High West Rocky Mountain Rye 16yo vs 21yo

Park City, Utah – Both bottled at 46%ABV (or 92 proof)

What do you think of when you hear “Utah?”

Some people think of the beautiful landscape.





Some think of Mormons.




Some, Polygymists.





Me, I always thought of Crispin Glover’s character in Rubin and Ed.

(I effing LOVE that movie!)




I think it’s time to get a new image in our heads – WHISKEY!
Today I’m putting up two really nice Rye Whiskeys from Utah’s High West up against one another.  A 16yo vs a 21yo.

Who will be the victor?  Generally, I’ve always found that Victor remains the victor so let’s try to find a winner instead:

High West Rocky Mountain Rye – 16yo, 46%ABV $80

Details on this whiskey from the High West Folks:

“This is one of the most intensely ryed rye whiskeys we’ve ever had the chance to taste. That’s because of its very unusual mash bill, which boasts 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% barley malt. Almost all rye whiskeys on the market today contain just over 51% rye because that’s the minimum the U.S. government requires for the label to say “rye whiskey”. Distilleries today tend to use more corn because corn costs less and they think consumers don’t like rye’s spiciness. We disagree. With its high rye content, this 16-Year-Old gem is one of the most intensely flavored sipping whiskies out there.”

On the nose –  First impression? A wonderful mixture of blueberry tarts, dill weed and funyuns.

Quite the spicy drop yet honied nonetheless.

Model glue is in here too (along with the burn you get from huffing it. (Hey, I was young and impressionable.  Don’t judge me.)

Cinnamon and other, yet spices — anise seed, fennel seed & licorice.

On the mouth – Nice & satisfying mouthfeel.

Spicy… similar to what we get on the nose.

Lots of dill, honey and now some vanilla helping to balance it all out a bit.

Orange slices & clove powder.

There’s something a bit plastic & artificial feeling about this… in a good way. (Reminds me of old action figures.)

Warming and very easy going down.

Finish – Long & with orange spice toward the back of the tongue.

High West Rocky Mountain Rye – 21yo, 46%ABV $118

Details on this whiskey from the High West Folks:

“The Federal Government term for this is “Whiskey Distilled from Rye Mash Stored 21 Years in Re-Used Cooperage.” Translation: This is very rare whiskey aged in — USED barrels. All were aged on the lower three tiers of the rickhouse. Mash bill is 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt.”

On the nose –  Much more of a shy guy as compared to the 16yo.  Lighter in color too. (Less active, refill casks here.)

After spending a bit more time with this whisky, I’m finding that the notes are similar to the 16yo.

Just a bit more subdued.

On the mouth – Some fresh yet dusty here, lively yet timid…

Fresh blueberries dance around the palate doing a two-step tinned fruits (heavy one the orange slices and pear).

After a few minutes, this one quite right up.

You know?  This is quite fantastic.

Fruits are massive and there’s a delicious underlying spice to this 21yo.

Finish – Wonderfully long & fruity with vanilla & cinnamon ribbon candies

In sum – Ding ding ding!!!  We have a winner!  The 21yo is glorious, through & through.  The 16yo is no schlub and it has retained its youthful spunk.  Both are great examples of great rye whiskey but dang, that 21yo is a cracker!!

**As a note: these older whiskeys from High West have not been distilled at their location. Rather, they have purchased this whiskey and, as you can see, are making some amazing blends from that stock. The good news for you is two fold: 1) They have a good deal of this older, purchased stock and 2) High West is also now a true distillery and has been for a few years so we should be seeing some younger stuff come from them very shortly!!**

Special thanks goes out to David Perkins and Erik Fitchett for the samples!!