High West one of the country’s premier craft distillers (I know that term is contentious). Yes, they are distilling whiskey, but the majority of their current stock is sourced whiskey. That doesn’t matter as they have a master’s skill in blending what they do source. Just look at their excellent Bourye, a blend of bourbon and rye whiskey. Or their solid and very enjoyable Rendezvous Rye. However, High West Distillery is not content on resting on its laurels. They find themselves experimenting with different blends and finishes. For example, they’ve taken their Rendezvous Rye and finished it in ex-port casks and French oak casks. The result is A Midwinter Nights Dram, a play on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
A Midwinter Nights Dram is a limited release whiskey, usually hitting shelves in the fall. My sample bottle is Act 3, Scene 1, which translates to the third batch and first bottling day. It’s bottled at 98.6 proof… yes, that’s the average body temperature. The suggested price is $90, which is a $40 premium over High West’s Rendezvous Rye.
The base whiskey is High West’s very solid Rendezvous Rye. It’s a blend of a 6-year-old rye whiskey (MGP-distilled rye whiskey with a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley) and a 16-year old rye whiskey, produced at the Barton distillery. That one carries a mashbill of 80% rye, 10% corn and 10% barley. This blend of rye whiskies is then finished in both French oak barrels and ex-port barrels. French oak casks usually impart some spiciness to whiskies, while the port barrels will add some fruit notes.
That 95% rye from MGP is known for it’s prominent dill aroma, and it’s the first note out of the glass. Past that are wonderful aromas of cinnamon dough, sweet vanilla, light toffee, and fruit tart. A blast of warm cinnamon spice hits your tongue on entry, developing into dark brown sugar, a not-so-sharp and semi-sweet rye grain. Candied orange peel ever so slightly peaks through the bed of flavors. The port barrel finish provides some much welcome dried fruits in the form of dried black cherry and dried plum. Aged vanilla and oak lead us to the long finish filled with rich toffee and baking spice.
I previously said and still stand by my statement that Rendezvous Rye is a solid whiskey, especially for its $50 price tag. But taking that rye further with a short, secondary maturation in port and French oak barrels has turned it into a completely different whiskey. Well duh! But is it good? No. It’s utterly fantastic. A Midwinter Nights Drams is promoted by High West as the perfect wintertime, fireside dram. I think they’re spot on. The whole tasting experience almost comes across like a Christmas cake with it’s sweetness and spice, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. This one comes with a very high recommendation and is on the shortlist for my favorite whiskies of the year.