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doubleblank
06-25-2008, 19:34
I first reported about this venture about three years ago. My father-in-law lives in SLC and heard about this guy. Anyway, he has started distilling but his first product is a blend of two straight ryes he purchased. What is nice is that he states that it is a blend of a 6yo and a 16yo rye on his website.....he's not pretending he did the distilling.....just the blending. He has also made a vodka from oats. Someone to keep an eye out for. He told me several years ago he wants to make a specialty bourbon using "exotic" varieties of corn someday.

www.highwestdistillery.com

Randy

cowdery
06-26-2008, 10:29
I have gotten into it (http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2008/01/high-west-checks-in.html) a little bit with this guy in the past. Right before his web site went up he generated a bunch of publicity in which, somehow, all of the writers got the impression High West made the whiskey. Then the web site went up, where he admits he didn't. The point is that, like Scott Bush at Templeton, these guys are happy to create the illusion they made the product they're selling, and when they are called on it and admit they didn't, they get their backs up and get all hurt.

Screw 'em.

Although Perkins admits he didn't make the stuff, he won't tell us much that is meaningful about it and what he does say (e.g., "a 6-year-old 95% rye and an 16-year-old 80% rye.") is confusing. To what do the 95% and 80% refer. Mash bill? Why in the world would you make a 95% rye mash? Assuming the other 5% is malt, why bother? That's too little malt to effectively convert the starches. It just makes no sense. Who would make a rye that way? He won't tell us, naturally.

He also writes, "A higher proportion of unmalted rye gives Rendezvous a unique flavor profile with notes of spicy cinnamon, caramel, honey, mint, and vanilla." Why say it's unmalted? Only Fritz Maytag uses malted rye. Unmalted is the norm. No one else points out that the rye in their rye whiskey is unmalted. Why does he? Naturally, he doesn't have answers to any of this.

As for the oat vodka, from what I can tell he hasn't actually made anything yet. The web site talks about, "the 100-year-old livery stable that we are restoring as High West's home and the only ski-in distillery in the world." If they have some kind of current operation, they don't tell where it is.

As I wrote when Perkins and I had our dust-up in January, "Far be it from me to strangle a baby in its bed, and I get the idea about getting some products out to get some cash coming in and some publicity going out, but the buzz you're creating is about people wanting to try that 18-year-old rye made in Utah, when it's nothing of the kind. I still have a problem with somebody calling himself a distiller and his company a distillery putting out a product he merely bought and bottled. It's not good for him in the long run. It's a bad way to start."

SBOmarc
08-11-2008, 10:39
I received a bottle for my birthday, along with 2 glasses that have a hand blown look. I haven't tried it as of yet, will let you know what I think once I do.

SBOmarc
09-24-2008, 21:07
I tried the Rendezvous Rye,

And now I never have to try it again. Of course I am going to let it rest now and give it another try.

Don't ask me when.

Sir Toby Belch
09-25-2008, 06:23
Chuck Cowdery says, "I still have a problem with somebody calling himself a distiller and his company a distillery putting out a product he merely bought and bottled." I agree. So I find myself annoyed by the concept of "Kentucky Bourbon Distillers" or "Old Pogue Distillery". Both outfits coyly imply that they distill their own products when we all know they do not. I even recall once meeting one of the Pogue clan at a local liquor store. I asked him where his product was distilled. He admitted that he did not distill it himself. Instead, he offered the explanation that Old Pogue is distilled by KBD. When I pointed out that KDB also does not distill (at least not yet), the Pogue guy maintained otherwise, directly contrary to the truth. I know that some enthusiasts argue we should only judge the product, not the advertising puffery. But history and tradition play a big role in the bourbon enthusiast's enjoyment of the drink. When non-distilling bottlers deliberately give the impression that they are distillers, the good name of a traditional product is diminished.

NorCalBoozer
09-25-2008, 08:57
the practice of brands and non-distillers using whiskey they did not produce was around long before micros.

I agree with the idea that I would prefer that they be honest. But they entered into a realm where this was already going on. It doesn't make it right but it also makes it understandable that they might do it.

Micro's have a tough job, to build a brand and company in a pretty competitive marketplace. It would certainly make sense to get a whiskey brand going way before you actually distill and age whiskey because you can start building acceptance and a following long before any whiskey you produce is ready. I would prefer they be honest about doing this.

I think it's an industry issue and would like to see it addressed as such. However something tells me the big guys wouldn't want that type of restriction so I guess we are left where we are with us, as customers, having to "bust" them and hope they want to be honest but with no real regulation to force producers to tell us where it came from.

Greg

cowdery
09-26-2008, 11:18
One extra criticism I have for many of the micro guys is that they assert their craft superiority over the majors, then do exactly what the majors do, in terms of deceptive provenance labeling; or they apply even less craft than the majors do, although they claim to apply more. I've also noticed that they get briefly indignant when busted, then back off, because they know they don't have a leg to stand on.

Powertrip
12-15-2008, 08:20
Before I read or was even aware of all the hullabaloo and controversy with this product, I picked up a bottle in Park City, Utah (on 12/09/2008) and tried it. (Batch#8, Bottle#50, 46%abv)

These were my notes:

-Nose absolutely dominant in vanilla, butterscotch.
Delicious flavour profile. On the sweeter end but extemely well balanced. Huge rye coated by layers of sugar cane nestled in toffee. An oak presence but it sits perfectly in the mouth. Finish is long drawn out butter toffee with a whisper of fresh cream. Wow, fantastic stuff.-

I rarely buy product blind and most always do my due diligence first. This was a complete gamble for me and it ended up being terrific. I am fascinated by what I have read but for some reason find myself not overly concerned this time.
Why? Because I simply enjoy the product. Sometimes it pays not to be tainted first.

I do hope the truth gets sorted out and that High West's agenda is laid out in black and white.
Until then however, I'm going to really enjoy my bottle of High West Rendezvous Straight Rye Whisky.

jinenjo
12-15-2008, 10:34
I think it's an industry issue and would like to see it addressed as such. However something tells me the big guys wouldn't want that type of restriction so I guess we are left where we are with us, as customers, having to "bust" them and hope they want to be honest but with no real regulation to force producers to tell us where it came from.

Greg

Good point, Greg. (Slightly off-topic) How come there isn't more strict regulations? After all, this may be the dawning of the age of aquar...I mean, regulations.

sku
12-15-2008, 16:20
I followed Chuck's blog entries on this whiskey in which he made some excellent points and, in general, I don't like mystery whiskies that don't disclose who made the stuff and am even less fond of those who imply that they made whiskey they didn't.

However, after trying it, I have to say that I really enjoyed the Rendezvous Rye. For being that high in rye content, it is incredibly smooth and has a great flavor, not pure rye spice, but lots of complexity. Clearly, great care went into blending this, and blending is a skill, just as distilling is; they just need to be upfront that they are, at this point, blenders.

Lost Pollito
06-30-2009, 16:43
For anyone in the Chicagoland area, you can come ask some questions in person on Wed, July the 1st. David Perkins will be at Binnys S. Loop from 6:30 - 8:30. Pm me if you're interested. Should be a great night.

Bourbon Geek
07-01-2009, 12:26
Although Perkins admits he didn't make the stuff, he won't tell us much that is meaningful about it and what he does say (e.g., "a 6-year-old 95% rye and an 16-year-old 80% rye.") is confusing. To what do the 95% and 80% refer. Mash bill? Why in the world would you make a 95% rye mash? Assuming the other 5% is malt, why bother? That's too little malt to effectively convert the starches. It just makes no sense. Who would make a rye that way? He won't tell us, naturally.


There are at least 3 ways I know to make a 95% rye mash bill ...

1. Use 5% Gibb malt and hold the final mash temperature at about 146 degrees F for an unusually long time before pump out, then accept a moderately low conversion in exchange for the flavor profile you do get.

2. Use 5% malted barley (Gibb or not) and enough malted rye to complete the conversion from starch to alcohol normally.

3. Use 5% Gibb malt and supplement with enzymes to complete the conversion. There ARE bourbon mash bills in use right now that only use 5% Gibb malt with supplemental enzymes.. and they do just fine.... it's just not my method of choice ...

cowdery
07-01-2009, 13:49
The best information I've been able to obtain is that this whiskey came from Seagram's in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (now LDI). I can see them using a very high rye mash, since they were making it as blending whiskey, but there would be no reason to use an inefficient process, when say 90% rye and 10% malt (or whatever, Dave knows better than I) would have been an easy conversion.

I also have no trouble believing they used supplemental enzymes.

cowdery
07-01-2009, 20:49
Click here (http://www.lawrenceburgdistillersindiana.com/Distillery_Operations.html) and look under "products" at what it says next to "rye."

nor02lei
09-05-2009, 10:00
As I am interested in the ryes from high west I did mail to the distillery and asked were the different ryes (rendezvous, 16 and 21) were distilled. David Perkins answered that it was a secret, but that the 3 of them all came from different distilleries!? When I did prone and ask Brett at Binnyīs about rendezvous, he said that they had found the barrels at a Bartonís warehouse and that he though it probably was distilled at the old Seagramís in Indiana (as have been said before here) or at Bartonís (now Tom More) in Bardstown. Lots of questions mark as I see it, but of big interest so I hope anyone that get further information post it here.

Leif

cowdery
09-06-2009, 10:29
The information I have is that while all of the whiskey was distilled at Seagram's in Lawrenceburg, IN, it was obtained from different sources. Seagram's made it for blending and presumably sold some to other producers, such as Barton, who ultimately didn't need it and sold it to High West and Templeton.

I have two issues with people who do this: (1) while most won't outright lie, they do try to get people to think they distilled the whiskey they're selling, and (2) I wonder if they ever really intended to make anything themselves?

silverfish
09-30-2009, 07:14
A recent post by John Hansell reports of a new
"Bourye" - a blend of straight rye and bourbon
whiskies.

"The bourbon is a 10-year-old with a 75% corn,
15% rye, 10% barley malt mashbill. The rye is
a straight 12-year-old 95% rye, 5% barley malt
mashbill."

post here: tinyurl.com/bourye

Gillman
09-30-2009, 07:55
I've only had the one that combines 6 and 16 year old straight ryes. It is very good and quite different to any other straight rye I have had, it has a creamy but light taste, with a mango-like hint as well. It makes sense to me that it might have been made originally for blending. I wonder how the mild character was achieved? Perhaps by using a high distillation proof (but under 160 proof of course) and a yeast that lends to this characteristic, hard to say. But it is very good and I will definitely buy it again.

Gary

JohnHansell
09-30-2009, 14:49
A recent post by John Hansell reports of a new
"Bourye" - a blend of straight rye and bourbon
whiskies.

"The bourbon is a 10-year-old with a 75% corn,
15% rye, 10% barley malt mashbill. The rye is
a straight 12-year-old 95% rye, 5% barley malt
mashbill."

post here: tinyurl.com/bourye

Yeah, he actually informed me today that there's a second rye in the mix too--a 16 year old, 53% rye. I got a review sample today and doubt I'll make it through the evening without tasting it. I posted a label of it up on my blog for those interested in seeing it: http://blog.maltadvocate.com/2009/09/28/high-west-bourye-a-blend-of-straight-rye-and-bourbon-whiskeys/

dgonano
02-07-2010, 13:10
I've been sippin' this Rye for some time. For all who wish to experience the taste of "Old Maryland Rye", try the Rendexvous. The high rye content reveals the minty aroma and spicy taste. I like it!

sailor22
02-08-2010, 06:04
Anyone seen/tried the Bourye yet?

Lost Pollito
02-08-2010, 09:27
Yeah, and I liked it quite a bit. Four Roses is the most likely candidate for the bourbon. So, a nice High rye bourbon with a High rye rye. Makes for a spicey vanilla ride.

p_elliott
02-09-2010, 04:47
Anyone seen/tried the Bourye yet?

I don't see that one listed on their site between you and Joe you have me intrigued, please elaborate.

sailor22
02-09-2010, 06:43
this should clear it up:

http://www.whatdoesjohnknow.com/2009/10/22/review-high-west-bourye-batch-1/

p_elliott
02-09-2010, 07:37
Thanks I'm normally a straight bourbon or straight rye type of guy but this sounds interesting. I would do a bottle of this.


Yeah, and I liked it quite a bit. Four Roses is the most likely candidate for the bourbon. So, a nice High rye bourbon with a High rye rye. Makes for a spicey vanilla ride.


this should clear it up:

http://www.whatdoesjohnknow.com/2009/10/22/review-high-west-bourye-batch-1/

cowdery
02-09-2010, 13:18
As with most things High West does, there is less here than meets the eye. What, after all, is a combination of bourbon and rye? Both contain a lot of corn, both are aged in new, charred oak barrels. Both are distilled at less than 80% ABV and entered into the barrel at less than 62.5 ABV. In the bourbon universe, you have some that contain no rye, but some that contain as much as 35% rye.

So other than a gimmick, or a gillmanization, what is 'bourye'?

sailor22
02-09-2010, 13:35
So other than a gimmick, or a gillmanization, what is 'bourye'?

Not so different from any of the majors blending different barrels of different recipes to reach a taste profile. The obvious example is 4 Roses or Parkers heritage Golden. Why isn't that a "gimmick"?

I don't get the sense any of them are pretending it is something it isn't. If it's tasty and they are being pretty straight up about what's in the bottle what's the problem?

Gillman
02-09-2010, 15:38
Well, exactly. Rye whiskey is bourbon enhanced to taste more of rye; bourbon whiskey is rye whiskey in which the rye element is lessened.

If you blend bourbon and rye, you are simply adjusting the relative proportions of the corn and rye to your taste; that is all it is.

Gary

Josh
02-09-2010, 16:14
As with most things High West does, there is less here than meets the eye. What, after all, is a combination of bourbon and rye? Both contain a lot of corn, both are aged in new, charred oak barrels. Both are distilled at less than 80% ABV and entered into the barrel at less than 62.5 ABV. In the bourbon universe, you have some that contain no rye, but some that contain as much as 35% rye.

So other than a gimmick, or a gillmanization, what is 'bourye'?

It's a vatted whiskey, basically. So I guess that would qualify as a gillmanization.

High West is an NDP. Maybe they'll eventually start distilling something, or maybe they'll be Utah's answer to KBD. But I like KBD's products and it's hard to argue that some of their whiskeys, like the Black Maple Hills and the Willets (among others), aren't great.

I think there's a place in the whiskey world for NDPs and I think High West should be given a chance to prove themselves and try new things, even if they have dopey jackalopes on the label.:lol:

Gillman
02-09-2010, 17:14
It is more than Gillmanisation (with all due respect to me). It is a blend of straight whiskeys (whether so termed or not), a traditional way to present American whiskey to the consumer. Products like this were extensively merchandised from the 1930's-1950's but are part of the American whiskey tradition in general.

Putting it a different way, my ideas come from this tradition.

Gary

cowdery
02-09-2010, 19:13
Gary expressed it better than I did. The name is the gimmick, as if there is something special about vatting a bourbon with a rye, and in that way it is completely different from Parker's or Four Roses, both of which not only meet the legal requirements for straight bourbon, but are also singles, in the Scottish sense. The whiskeys in the mix are all straight bourbons made at the same distillery by the same distiller.

The problem with High West is that they aren't positioning themselves as what they are, an NDP or, more specifically, an independent bottler. That is, indeed, a very worthy thing to be. They are positioning themselves as a micro-distillery, which so far as the whiskey they're selling is concerned, they are not.

tmckenzie
02-10-2010, 05:23
I agree with Chuck, they are positioning themselves as a micro. Now, I do think they have a still. I did see a bottle of what said it was rye white dog in nyc at whiskey fest. I did not try it. I did not want to, it was white, like feints, not white as in clear. So I would say they distilled it themselves.

sailor22
02-10-2010, 07:03
I get your point Chuck. I just never got the sense they were being duplicitous. Reading their labels I always get the impression that the vatting (or not in the case of the 21) was from "found" stocks of existing Rye and Bourbon.

The names and bottle always struck me as marketing. Not any more or less offensive than a major corporation labeling a Bourbon with the name of someone who is no longer in any but the most tenuous way associated with the product. I see it as playing to a younger market, the way craft Beers have creative names.

Gillman
02-10-2010, 07:07
Just as a gloss on my second-to-last post in this discussion, of course if the bourbon and rye come from different distilleries, combining them can result in a pleasing profile, i.e., beyond the confines of adding to the rye or corn in my examples. This was indeed a key aspect of the old practice of blending straight whiskeys to which I referred. As noted by other posters, that is a vatting as it is often termed. Combining many barrels even of the same product is essentially similar though, due to wide variations in the taste of barrels aged for different times in different warehouses or ricks.

On the point about whether the company actually distilled the product, it is of less importance to me, in fact none really. I can find out further facts about most producers from this board if I wish to. I do admire what the actual distillers are doing, make no mistake. I think in the end they will reap the rewards of doing so but for those who feel they need, at least for the moment, to market a good-tasting product bought elsewhere, perhaps which they blended (which puts their stamp on it) that is fine too.

Gary

dgonano
02-10-2010, 08:24
As Gary mentioned, the blending of straight whiskies became very popular after Prohibition. Distilleries such as Frankfort owned several plants in Maryland and Kentucky producing Rye and Bourbon straight whiskies. This gave them the opportunity to create numerous blends. Four Roses, Paul Jones, and OOP were all produced in this manner. All blends of Straight Bourbons and Ryes with no GNS added.

Also, during this period, blends were created by introducing younger whiskies(less than 4 years old) in the mix. These were called blends of whiskies(straight omitted). Years Later GNS entered the formula and soon became the largest ingredient, eventually tarnishing the quality of some famous whiskies.

Gillman
02-10-2010, 08:49
Very true Dave, but the practice long preceded the 1930's.

Gary

p_elliott
02-10-2010, 09:04
I think Dave hit it on the head here, the blending or vatting of straight whiskey's without the adding of GNS is not a big deal. I don't think High West is trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes here other than they don't actually distill the stuff. Gees how many companies we have doing that. The vatting of a Rye bourbon and and 2 rye whiskeys sounds kinda of interesting to me. As long as I know up front that's what I'm getting. If they had added GNS I would have been no way on this but that's not the case. They are not trying to sell this as a straight whiskey that would be a fraud or anything other than what it is. Unlike a certain other product we know .

notamormon
02-10-2010, 14:20
Hi Gentlemen,
David Perkins from High West. I got a note from someone that said I should weigh in here. Chuck, I don't think its fair to say "As with most things High West does, there is less here than meets the eye." I'm not pretending to be anything than I am not and you don't have to dig at all beyond our back labels and website to determine that. High West is BOTH a distillery and an "independent bottler." We have had a DSP permit and a still for 4 years now. If we didn't distill a whiskey we are selling, we clearly state on all the bottles we sell that we sourced the whiskey from back east while we are waiting for our own whiskey to age. Its as simple as that. We also talk about this on our website and how we were able to get the whiskey - all of it was destined for blending with GNS in well-known blends. Yes (and I know this is frustrating to some), I do not reveal the source of my whiskies as I am bound by contract not to. The makers see this as brand dilution and prefer that the public not know (this happens with excess supplies of name brand California cabernets all the time). And I honor that request. As far as High West and our own distillates, I am very proud of our products. Just as other craft distillers, we have a vodka. I chose oats for ours as I like the taste they impart on a spirit. Our vodka has been highly rated by well known tasters. We are also distilling and aging our own whiskey, several styles in fact. My mentor, Jim Rutledge at Four Roses, is actually the inspiration for why I am independent bottling. First, he impressed on me the need for cash flow. We all get that. Second, it will allow High West to launch our own whiskey after several years of aging rather than being forced to sell whiskey at 1 year or 2 years old. Third, if we do a good job at independent bottling, maybe it will help to build a brand image (or maybe not if Chuck thinks I'm disingenuous!). I consider myself very lucky to have found the whiskies that we now sell. Our 2 best sellers are essentially our own unique "creations", just like what blenders in Scotland produce. Wonderfully, they are also our highest rated whiskies (we were very lucky to get a 95 point rating for Rendezvous and a 90 point rating for Bourye by John Hansell, whom I consider a very hard grader). Rendezvous blends a young whiskey (6 years old) and a very old whiskey (16 years). That's not a very common practice in the US whiskey world (if it is, no one tells you they are blending young and old). Our Bourye was really a fun experiment to see what it would be like to blend a great bourbon and a great rye. I went through 30 different permutations and what I found was stunning to me. Unlike a "high rye" bourbon that has an even spice profile from beginning to end in your mouth, Bourye has a very different taste profile. It actually starts out like a bourbon (not spicy) and only later does the rye spice kick in. I found it delicious and what a great drink to be able to sell. Yes, blending straights is done all the time and I am not responsible for discovering that you can blend straights. One of my favorite "vatted" straights is Woodford Reserve (pot + column still whiskey). We all know Four Roses is essentially 10 bourbons and Jim is able to achieve some amazing combinations by "vatting" (or mingling as he likes to say). What is a big deal to me is that there are no "blended straights" because a single distillery doesn't have to use that terminology.

I hope this clarifies some of the questions in this thread. I can't be all things to all people and no matter what you say or how you say it, there's always going to be imperfect communication. Chuck (or anyone in the thread), if you come to Utah ever, and you should, please let me know and I'll buy you a drink and be your friend.

Rughi
02-10-2010, 14:36
As with most accusations Chuck makes, there is less here than meets the eye.
:grin:

Roger

sailor22
02-10-2010, 17:27
if you come to Utah ever, and you should, please let me know and I'll buy you a drink and be your friend.

Thanks for jumping in Dave. I am a fan of what your selling - I haven't had the pleasure of sampling what your making, I look forward to it.

.... but can't get to Utah but I'll send you my address and you can send me that drink:grin:

Josh
02-10-2010, 18:21
Hi Gentlemen...

I'll let that pass without comment...:lol: BTW love the name...we never would have guessed...:grin:


David Perkins from High West. I got a note from someone that said I should weigh in here. I hope this clarifies some of the questions in this thread. I can't be all things to all people and no matter what you say or how you say it, there's always going to be imperfect communication. Chuck (or anyone in the thread), if you come to Utah ever, and you should, please let me know and I'll buy you a drink and be your friend.

Your candor is refreshing. Again, some folks (e.g. distillers from Iowa or retailers in Northern Illinois) come in here with a chip their shoulders, but you haven't. Thanks for letting us know what you're up to and I look forward to tasting Bourye. Of course I'll have to leave the state to do that. It would be great if I could just drive a few minutes and pick one up at my local liquor store. Your mentor Jim has seen us right here in Michigan...just sayin'...


As with most accusations Chuck makes, there is less here than meets the eye.
:grin:

Roger

Chuck has forgotten more about bourbon than I will ever know. And more than anyone else I know he cares about the integrity of bourbon. 'Nuff said.

p_elliott
02-11-2010, 10:29
To Notamormon

I wrote a whole long post I erased it I'm glad you posted here we needed to here your side of the story. I would like to try your whiskey.

Paul

cowdery
02-11-2010, 11:09
Mr. Perkins is entitled to run his business however he chooses. He is not the only person to follow his approach. He is not the only 'craft' distillery to say he has "sourced the whiskey from back east while we are waiting for our own whiskey to age," or words to that effect.

I am skeptical in part because no one who has taken that approach has subsequently replaced the third-party product with a house-made one.

As Mr. Perkins notes, he has had a still and a license for four years. He could have a four-year-old whiskey of his own creation on the market right now, but he doesn't. Again, that's his prerogative, but that is what leads me to conclude that his is a Potemkin Craft Distillery, at least so far as whiskey is concerned. ("Something that appears elaborate and impressive but in actual fact lacks substance.")

What I continue to find disingenuous is a publicity effort that focuses on "award winning small batch mountain crafted spirits" and leads with products you merely bought and bottled. Your web site talks about how "High West Distillery and Saloon started with one man’s passion to make a great Rocky Mountain Whiskey," but it doesn't mention that your dream is, so far, unrealized.

On your product page you write "High West Distillery crafts products for people who want great taste and appreciate quality ingredients, small batches, and the distiller's personal touch." Anyone reading that would be entitled to believe you made everything.

Granted, you do, in the next sentence, admit that you did not, but it is hard not to conclude that your intention is to fuzz the distinction.

I have repeatedly had the experience of having someone rave to me about this terrific whiskey made by this little distillery in Utah. When I explain that the whiskey was most likely made in Indiana, not Utah, they express disbelief and disappointment. Can you seriously deny that your intention has been to create the impression that you are making all of the products you sell? You call your business "High West Distillery and Saloon," not "High West Distillery, Saloon and Rectifier," after all.

There are micro-distilleries such as Finger Lakes, Dry Fly, Garrison Brothers and others who have eschewed the course of buying spirits for resale and have, instead, found a business model that allows them to only present products of their own manufacture. I tend to regard those companies more highly than I do companies that take the other approach. That's my prerogative as a consumer.

So while I commend High West for making some exceptional whiskeys available to the marketplace, I continue to find the company's Potemkin Craft Distillery pose disingenuous.

ShewDawg
02-13-2010, 18:05
I am excited to try their whiskey it sounds like it will be enjoyable, just saw it on the shelf of a local store.

I am sort of surprised about all of the chatter about them rectifying their whiskey, it's seems to be a pretty common occurrence and not sure what all of the fuss is about. Honestly, before I read these boards and even early on prior to talking with my father, I would not have known Woodford or Van Winkle or KBD were not distilleries to it's truest form.

Just to see what was firing folks up, I went to HW and poked around to see what the said. It didn't strike me as being overly offensive, par for the course. I went to the other sites and it would be tough to find if someone wasn't really paying attention and was looking for on the site. For instance, WR has "Authentic and Hand Crafted" on their site, but digging down a couple of clicks you see they aren't the ones making it. Same for the others, but still tastes great.

I enjoy those whiskies quite a bit, and I do not hold it against them; I would if it didn't taste so damn good. Whoever finds the good stuff, keep bringing it to the market at a fair price, I'll keep drinking them!

Lost Pollito
02-13-2010, 19:06
I am sort of surprised about all of the chatter about them rectifying their whiskey,

I don't believe they're rectifying. Just bottling, and blending some. I really loved them all. I'm excited to taste the High West distilled rye and bourbon. Any time frame on those being bottled Dave?

p_elliott
02-14-2010, 01:42
Chuck

Why is that Pappy Van Winkle doesn't distill their own stuff and are not going to start, KBD doesn't doesn't distill their own stuff and aren't going to start. But you don't chastise these companies for being rectifiers. Why is that? Another thing It is my understanding that when distilleries sell their barrel to to these places they are not to reveille where they got them from from. So to harass the bottler for not revelling is not a legitimate request.

Paul

callmeox
02-14-2010, 07:17
Simply being a rectifier or independent bottler isn't the crux of the issue. If you don't see a difference between what Julian and Preston are doing and what HW and Templeton are doing, I suggest you take a step back and honestly think about it. Don't let having a past axe to grind with Chuck get in the way.

Also, those who are not being intentionally dense know that KBD is in the process of building their own still.

Disclaimer:
I like the Rendezvous Rye and was given a sample of it by a friend who brought a bottle back from a trip to Utah. He was really impressed by the rye whiskey that he said was distilled in Utah. The fact is that confusion about the product is out there, probably due to marketing fluff.

Lost Pollito
02-14-2010, 07:42
At the very least, the site says, "while our ditillate is aging, we sell some we found". I like that admission being in print on their site.

DeanSheen
02-14-2010, 07:52
At the very least, the site says, "while our ditillate is aging, we sell some we found". I like that admission being in print on their site.

The site says that but the wording on the bottle is obtuse in regards to provenance. The bottle is much more visible than the site.

Do we have confirmation that there actually is distillate aging?

Lost Pollito
02-14-2010, 08:13
Do we have confirmation that there actually is distillate aging?
That's what I've been told, but I have not been to visit.

cowdery
02-14-2010, 08:43
Anybody who thinks I give KBD a pass hasn't been reading me. Ditto Woodford, Van Winkle, Bulleit, etc. Are you kidding me with this stuff?

"Rectifier," as the word is used these days, is synonymous with "blender" and is the best description of what HW does with regard to its whiskeys.

Even assuming the best of intentions, people who start a new distillery based on a bulk whiskey product put themselves in a box, because they have built their reputation on a product they can't possibly duplicate--let alone exceeed--with their house-made product.

sailor22
02-14-2010, 08:43
The back of my bottle of Rendezvous reads;
"In this tradition of importing Whiskey from back East (while we age our own Whiskey) we crafted Rendezvous from two exotic straight Rye Whiskies."

On the back of my bottle of 21 yr;
"High West was fortunate to find some very rare and unique Rye expressions quietly aging in a Kentucky warehouse"

Unfortunately the 16yr has been consumed and the bottle disposed of.

I read the back and understood that High West didn't distill the juice inside but that they were excited to get something a little unusual into the bottle. I never for a moment thought they distilled it. I don't see how they could be more clear about the product.

CorvallisCracker
02-14-2010, 10:43
Also, those who are not being intentionally dense know that KBD is in the process of building their own still.

Which has been dragging on for years, meaning they are being intentionally slow. It doesn't take that long to get a still into production.

callmeox
02-14-2010, 10:45
Which has been dragging on for years, meaning they are being intentionally slow. It doesn't take that long to get a still into production.

It all depends on how you want to pay for it, I guess.

jburlowski
02-14-2010, 11:07
FWIW, Drew Kulsveen said last Friday that they will start distilling this quarter, hopefully on March 17th.

Lost Pollito
02-14-2010, 12:35
FWIW, Drew Kulsveen said last Friday that they will start distilling this quarter, hopefully on March 17th.

That's great news !!!

cowdery
02-14-2010, 12:43
I wish KBD and all similar companies the best, and if KBD is ever going to start distilling, now is the time. The fact, however, is that Drew's father told me they would be distilling their own product 'soon' in a conversation we had 20 years ago. For 20 years it has always been 'soon,' or 'next year,' or 'next quarter.'

So is my skepticism really so out of line?

notamormon
02-14-2010, 22:48
Hi everyone and Chuck,
David Perkins here again from High West. I actually like Chuck's writing and usually smile when I read it, even though much of it is based on subjective opinion rather than fact. I even think the Potemkin metaphor is kind of funny. But I figured it might be interesting to get some more facts on the table and tell my side of the story. And just for fun I have my own metaphor: Oz and the "man behind the curtain." Honestly I feel like Dorothy standing up to the almighty Wizard. We've all read Chuck for years and we all admire his love and passion for one of America's greatest and least appreciated industries and products. He is a respected force in the industry and its a better industry with him. But we all know the man behind the curtain's bark is bigger than his bite. Chuck, I am pleased that you took the time to go to my website for some fact checking as its always better when the facts come from someone other than the accused. High West is indeed a rectifier, or a processor as the TTB calls it - I am not trying to hide it nor have I ever. I know you were trying to be funny but I'm not sure Rectifier is the best word to stick in a company name as you suggest. Most people have no idea what it means. I appreciate that you agree that I "admit" not making everything. Its been awhile since I read my own High West website and after reading your compelling comments I was beginning to think I was a misleading bastard. Again, I never had any intention of misleading and figured what I wrote was straightforward and a reasonable person would get it. Anyone can second guess my "copy writing" all day long. I actually write all the copy myself. I hate what ad agencies come up with as it just doesn't sound like me. All the back labels, all of the website, its all me. Sailor22: thanks for the fact check on my back labels. Again, its nice that I don't have to point it out and show that its not really obtuse. I travel a lot and visit bars and liquor stores and have told people that the whiskies we have now were not distilled by High West. Its not a mystery that I get the question all the time. I have yet to meet anyone who has jumped all over me about it.

Back to Potemkin. Yes Chuck, High West is distilling its own spirits and has been for 4 years, 2 years as an experimental DSP and 2 years as a fully commercial DSP. Just for fun, I enclosed a picture of my Oz (or your Potemkin if you wish). Not sure if the resolution will come through but hopefully you can make out a copper thingy in the middle window (if you can't please visit highwest.com). That is indeed a still. It would be a pretty expensive decoration for Potemkin and not a very good business decision on my part. But interpret things how you will; anyone is certainly entitled to the opinion that it is expensive decor. I can't make you not think that. As Chuck says, I am "entitled to run my business however I chose" so even though its my passion, I chose NOT to start distilling whiskey right away - it is rather expensive to park barrels of distillate and not get the cashflow, and I had a very good reason I needed to be conservative on cashflow that I'll talk about later. So we started to distill vodka right away, out of oats because I thought oat distillate tasted really good and I wanted to do something unique. And the cashflow is nice, really nice. Did I mention that our distiller was a former brewer and a graduate of Heriot Watt? Brendon Coyle is a really great guy and I hope you get to meet him. As I mentioned earlier, the idea to buy someone else's rye whiskey came from a mentor of mine, Jim Rutledge. I really didn't want to do it at first but God bless his idea. Again, cashflow is nice. Better yet however, was the possibility of buying whiskey that wasn't like anything on the market and had been under our American noses for many years and no-one knew nor did the distillers that made them take a chance on selling them. When I tasted the ryes we now sell (about 5 years ago) I thought they were some of the best tasting whiskies I had ever had. When I asked why they don't sell the rye, they said "Marketing won't let us as no-one drinks rye." I asked if I could buy some and they said "have as much as you want." In retrospect, it seems pretty obvious. But back then, I had alot of people tell me I was crazy and I'd lose my shirt. I had to trust my gut and go for it (it was alot of $) but to be honest I didn't sleep much for about two years as I was trying to get my own plant up and running. When I sourced the 21 year old, I thought it was incredible, ethereal ultra elegant whiskey - no wonder because it was aged in USED barrels. A gentleman from the distillery that made it said "I don't know why you'd want it because you can't call it STRAIGHT". I thought to myself (1) how many people know what Straight means anyway and (2) what a great way to start a business by selling something that no-one could buy before. I also thought it sure is nice to be a little different than KBD, or Black Maple Hill, or Van Winkle by having a very different product. The 16 year old that we got was also fun because of its unusual mash bill with 80% rye, 10% corn and 10% malt. I thought, my mom's never going to believe this (nor would Chuck for that matter). As you all know, the usual mashbill for rye's hover around 51-53%. I couldn't believe they sold me this. And then when I experimented with mixing the different whiskies, I couldn't believe what a difference it made on improving the taste and complexity! This really helped me train my palette and gave me a much greater respect for the Scottish blenders. And again, this helped High West at least be a little different from the other American independent bottlers (or rectifiers if you will) by creating something unique and very very different that anything on the market (Rendezvous, Bourye) even though I didn't distill it. I appreciate the support I've received from consumers and people in the industry that tell me I've created something uniquely my own and of value to the world of American whiskey.

Back to Potemkin. We started distilling our own whiskey a year and a half ago and have begun to distill whiskey in earnest now that our facility in Park City (Potemkin, or Oz, the thing in the picture) is finished. But honesty, I don't want to sell an aged product for as long as I can hold out as a business. For my palette, older is better. I respect the other craft distilleries for launching their whiskies at an early age. We all know how well Tuthilltown is doing. I think the world of Jess Graber and his whiskey. But I want to wait. Interestingly, everywhere I go, I bring a bottle of our oat white dog (the same base as our oat vodka). Most people have not had white whiskey and if they have its usually dreadful, full of higher alcohols and pretty rough. People love our oat white dog and to such an extent that I have been asked many times if I'd sell it. I had resisted for the last year but finally decided to sell our oat whiskey unaged. Our label is pending TTB approval. I will bring the whiskey to all the whiskeyfests this year. I hope you get to try it. Its really good. In fact, it is a TTB designated "light whiskey", distilled to 170 proof instead of under 160 proof (as straights are made). We are doing our own straights but for an unaged product, a cleaner distillate will be more approachable for most consumers.

Back to Potemkin. After about 4 years in the planning, we finally finished our facility in Park City (we were located in a warehouse while waiting). To attract customers, I really wanted to locate in an historic building in Old Town Park City. Because our building was on the National Historic Register, we were a slave to many masters that don't talk to each other and construction took a very long time to complete. As a result, the construction was alot more expensive than we anticipated and was a bit of a killer to a whiskey barreling program if you are worried about cash flow (and every entrepreneur better be!). Now we are open and we have a restaurant. We call ourselves the High West Distillery and Saloon (and rectifier!). On our website we call ourselves a gastro-distillery because our food is pretty good. So you can see us distilling whiskey or vodka, and have a bite to eat. In fact, you can ski right up to our building (well you have to cross the street but its close enough). It really is a nice place to visit.

So I am following my own personal yellow brick road. I started my career as a biochemist and have worked for drug companies all my life. When my passion for whiskey and cooking and chemistry was too much my wife let me quit a great job at a great company, and we are still married. When I met Jim Rutledge, I knew the Gods were on my side. He taught me more than I could find in any books. Since quitting I've never worked harder and haven't looked back. I try my best to run an honest operation with integrity and passion. I know I can't please all the people all the time. But I try. I hope this helps to clear it up for some of you. Come by and visit me. And Chuck, I'll still buy you a drink.

notamormon
02-14-2010, 22:50
Hopefully the picture of Oz (Potemkin) makes it this time.

p_elliott
02-15-2010, 07:44
Simply being a rectifier or independent bottler isn't the crux of the issue. If you don't see a difference between what Julian and Preston are doing and what HW and Templeton are doing, I suggest you take a step back and honestly think about it. Don't let having a past axe to grind with Chuck get in the way.

Also, those who are not being intentionally dense know that KBD is in the process of building their own still.

Disclaimer:
I like the Rendezvous Rye and was given a sample of it by a friend who brought a bottle back from a trip to Utah. He was really impressed by the rye whiskey that he said was distilled in Utah. The fact is that confusion about the product is out there, probably due to marketing fluff.

First off I want to say I don't have a past axe to grind with Chuck or anyone else on this site. Contrary to what Scott has posted I don't have next day remorse about my post although I admit there was one mistake, Chuck was giving KBD as bad a time as HWD in this thread.

As far as KBD having a still and me being intentionally dense I think that issue has been resolved.

As far as The Van Winkles being any different from any other rectifier I think it's you Scott that had better take a step back and look at the facts. Do they distill anything? No. Does it say Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery on their bottle? yes. Does this distillery exist? No. Do they get their bourbon from many different sources? yes. They currently bottle bourbon from SW that they didn't distill , from Bernheim that they didn't distill, and BT that they contract with both with the bourbon and the bottling and distribution. So how exactly are they different from HW or KBD? I would like an explanation remember I'm intentionally dense.

callmeox
02-15-2010, 08:37
Distilleries that only exist on paper as DBA's have been a part of the American whiskey business for longer than we have been around.

Old Evan Williams Distillery
Old Forester Distillery
W.L. Weller and Sons Distillery
Rock Hill Farms Distillery
Elijah Craig Distillery
etc, etc, etc

I presume that you have read Chuck's book, so you probably recall the chapter on that topic. Perhaps that is where you were admittedly being intentionally dense here.

Now, the difference between Van Winkle/KBD and Templeton/High West?

Templeton and High West have public/retail front ends, yet neither has a drop of their own whiskey on the market. They are using their shiny facilities as a marketing tool to sell their acquired products. One can say that they are using their public facilities to create the illusion that they are selling their own product. If you believe in varying levels of guilt, Templeton looks to be more guilty of this than HW but the fact remains.

When is the last time that you went on a public tour of KBD or ORVW (or Bulleit)? Yes, they sell ORVW swag in the gift shop at Buffalo Trace, but there's no illusion that you are touring the BT distillery. KBD, ORVW, and Bulleit are selling sourced whiskey, but they are doing it behind the scenes without the elaborate physical front end as a marketing tool.

cowdery
02-15-2010, 08:49
I appreciate David's willingness to participate in this conversation.

When this whole micro-distillery thing burst on the scene, I think a lot of whiskey enthusiasts poured their hopes and dreams into it, setting up unrealistic expectations in many cases.

On the other side, most of the entrepreneurs starting these enterprises were figuring it out as they went along. A few missteps were inevitable.

One problem confronted by macros and micros alike is that you have two distinct audiences; the large, general public audience that may drink whiskey but doesn't really know much about it, or care; and the much smaller but very intensely interested and knowledgeable enthusiast audience. Crafting a message that is good for one of those audiences can alienate the other. It isn't easy.

I don't think David would deny that there are some people out there who have adopted the veneer of the craft distillery without the substance. I think his point is that while those people exist, he is not one of them, and I'm happy to take him at his word.

Let's see how it goes.

p_elliott
02-15-2010, 08:56
What did Jim Beam or HH do for money for the first few years they were starting up? They had to do the same thing?

cowdery
02-15-2010, 09:08
What did Jim Beam or HH do for money for the first few years they were starting up? They had to do the same thing?

They found investors with deep pockets. In both cases, there were some ownership changes in the early years (post-prohibition, I'm talking about), all of which were related to people dropping out because they couldn't keep pouring money in. The Shapiras had a successful, ongoing business--The Louisville Stores department store chain--that allowed them to keep pouring money into the distillery. I'm not sure where the Chicago investors in Beam got their money, but they had all been whiskey brokers before the drought, so they went into it knowing what would be required.

One difference was that there was so much demand that it was inconceivable that there wouldn't be a market for the product once it was ready to sell, so the investors had that consolation.

p_elliott
02-15-2010, 09:17
You don't think they bought bourbon and resold it ?? I'm not trying to be a smart ass I'm serious

doubleblank
02-15-2010, 10:23
I'll bite and grade the "rectifiers" on how much info they disclose regarding the provenance of their whiskies (distiller, age, etc). My grade will be based on what is posted on websites, bottle labels, participation on whiskey forums, disucsions at whiskey events, and one-on-one visits. Of course some get F's in some categories and A's in others, so its an "average" so to speak and I am grading on a curve (someone has to get an A and someone has to fail).

High West Grade = A
Templeton Grade = F
KBD Grade = C minus
Van Winkle Grade = B
McLain and Kyne Grade = C plus
Preiss Grade = C
Luxco Grade = D

Only an opinion and based on limited to no personal contact with several.

Randy

Gillman
02-15-2010, 12:50
On the point of the 1930's start-ups, I can't say for them specifically (HH and Beam), but I have seen countless labels for bourbon whiskey aged 18 months and 24 months from the immediate post-Volstead era. Bourbon was sold young until the aging process caught up to expectations although some of that young bourbon had some pre-Pro whiskey placed in to improve it.

Vodka was not sold domestically then, but possibly some gin was made by these concerns.

I would think too that HH and Beam made corn whiskey and sold it quite young. In those years, I believe there was a decent market for corn whiskey.

Gary

sailor22
02-15-2010, 13:23
High West Grade = A
Templeton Grade = F
KBD Grade = C minus
Van Winkle Grade = B
McLain and Kyne Grade = C plus
Preiss Grade = C
Luxco Grade = D

Nice. Where would you place CVS?

cowdery
02-15-2010, 14:21
Distillers like Beam and HH also created blends using the little bit of aged whiskey that was left over from pre-prohibition stocks. Blends in the early post-prohibition years might have contained some of this 13- to 20-year-old whiskey; some new make corn, rye or bourbon; some lightly-aged rye or bourbon, and some GNS. Being blends, they could also add vanilla, caramel and other flavorings and colorings.

The only sense in which these or any distillers were buying whiskey for resale was buying some of this pre-pro stock. After all, nothing else was available. Nobody had more whiskey than anyone else and the only people selling (the pre-pro stock) were people who didn't intend to re-enter the business.

Some did make gin (vodka not being very popular yet), imported and resold Irish, Canadian and Scotch, and did whatever they could to get a business going, but the market was for aged bourbon and rye, and that took time.

doubleblank
02-15-2010, 14:30
I knew I'd forget some "rectifiers" like Frank Lin, et al. Probably place most of them in the D plus Grade.

Randy

Gillman
02-15-2010, 17:06
Good point about the blends (i.e., incorporating some neutral spirits as a base), and no doubt people were glad to get them until the fully-aged bourbon and rye were available. Indeed, the blends probably were much more palatable than 18-24 month old bourbon, which may have given a kick-start to the blended whiskey market that only sputtered once vodka really got going.

Gary

p_elliott
02-16-2010, 06:50
Good point about the blends (i.e., incorporating some neutral spirits as a base), and no doubt people were glad to get them until the fully-aged bourbon and rye were available. Indeed, the blends probably were much more palatable than 18-24 month old bourbon, which may have given a kick-start to the blended whiskey market that only sputtered once vodka really got going.

Gary

Correct me if I'm wrong here but didn't Americans really get their introduction into and taste for blended whiskey during prohibition from all the Canadian whiskey that was smuggled in?

cowdery
02-16-2010, 09:54
Long before that. In the late 19th century, long before Prohibition, so-called compound whiskeys (essentially blends) dominated the U.S. whiskey market. They outsold straights by a wide margain. There was, however, a lot of misleading labeling, which led to the Taft Decision which created the categories of straight whiskey and blended whiskey. Scottish and Canadian blends were popular during Prohibition and after Prohibition, many distilleries made blends out of necessity, but American consumers switched back to straights as soon as enough aged whiskey was available and straights have prevailed among consumers of American whiskey ever since. People who like Canadian whiskey and blended scotch drink those products, but that hasn't carried over into success for American blends.

p_elliott
02-17-2010, 06:30
Thanks, here in Iowa Canadian whiskey far out sells straight whiskey. Bars will only carry 3 or 4 straight whiskeys like JD, JBW, TH, and WT 101 but will have many Canadians.

Gillman
02-17-2010, 17:04
It might be interesting to ask bartenders or even patrons (in the right way) why this preference exists.

Gary