One of the side effects of the American craft whiskey boom is that many small craft distillers have turned to buying and releasing whiskey made and aged somewhere else in order to survive while their own distilled spirits sit and age in barrels. Some distillers are very upfront about what their whiskey is and where it comes from, but others aren’t so forthcoming. There are a number of whiskeys on the market that appear to come from small craft distillers, but really come from MPG Ingredients (formerly Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana – LDI ), most notably Templeton Rye. It’s amazingly deceptive and often consumers pay twice the price for something that they think is a craft product, but really isn’t.
Buying and selling someone else’s whiskey isn’t intrinsically bad – there’s a great history of companies buying Scotch Whisky from major suppliers and then aging it or blending it on their own. Many of these companies like Gordon & MacPhail and Berry Brothers proudly list the original maker of the whisky and the date it was distilled. Curating and then blending great whiskey is a great skill and when done right it can produce some really exceptional whiskey. High West Distillery in Park City Utah has made a name for themselves with finding and blending great whiskey. Their Bourye set the standard for blends from craft distillers bringing together a blend of great bourbon and rye whiskey.
For their American Prairie Reserve (92 Proof /46% ABV, $42), High West blends together a 6 year bourbon distilled and aged at the old Seagrams plant in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (aka LDI) (with a mashbill of 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% barley) along with a 10 year old bourbon from Four Roses (60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% barley malt). Of course the ratio of the whiskeys isn’t disclosed but we appreciate High West being absolutely upfront about what’s in the bottle. One of the key things about this whiskey blend is that it contains whiskey from these two distilleries that hasn’t been chill filtered or carbon treated. We’ve had the opportunity to visit Four Roses Distillery and taste the whiskey that is in the barrel before it’s massively filtered. That whiskey is amazing, so it’s great to see High West acknowledge this and bring it out in a blend unfiltered.
The High West American Prairie Reserve is light amber in color, younger looking than we’d expect from a blend of 6 and 10 year old whiskey. The nose is fairly light and with a light oak spice, cinnamon, and caramel. The entry matches the nose and is very light and easy. Oak is the star player in this whiskey but it’s not overbearing. The oak is nicely accompanied by cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, and light honey. Things get a little spicy in the midpalate but it never loses sight of the sweeter undertone. The finish is medium and very dry with oak spice riding atop honey cinnamon.
Before we looked at the exact blend for the High West American Prairie Reserve, we pegged it much younger than the 6 or 10 year whiskey inside. Between the color and the dry finish, we wonder just how much 10 year old whiskey is in this bottle. Age is less important here than taste, and American Prairie Reserve does showcase a nice light oak flavor profile. While we aren’t crazy about the overly dry finish, we did enjoy the light and easy nature of this whiskey. We did find it hard to get past the $40+ price tag. At $20 we’d have absolutely have no problem recommending this as an easy, light, and dry whiskey, but $40 feels kind of excessive.
On the upside, High West is donating 10% of all post tax profits to the American Prairie Reserve. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s still priced too high for what’s delivered in the glass.High West American Prairie Reserve Whiskey Review by Geoff Kleinman