High West Valley Tan Utah Whiskey Review

Valley Tan Utah Whiskey is a Utah exclusive from High West – they have to take care of their own, after all.  In fact, the distillery is the only place you can buy this one.  Retail is $49.95 for a bottle.  This is batch 3, and things have changed since this whiskey was first released.

High West Master Distiller Brendan Coyle and Owner David Perkins decided to change mash bills.  What used to be oat based is now a wheat based recipe with a touch of oat and malted barley.  According to press materials, the recipe being used now is based on a historical recipe of whiskey made in Utah in the mid 1800s.  The whiskies used in this blend are aged one to six years, and bottled at 43.5% abv.

This is the first whiskey distilled by High West that I had the chance to taste, so I was pretty excited and had high expectations.  Let’s get right to it:

The nose comes across with a softened edge, bringing aromas of buttered wheat bread, maple syrup, Chardonnay and green plantains.  On the palate, there are lots of tamed fruit notes such as unripe banana and melon, alongside toasted grain and honey.  The medium-length finish leaves behind a honeyed grain note.

This is a delicate, flavorful whiskey from the folks at High West, and one that I’m glad they bottled and released.  I’d love to see this in a wider release, as I think it would appeal to folks looking for a lighter style whiskey something different. It doesn’t have the “bourbony” caramel and vanilla sweetness.  Instead, its sweet notes come from the grains used in the mash bill, and come across as more fruity sweetness and honey.  This one earns a recommendation.  7.5/10

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.)