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High Wire Distilling Co. New Southern Revival Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Review

High Wire Distilling Co. New Southern Revival Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Review

This is my first review of a High Wire Distilling Co. product. I have a friend who has been trying to find new and interesting rye whiskies and this is a brand he came across. I was lucky enough that he decided to share it with me for a review. Before I dig into the tasting notes, let’s see what I can dig up about this company and this bottle.

High Wire Distilling Co backstory

The founders of High Wire Distilling Co are husband/wife team Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall. Prior to getting into the distilling business, Scott had owned an organic bakery which he later sold to General Mills. His passion for working with grain was a natural fit into the world of distilling, so they secured some money and began to build their operation out of Charleston, South Carolina.

Their 530 gallon pot still (which was manufactured in Germany) created its first batch of distillate in early 2013. High Wire Distilling didn’t immediately get into the whiskey game, though. They experimented with a Sorghum Spirit (similar to rum), vodka and gin. Corn Whiskey would come a little bit later and started their journey into using heirloom varieties of corn.

Rye Whiskey was high on the list to make and they had one particular kind in mind to distill with – Abruzzi Rye. This rye varietal had been adapted to grow well in hot and humid regions like South Carolina. Its primary use is as a cover crop and for cattle to graze on. Compared to other rye varieties, it doesn’t yield a lot of grain per acre – mostly because of its small size.

But the team at High Wire wanted to use it because it was unique to the region and they wanted to stand apart from other distilleries. Distilling with Abruzzi imparted sweet cereal flavors, stone fruit and a nuttiness not normally associated with rye whiskey. They have refined their recipes to take full advantage of its unique flavor composition.

In 2018, High Wire outgrew its original location and had to move to a new building that gave them more square footage. One unique characteristic of this new facility (aside from its ceiling which looks like the inside of a barrel) was the ability to build racks to store their barrels on. Most craft distilleries are content with palletizing their barrels in an upright position. Not High Wire. They have ricks that are 5 barrels tall.

They also added a second still to compliment their 530 gallon one. This one was also sourced from Germany and is a hybrid column/pot still nicknamed “Carl.” It holds 8,000 liters (2,100+ gallons) which gives them a huge jump in output. High Wire’s social media accounts are frequently buzzing with videos of the still actively making their spirits.

Perfecting New Southern Revival Rye Whiskey

The bottle I’m reviewing today claims it is distilled from 100% unmalted Abruzzi rye. That wasn’t always the case as I’ve found a few early reviews that state it contained as much as 25% white heirloom corn at one point. I reached out to High Wire and they told me that they dropped the corn component because they felt the rye whiskey was developing a “cobby” profile that didn’t center as much on the rye.

High Wire even experimented with adding malted rye into the rye whiskey for a time, but eventually discontinued it. Now their rye whiskey uses 100% unmalted rye for the mash bill. With no malted grain to provide the enzymes needed to break down sugars for the yeast to consume, it’s assumed that they use commercial ones to help along the fermentation process.

The rye whiskey comes off the still at around 145 proof before being proofed down to its barrel entry proof of 110. The barrel it enters could be either from Kelvin Cooperage or Charlois. Both are spec’ed to have the staves air-dried for 3 years prior to receiving a heavy toast and Char Level #3.5.

The single barrel I’m reviewing today was matured for 3 years in a Charlois barrel before being moved to a 225 liter barrel that previously held “Napa Valley White” from Matthiasson Winery in California. It spent the next 2 years being finished. The final proof was 111.2. So what was the result? Read on to find out! I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The sweet scent of honey buns and chocolate Danishes blend together with herbal and floral scents. I’m picking up on mint, mums and a little bit of forest floor. Complexity comes by way of anise and coffee grounds. There is a bit of youthfulness in the scents, but nothing that would ruin the experience. 

Palate: Upon my first sip, I get a huge blast of chocolate and mint. My first thought is that I’m drinking a malted rye whiskey. Then I begin to pick up on French Toast (but it’s like it was made with Pumpernickel bread). High Wire assured me that there was no malted rye in this mash bill and these flavors may be a result of the toasted/charred barrels they use. I can see that being the case. I also find a nice compliment of oak to go along with all of the flavors.

While I can’t say that I found any wine notes, I did find a large collection of fruit notes. Canned peaches, cherries and lemon meringue pie. They’re all wrapped up with a soft vanilla note and an oily mouthfeel. I’m really impressed with how much fruit there is!

Finish: The finish turns slightly more herbal and “green.” This is interesting because before the finish, it was neither of these things. The wood turns into more of a “cedar” aftertaste and some of the sweetness and fruit goes away. The finish develops a slightly bitter aftertaste that. I’m not sure if that’s because of the finishing barrel (some white wines have a bitter aftertaste) or if it’s because of the the younger age of the distillate.


Score: 7.2/10

For being a white wine-finished rye whiskey, I was expecting to find a lot of astringent notes that would make me pucker. I am happy to report that wasn’t the case. Instead, what I found was a rye whiskey that was fun to drink and enjoyable with loads of fruit.

There are still some rough edges that need to be polished and some youthfulness that could have been solved with a couple more years in the barrel, but kudos on this being a very competent rye whiskey from a craft distillery who is doing basically everything their own way. My hat is off to them.

Final Thoughts

I see great things in store for High Wire Distilling Co. They just passed the 10 year mark in the distilling business and it shows. They’ve steadily tweaked their recipe while upgrading their equipment over the years. Most distilleries will stick with the status quo and do neither, but not these folks. This is what the craft whiskey scene needs to embrace – the ability to throw out a recipe if its not working and create something better. The rye whiskey I just drank from the bottle is proof of that.

Attractive packaging, unique ideas and quality whiskey. These are all selling points that would make me have no hesitation buying future bottles from High Wire Distilling Co. But when you couple in the value (this bottle was only $80) it becomes obvious that this is a rye whiskey you should get your hands on right now. I guarantee it’ll make a splash at your next bottle share. 

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