Tag Archives: mgp

High West Midwinter Night’s Dram Review

Producer: High West. Distillers: MGP and Barton. ABV: 49.3%. Age: see below. Price: $100.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: High West is sourced whiskey done right. (Yes, they’re distilling too, quietly and in no rush, though when they’re ready to release something of their own, I have a feeling it’ll be worthy of the name they’ve already made as a bottler.) Their selection of stocks, often from the ubiquitous MGP, is excellent, and their instincts for blending and barrel finishes are all but unerring.

Witness the latest Midwinter Night’s Dram. It’s High West’s justly praised Rendezvous Rye–a blend of 6-year-old MGP rye and 16-year-old Barton rye–finished in port and French oak barrels, bottled at a potent 49.3% ABV. They apply the Shakespearean conceit to the release numbers on the Mindwinter’s: this is Act III, Scene I.

The core of it is every bit as good as the recipe suggests: the finish adds a round, raisiny warmth to the bold rye notes of the Rendezvous. But there’s more to it than that. Think late-season grapes in the afternoon, heavy with months’ worth of sunlight–and the green vine, and the dusty leaves, and even a bit of the wood from the arbor. Evolves and unfolds in the glass for as long as you’ll give it. Cabernet-soaked oak and slightly bitter blackberries on the finish.

The best finished rye I’ve ever had. Willett’s XCF was an intriguing entry in this genre, but I’d pick the Midwinter’s over it, hands down.

Bring on the blizzard–any month of the year. Cheers, friends! – BO

High West kindly provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Buy High West Whiskey online from Mash + Grape

Barrell Bourbon Batch 7 & Barrell Whiskey Batch 2 Review

Barrell Bourbon Batch 7 – Producer: Barrell Bourbon. Distiller: undisclosed TN distillery. ABV: 61.2%. Age: 5 years. Mash bill: 70% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley. Price: $70-80.

Barrell Whiskey Batch 2 – Producer: Barrell Bourbon. Distiller: MGP. ABV: 61.9%. Age: 9.5 years. Mash bill: corn, rye, malted barley (proportions undisclosed). Price: $70-80.

Two exciting new releases from Joe Beatrice of Barrell Bourbon, whose reputation for impeccable taste in sourcing and bottling true single barrel, all-cask strength bourbons and whiskies is growing by the day–and justly so. (See our Joe Beatrice interview here.)

Batch 7 of his bourbon is the youngest yet at 5 years, and Batch 2 of the whiskey has an intriguing sherry cask finish. Let’s dive in!

Barrell Bourbon Batch 7

The nose immediately dispels any concerns that this one might be too young. It’s a straight-up flavor bomb, starting with carts full of sweet toasted tobacco. Dark fragrant oak. Cinnamon. Mint playing at the edges. With a few drops of water, it brightens. With more–and the high proof leaves lots of room to play in–it really comes alive, with the oak blooming into cedar.

On the palate, the oak and mint blend into white pine sap, behind which are baking spices galore: nutmeg and ginger especially. Sweetness and tannins play along the long finish…baked apple with a little char on the bottom.

The image that kept popping into my mind was of a lacquered box. It takes a fair bit of water to open it properly, but the goodies inside make it worth the effort.

Bourbon Whiskey Batch 2

Cask-finished American whiskies are more common than they used to be, but I’ve never had one done this well.

The nose has the bright buttery baked-goods notes familiar from other excellent Barrell bottlings of MGP whiskies–think fresh challah with a golden crust. But then! Utterly bewitching velvety warmth from the sherry cask.

A little water unlocks roasted cocoa beans, along with pleasantly musty mature barrel notes common in 21+ year old single malt Scotches. The palate explodes with buttery MGP goodness and sherry fruits–dry at first, then juicier with time and water. Graham cracker and fresh tobacco. The finish  reintroduces each element one and at a time, letting you savor the whole experience over again in a slow fade.

Amazing how well the sherry flavors integrate. It reminded me of the Kings County Peated Bourbon in this respect: there, the toasty flavors from the peat blended in so well, I wondered whether a blind taster would identify the presence of peat at all. With the Barrell Whiskey Batch 2, I wonder whether a blind taster would identify the finish as sherry–or just beg for a second pour.

Two more excellent outings from a man who loves what he does, and does it damn well. Cheers, friends! – BO

Mash + Grape kindly provided samples for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Buy Barrell Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

High West 14-Year-Old Light Whiskey Review

Producer: High West. Distiller: MGP. ABV: 46% ABV. Age: 14 years. Price: $100.

The whiskey world’s first diet product? Not quite. “Light whiskey” is a long-standing U.S. spirits category that’s essentially the halfway mark between straight whiskey and neutral grain spirits. It’s distilled at 80-95% ABV, comes off the still with far fewer flavor compounds than straight whiskey, and can be aged in used or uncharred new oak barrels. Light-bodied, light flavored, and far more often a component in blends these days than a freestanding product–especially at a time when whiskey enthusiasts want juice so dense you can stand a spoon in it.

High West often sources from MGP, as they did in this case, acquiring 10 barrels of MGP light whiskey (99% corn, 1% malted barley) that was aged 14 years in second-fill (bourbon?) barrels.

My only previous experience w light whiskey was from Mosswood Distillery, an interesting outfit in Oakland, CA, that ages 4-year-old MGP light whiskey in a variety of barrels, from apple brandy to espresso.

Those are delicate spirits with delicate finishes. The High West 14-year-old packs more of a punch. It starts with a hot nose with big corn and coconut notes. Then comes the sweet baked goods, hot buttered brioche, fresh challah–interestingly reminiscent of the Barrell Bourbon Whiskey Batch 1, another MGP-sourced product.

Palate’s sweet, with more body than you might expect. Not bourbon density, but a light syrup feel. Vanilla and coconut. Maple. Candied banana. By the time we hit the finish–a touch too sweet more my taste–I’m craving the balance some oak tannins or a flavor grain would bring.

I think there’s potential for the light whiskey category that we’re only glimpsing so far. This particular release isn’t for me, especially at $100 a bottle. Still, High West is doing things right as usual: experimenting, pushing boundaries, and offering full transparency along the way. This release is distillery-only for the time being. If it catches on, though, I’m sure we’ll being seeing more of it around.

Hope your Saturday’s a tasty one! Cheers, friends! -BO

High West graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Buy High West Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Orphan Barrel Gifted Horse Review

Producer: Orphan Barrel/Diageo. Distiller: various. ABV: 57.5%. No age statement. Blend: see below. Price: $50.

Got a taste of the latest Orphan Barrel, Gifted Horse, at a swanky L.A. launch event at the cool-as-hell bar/speakeasy No Vacancy.

The official story is that the blend was an accident, first called “Project Whoops” internally (take that as you will), and that it’ll never be repeated or released again.

Gifted Horse is a blend of American whiskies bottled at 57.5% ABV, the highest of the series so far: 38.5% 17-year-old bourbon from Bernheim, 51% 4-year-old MGP bourbon, and 10.5% 4-year-old MGP corn whiskey.

It’s also the cheapest Orphan Barrel so far at $50 MSRP, though if you’re looking for maximum age for minimum price, this isn’t a value bottle–see Josh Peters’ review (and rant) at The Whiskey Jug for the price-per-age breakdown.

Let’s talk taste. They set a high bar at the launch event by opening with a pour of Rhetoric 21–my hands-down favorite Orphan Barrel–and I think the Gifted Horse suffered by comparison. The nose is light, bright, and young, with caramel, citrus, and toasted coconut. The young corn dominates on the palate, with some cinnamon and orange candy, while the older whiskey’s oak tannins dominate the finish, which is fairly sharp and dry.

The price may make this more accessible than the rest of the Orphan Barrel line, and completists will likely snap it up, but I’d recommend skipping this one and saving up for the next Rhetoric release instead.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Orphan Barrel whisky online at Mash + Grape

Orphan Barrel graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Bulleit Rye Review

Producer: Bulleit. Distiller: MGP. ABV: 45%. No age statement (4-7 years old). Mashbill: 95% rye, 5% malted barley. Price: $25-30.

Bulleit is a gold-standard mixing rye that’s just as good as a sipper. It’s become so ubiquitous that singing its praises can seem a little like recommending somebody try Pepsi, but if you haven’t given this 95% rye-mashbill beauty from MGP proper consideration, it’s definitely worth revisiting.

The Bulleit rye sparkles with citrus and brown sugar–brighter and fresher than the excellent Rittenhouse/Pikesville from Heaven Hill. Loads of fruit and baking spices on the mid-palate. The candied orange is so pronounced that it’s nearly an Old Fashioned all on its own. It’s priced right, and easy to find.

Side note to the Jim Murray-watchers: Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye and Heaven Hill’s Pikesville Rye made the headlines this year by topping his 2015 best-of list, but Murray gives the Bulleit a 96. Just one man’s opinion, of course, but in this case, I think he’s right on the money.

Cheers, friends! -BO

Buy Bulleit whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Redemption High-Rye Bourbon Review

Distiller: MGP/LDI. Producer: Bardstown Barrel Selections. ABV 46%. Age: 2 years. Mashbill: 60% corn, 38.2% rye, 1.8% barley. Price: $30.

Redemption’s high-rye bourbon is the sister release to the more successful Redemption Rye — both being familiar sourced products from MGP/LDI, bottled in Bardstown, KY. Get ready to see them all over in the near future: the brand was bought in June 2015 by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, which includes brands like Yellow Tail, Georges Duboeuf, and Luksusowa Vodka.

Nothing to get excited about here. You can taste the MGP/LDI provenance in the simple corn base, followed by a burst of biting spice from the rye. (Wonderful things do come out of Lawrenceburg, of course, especially with a little age, but the 2-year mark doesn’t cut it here.) Lacks coherence and balance, with sweetness and spice spiking up unpredictably. Too sharp to sip.

I’d sooner spend my $30 on a dozen others, but if you find yourself with a bottle of it on hand, it will make for a fine Old Fashioned. – BO

Buy Redemption Whiskey online at Mash + Grape