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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2009 and Virtuoso
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    High West Distillery

    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

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: High West Distillery

    I have gotten into it 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."

  3. #3
    Guru
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    Re: High West Distillery

    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.
    Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.

    Bob Marley.

  4. #4
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    Re: High West Distillery

    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.
    Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.

    Bob Marley.

  5. #5

    Re: High West Distillery

    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.
    Last edited by Sir Toby Belch; 09-25-2008 at 06:58.

  6. #6
    Connoisseur
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    Apr 2005
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    Re: High West Distillery

    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
    "That rug really tied the room together" -- Jeffery Lebowski

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: High West Distillery

    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.

  8. #8
    Taster
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    Jul 2006
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    Calgary, AB, Canada
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    57

    Re: High West Distillery

    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.

  9. #9
    Enthusiast
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    Re: High West Distillery

    Quote Originally Posted by NorCalBoozer View Post

    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.
    "It hasn't cured my broken heart, but it sure helps a lot."
    -Ernest Tubb

  10. #10
    Virtuoso
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    Re: High West Distillery

    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.

 

 

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