Friday, March 3, 2017

High West 14-Year Light Whiskey

- $100
- 92 Proof
- 14 Years
- Batch No. 1

I had heard well in advance of the release that High West was going to be releasing a "light whiskey." I had never heard of the term "light whiskey" before, and it certainly piqued my curiosity. I did some very high level research on the subject (in other words, I Googled it once), and I learned that light whiskey has been around for years. While it is not a diet whiskey, as its name might suggest, it is distilled at a higher proof and, unlike bourbon, is aged in used rather than new barrels. This gives it a lighter color. I also learned that it is commonly used as a blending agent, and not typically bottled on its own. Honestly, nothing about what I learned of it made me really interested in searching out a bottle.

However, on my recent trip to Utah I visited the High West Distillery, and, after our tour, I tasted what they called their "Reserve" flight. The second whiskey in this flight was the Light Whiskey. Now that a small pour was sitting right in front of me at the bar, my curiosity was once again piqued, and I was excited to give it a try.

The nose was absolutely amazing! It was butter and marshmallow, layered over vanilla, with hints of the sweet corn grain. It was like a rice crispy treat that got blended into a vanilla milk shake. I couldn't stop sticking the glass under my nose.

So, imagine my disappointment when I put that sample to my lips and, quite honestly, wasn't a huge fan of what I tasted. It was good, but it was sweet and simple. I was looking forward to something special and, while it was tasty, it just wasn't anything to write home to mom about.

Nonetheless, wanting to have something to bring home with me that I can't get back home (and luckily having received a $100 gift card as a present), I splurged and purchased what I knew was an overpriced bottle of merely decent whiskey. If figured, however, that (1) it's something I can't get anywhere else; and (2) it's unique and makes for a nice story.

So I got my bottle home and didn't do much with it for a while, until my neighbor came over and I wanted to give him a taste. We each poured a glass and I couldn't have been more shocked at what I tasted. The nose was still wonderful as ever, but the taste was significantly better than what I remembered at the distillery. My buyer's remorse (as rationalized as the purchase was), slowly began to fade.

With each subsequent pour I found myself enjoying this whiskey more and more. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing like a bourbon. In fact, it's my understanding that this is mostly a corn whiskey. But, it doesn't have the sharp edges and heat that any other corn whiskey I've tried has. Rather, this is soft and smooth, and most of all, buttery! It seemed to coat the mouth with that rice crispy treat flavor that was so prevalent on the nose. Where was this the first time I tasted this stuff?!?!

The flavor profile was more complex than that, however, as a sweet vanilla bean flavor seemed to underscore the other flavors, as did a subtle cornbread flavor. The sweetness seemed less artificial as well, coming across as more of a honey sweetness. It was almost a blend of rice crispy treats, vanilla bean ice cream and cornbread with honey. Put that in a blender and drink it!

Even now that this bottle is long empty, I am perplexed by it. I wasn't much of a fan, bought it anyway, and found myself really liking it! Though the price is prohibitive, its scarcity and uniqueness justify that a bit, and the flavor made it a pretty easy pill to swallow after all.

Grade: B+/A-

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