In early 2020, High West announced a new addition to their lineup; an American Malt Whiskey. High West had been distilling and putting away a plethora of malt whiskies starting back in 2011. For this particular release, they used whiskey aged anywhere from 2 to 9 years in both new and used barrels.
They also used three different mashbills of malted barley. For the first mashbill, they used Two-Row Malt, Crystal-60 Malt and Chocolate Malt. For the second mashbill they used only Two-Row Pale Malt.
And for the third mashbill they used all Peated Scottish Malt. They did not release exact percentages within the mashbills or how much of each mashbill was used.
American Malt Whiskey is a tricky sell. Most drinkers that enjoy bourbon or rye whiskey do not enjoy malt whiskey. And if they do, Scotch and Irish Whiskey are so popular that they are typically the preferred malt whiskey of choice versus American brands.
But High West wanted to throw their hat into the ring to see how consumers would respond. For the time being, High Country is only available in Utah. If it is successful enough, it may become a national release.
Bottled at a mere 88 proof, could this make enough of a splash for me to recommend you find a way to buy one? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: The nose is soft and pleasant. Scents of toasted cereal grains, light baking cinnamon and vanilla scented wax are recognized first. Then there is a more traditional Scotch note like roasted pan drippings.
But aside from that, the sweeter scents continue to roll with butterscotch pudding, plantain chips and light caramel sauce. I also find some notes that may be attributed to the younger distillate within like yeast rolls, green-ish wood scents and unglazed cake donut. It’s still all very impressive in its complexity.
Palate: A moderately thick mouthfeel. Flavors of cereal grains (Bran cereal being dominant) come first along with notes of orange zest, cinnamon and a slight bit of barrel funk.
There is also a very small amount of used coffee grounds and some vanilla. The low proof may be hiding other more delicate flavors behind these dominate ones.
Finish: Lingering notes of malted grains, raisins and Grape Nuts cereal stick around. There is also some banana bread, toasted pecans and a slight oak spice.
This malt whiskey was enchanting with its pleasantness. There’s not a whole lot I can say tasted off, however, I will compliment it by saying I found it to be perfectly normal and inoffensive.
Coming from the stance of enjoying higher-proofed offerings, I did find this to be slightly weak. I would be excited to see what this is like at 100 proof but since High West generally never exceeds 92 proof for any of their products, it will remain a dream.
High Country has enough appeal that it could attract people that either don’t like like malt whiskey or may not like any whiskey at all. In fact, I will go as far to say that this malt whiskey would “go down” much easier to a new drinker than bourbon does at the same proof.
The color is also very nice for something that could see a significant part of the blend under 4 years old and one that also uses used barrels.
As is usually the case of High West products (especially after the Constellation buyout in 2017), they’re worth a try to see how they did, but one bottle is about all you really need in your life.
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.