My whiskey journey is a baffling one. My first legit tasting session was with a miniature of Johnnie Walker Black. I nearly spit it out and gave up on this “whiskey as a hobby” thing almost as soon as it started. It is now a dependable and steady dram as sure as God made green apples. How does this happen? Change, for lack of a clearer word. A sort of whiskey maturity, so to speak, if there is such a thing. The industry will change, bottles come and go, but the only thing that stays the same is Richard Patterson’s Nose. Everything else evolves. Your palate WILL evolve.
Which brings me to today’s selection, High West’s Midwinter Night’s Dram and how my attitude changed towards port finished ryes and bourbons. I never thought I was much of purist when it came to bourbon and rye but my instinct was to spurn away port or sherry finishing on any of my beloved American distinctives. I don’t think I was snippy about it, I just don’t think it was needed. The stuff was glorious on its own. Responsibility should also be placed upon a particularly bad experience with an Angel’s Envy port finished rye. I disregarded these creations ever since then. My tastes evolved with a sherry finished Beam a few years ago, along with a few others. Simply put, I allowed myself to be surprised at this curious coupling of a dessert wine flourish and oaky rye. If done right, the result is a perilously drinkable composition. On to some particulars….
High West out of Park City, Utah has been covered well enough by us, so we move onward to the bottle at hand. Midwinter Night’s Dram is straight rye, composed from two sources: a familiar 95% rye from MGP and an 80% rye from High West themselves (took them long enough). Quick note: previous blends had both the MGP and a 16 year old Barton rye, which, also resulted in their Rendezvous Rye, one of my very favorite drams in general. The advantage of distilling year after year is that one can eventually start to bottle it. They aren’t doing it for fun, you know. The resulting blend clocks in at 49.3% ABV and is non chill-filtered. The blend is then finished a for an unspecified time in “French oak port barrels,” whatever that means. I suspect both port and French oak is used, but this is the designation on the bottle.
Nose- Creamy and woody. Vanilla, dark candied fruit. Sweet port and rye spice. Raisin cinnamon and nutmeg. Evergreen, pine and cedar brick. Floral meadow.
Taste- Dark chocolate and mint. Soft. Sour oranges and buttery walnuts. Tobacco.
Finish- Tannins and bitter chocolate. Cinnamon and rye spices. Grassy, peppery, and char. Long.
Comments – Just wonderful. A wintry dram but I would drink this all year. If you doubt the alliance between port and rye, this could well be the religious experience you’ve been waiting for.
SWC Rating – 89/100