If you’re looking for a succinct explanation to the single barrel that’s going to get reviewed today, first of all, I’m so, so sorry. But second of all, there was a time when High West offered single barrel picks of every core label they sold. Rendezvous Rye picks were the most cherished due to the extra age of their blended components (6 year old MGP rye whiskey and 16 year old Barton rye whiskey) while Campfire was the most rare probably due to the fact that it was hard to find a finishing cask that paired well with a blend of 3 different whiskies (one of them being peated Scotch). These were the glory days of High West.
In late 2019, High West announced that they were making a big change to their single barrel program. From now on, they were going to offer only their American Prairie and Double Rye! whiskies for their single barrel selections. If any other labels were going to be offered, they would be distillery-only releases. This announcement was another nail in the coffin among the enthusiast camp who already begun to lose interest after High West had systematically altered the makeup of each label. First came the replacement of 16 year old Barton Rye Whiskey in favor of their own homemade rye whiskey and the replacement of older stocks of MGP and Four Roses bourbon in American Prairie with bourbon from Cascade Hollow (Dickel). A final note on the change to the single barrel program came with the announcement that these single barrels would no longer wear the nifty metal and leather medallions that they once did. Instead, they would be recognizable on a shelf by their black paper label instead of tan.
High West Double Rye! Single Barrel
As it pertains to this article, Double Rye’s makeup changed from a blend of 2 year old MGP 95/5 rye whiskey and 16 year old Barton 53/37/10 rye whiskey to a blend of that same 2 year old MGP rye whiskey and a 7 year old High West rye whiskey with a mash bill of 80% rye and 20% malted barley. I did a comparison review of a 2016 bottle and a 2020 bottle and found the 2016 version to be miles ahead of the newer release. Double Rye! is supposed to be an entry-level rye whiskey that I’m sure sees most of its customers buying it for cocktail duty, but the fact remains that it was a perfectly passable sipper before the switch. RIP Barton Rye, we will always remember you for making Double Rye! drinkable.
It seems like High West did get the message that its fans were not pleased with the direction their labels were going with their own rye whiskey, so they have (not so) covertly contracted Bardstown Bourbon Company to begin laying down barrels for their future products. I couldn’t be happier about that news.
Until that time comes, the only hope for making a better tasting Double Rye! is to find a single barrel pick that allows for more time in a barrel and the addition of further flavors to mask any youth. Thanks to a good friend (who happens to be a helluva tattoo artist) in Chicago, he generously gifted me a bottle of Double Rye! that was finished in a White Port cask for 1 year and 1 month and selected by Warehouse Liquors. It came in at 48.7% ABV (97.4 proof) which is a bit on the low side since High West adjusts the whiskey’s proof into every finishing barrel down to 100 before it enters the barrel. Most HW single barrels tend to gain a few proof points back but I guess this one didn’t. Some older whiskey enthusiasts will recall a time when HW didn’t proof down the single barrels which resulted in some crazy bottling proofs (I’ve seen a RR bottled at 125 proof before!). That’s yet another change this program has seen.
Anyway, I’m excited to try this bottle because of the hype built around High West’s distillery-only release of A Midwinter’s Night Dram limited edition version called “Encore.” High West is still releasing their regular MWND nationwide (which sees rye whiskey finished in Tawny and Ruby Port casks) but this is the first time they’ve used White Port casks. By the way, did you know that the reason “white” Port gets its name is because the Port wine is made from white grape varietals? I just learned this. But High West does not expand on which style of White Port they sourced for the casks. It could be anything from somewhat bitter all the way up to intensely sweet. I wonder which one they chose here?
Regardless, the hype around Midwinter’s Night Dram Encore will surely make a bottle like this require direct comparisons to it. So does this taste like a “baby” MWND Encore? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
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