Aside from all of the limited releases or single barrels, High West’s Rendezvous Rye is the pinnacle of their sourcing and blending operation; and the price reflects that. Originally, Rendezvous Rye used 6 year old barrels of MGP’s 95/5 Rye Whiskey Mashbill and blended it together with 16 year old Barton Rye Whiskey which supposedly used a 53% rye, 37% corn and 10% malted barley.
Barton Rye Whiskey
The Barton Rye Whiskey had been setting around Kentucky for years without any buyers, mainly because the US was still warming up to American-made whiskey in the late 2000’s. But High West recognized the coming whiskey trend and started to purchase as many barrels as they could.
The plan for this 16 year old Barton rye that they sourced was to blend it in to both their Double Rye! and Rendezvous Rye whiskies.
Unfortunately, by late 2017, the Barton stocks had depleted and there were no replacements they could buy. This led to a large shift in taste and profile for all subsequent batches as High West began to blend their own rye whiskey into each batch.
Fans of the previous recipes were very upset because they claimed they could taste the change in flavor. Many decided that the quality no longer justified the steep price tag (Rendezvous Rye is commonly found at $70).
So when I found this bottle from 2017, I knew I should jump on it to have a taste of the past. So was there anything special in these barrels? Let’s sample it to find out. I tasted this neat and in a Glencairn.
There are more traditional rye whiskey notes of pine, dill and gingerbread which add a nice layer of complexity and spice. I also detect a tiny bit of baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon.
Palate: The taste of peppermint candy canes, clove and cinnamon let me know this is a rye whiskey. But there are also lots of herbal flavors including dill, pine needles and fresh hay.
And although I can taste a little bit of heat from the notes of black pepper, I find that the caramel sweetness mixed with a little bit of wood char and some light tobacco help smooth it out and add some nice depth.
Finish: The peppermint candy cane flavors are still around on the finish along with clove, but a black licorice note enters and kicks it up a notch while cherry juice, tobacco, a faint amount of dill and some oak leave the finish satisfyingly rich and robust for such a low proof.
I’ve been told that bottles of Rendezvous Rye batches from before 2017 were even better. I don’t know the reasoning behind that, but I’m assuming that the first batches of Barton Rye barrels may have been higher quality.
But as their stocks decreased, so did that quality. This 2017 bottling has a lot going for it. It’s sweet when it needs to be, herbal and spicy throughout and has enough age to never come across as astringent or young.
About the only things it has going against it is the price and proof. For $70, I’d expect the proof to be higher on it.
Since no changes have been made to High West’s proof, that means that the modern-day Rendezvous Rye Whiskey is a very poor value proposition.
For $70, you are now paying for 6 year old MGP blended with High West’s rye whiskey of roughly the same age. But if you are ever able to find a Rendezvous Rye that was distilled in 2017 or before, it’s a worthy buy.
Just look at the bottom of the front label for the batch number (the first two numbers always indicate the year) to know for sure. But hurry, because once they’re gone, they’re gone.
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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