of the spices that I knew I’d eventually find in the form of clove, red pepper flakes, star anise, spearmint and ginger root. I’m thinking that if the opening salvo of flavors wasn’t so heavy-handed, that these rye spices would overwhelm the drink. But instead it has balanced it out. Each sip lacks a bit in the sweetness department, but there are flavors like nectarines and dragonfruit that help to give it just enough help to even things out.
Finish: Lingering notes of drying oak, leather and wood cleaner keep that initial “bold” rush of flavors going right up until the end. But the fruit sweetness that helped out the palate also starts to shine through after the sip is complete with some orange peel, peppery papaya and spearmint to boot.
Mile High Spirit’s Fireside Heavy Rye Bourbon took all of my expectations for a whiskey like this and chucked them out the window. I walked into this tasting thinking I knew what I was going to experience; which was some extra fruit and a spicier body. What I got was totally different. In contrast, the heavy rye component seemed to release a deeper, darker element to the whiskey that imparted more tannins and more roasted + toasted flavors. To dig just a little deeper, I feel as if the Heavy Rye mashbill is the “Yin” while the Standard Mashbill is the “Yang.”
What I’m really trying to say is that I feel as if the Heavy Rye mashbill is the bottle you should choose if you like exploring your whiskey on a deeper level. If you are over the simple, no frills bourbon, then this one is for you. It will reward you with each sip and open your tastebuds to an exciting new chapter of craft whiskey exploration.
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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