High West Distillery’s Bourye

BOURYE BATCH 18J30 (2018)

MASH BILL – Blend of three MGP mash bills (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley / 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% barley / 95% rye, 5% barley)

PROOF – 92

AGE – Blend of three 10-year whiskeys (two bourbons and a rye)

DISTILLERY – High West Distillery

PRICE – $76

BUY AGAIN? – No. Not because I don’t like it. Because $$.

Utah’s High West Distillery has made its name on rye-forward blends of mostly sourced whiskeys, often experimenting with barrel finishings—giving an already aged barrel a second shorter aging period in a used wine or scotch or vermouth barrel, etcetera. Their Bourye is an annual limited release blending carefully selected, usually well-aged, bourbons and ryes. 

Some brief notes out of the gate:

COLOR – lovely dark auburn orange

NOSE – sweet cinnamon, rye spice, toasted caramel, black pepper

TASTE – both silky and granular, easy caramel, easy pepper

FINISH – a mild pepperiness lingers longest, beating out the warm but fading caramel

High West Distillery’s Bourye has been a curiosity I’ve eyed for a few years now. This is the first bottle I’ve picked up, and I’m pleased with it. But at $76 I want to be more than pleased with a whiskey. It needs to have something particular and special about it. This Bourye Batch 18J30 is perfectly good, very nicely blended and balanced, showing off its ten years without fanfare, enjoyable in the moment yet somehow not particularly memorable.

Priced around $30 I’d likely often keep a bottle around. But I can get the great Russell’s Reserve 10-Year Small Batch for that price, which, at 90 proof is near Bourye’s 92, and shares something of Bourye’s rustic autumnal qualities but with a stronger cherry aspect that adds a sweetness and richness the Bourye lacks.

That’s it…

…The brevity itself of my response above reflects the impression Bourye has made on me. I do actually recommend it, in a bar or if found on sale. It certainly won’t disappoint a lack of expectation. It’s very easy to drink. I’ve actually gone through this bottle relatively quickly:

A more sought-after High West annual limited release is their Midwinter Nights Dram, a 98.6 proof rye blend finished in French oak port barrels. I’ve read accolades about it and notice folks in hot pursuit of it every Fall when it’s released. But the 2017 edition I picked up, batch “Act 5 Scene 7” (another theatrical reference in line with the Shakespearean title), was remarkably underwhelming. It appealed as a late-autumn / early-winter sipper, with spiced caramel and dark dried fruit from the nose to the finish. But as the bottle aired out its still-juicy dried fruits seemed to dry up entirely, leaving dry spice and grainy wood to dominate a thin texture. A sample of Midwinter Act 4 Scene 3, given to me by a fellow whiskey enthusiast, left similar impressions. So at $100 to $150 a bottle it’s a tough sell for me.

In 2018, at a St. Louis bar while attending a theater conference, I tried a glass of High West’s other annual limited release, Yippee Ki-Yay, a 92 proof blend of rye whiskeys aged from 2 to 16 years and finished in French oak vermouth and Syrah barrels. With a nose of soft rich rye and dark red berries, all of which followed through on the pallet, it was very easy to drink. Rich yet subtle. The finish was warm and short. It seemed a fine autumnal treat. Priced between the Midwinter and Bourye at $80 to $100 a bottle, I wouldn’t seek it out. But a shot in a bar around Thanksgiving or Christmas, sure.

I prefer this Bourye to my past experiences of the Midwinter or Yippee Ki-Yay. The price difference is a factor, of course. And as I write this I’ve now actually moved on to sipping a glass of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel—another autumnal spice bowl—and on first sip it immediately beats out the Bourye, Midwinter, and Yippee Ki-Yay for overall richness and heft. And it’s cheaper than each of them.

So I don’t see myself putting much effort into exploring the High West Distillery catalogue. None of what I’ve tried has been bad. Some of it is even quite good. It’s just too expensive for the experience on offer—something hardly unique to High West.

I’m going to finish this Russell’s Reserve now.

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