Port barrels

Midwinter Night’s Dram Act 4 Rye Whisky Review


Autumn means one thing for High West: the release of their annual A Midwinter Nights Dram.  Joy!

A Midwinter Nights Dram is basically High West’s Rendezvous Rye (a blend of 6-year-old rye whisky from MGP and 16-year-old rye whisky from Barton) that’s finished in French oak and port casks.  In essence, the rye whisky should deliver big spicy notes while the port barrel finish adds a nice fruitiness.  It’s bottled at 98.6 proof and runs close to $80.

Compared to last year’s release, this Act 4, Scene 5 edition features slightly more influence from the port casks.  Upfront on the nose is that familiar dill note, which most likely comes from the MGP-distilled rye whiskey.  There’s also dark toffee, mulled wine, cinnamon bark & clove, and some vanilla.  Taste-wise, MWND Act 4 plays a nice balance of sweet and spicy, with hints of cinnamon,  caramel, rye spice, red wine, plums and vanilla cream.  The finish is long and leaves behind a spiced fruit note.

Fantastic stuff.  If you’re already a fan of MWND, Act 4 is another great batch full of those familiar fruity and spicy notes.  If you’ve never tried this whiskey, you’re in for a treat.  Though it’s a limited release, it’s not AS hard to find as other fall favorites.  Pick up a bottle if you see it on a shelf, pour a glass and enjoy.  Recommended!

Thanks to High West for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

High West Midwinter Nights Dram Review

High West Midwinter Nights Dram 2

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”.

High West Midwinter Nights Dram 1A 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.

(Note: A review sample was provided by High West.)