High West Silver Western Oat Whiskey Review

High West Silver Whiskey
High West Silver Whiskey

If you had any doubt about the explosive growth of micro-distilleries in America, you need to look no further than High West Distillery located in Park City, Utah. The mere thought of a distillery in one of the driest states in America is mind blowing. In Park City there are extremely strict rules and regulations about where and when you can drink. To drink in a bar you need to purchase a “membership”. It’s almost unfathomable to find a micro-distillery based there.

High West Silver Whiskey (80 proof)  is based on a mix of 85% oat and 15% barley malt. The whiskey is aged very briefly in toasted french limousin oak. Like most white whiskeys, it’s clear with a bright silvery sheen. The nose has some subtle sugary vanilla undertones and faint banana. It’s a fairly underwhelming nose without a lot to grab on to.

The taste is fairly sugary and singular. There’s not much depth here with a whiskey that feels extremely thin on the palate. There’s a hint of heat here but it quickly dissipates into a fairly short vodka-like finish with a glycerine residue left on your palate.

Unfortunately High West Distillery has a lot of the characteristics of the oats that they’ve distilled from. Mixing the barley with the oat seems to have subdued the banana like tones you can get from an oak whiskey. Also, I think it would have been better at a slightly higher proof; a little extra fire would give this whiskey something to grasp on to. High West has gotten a lot of acclaim for their Rye Whiskey and perhaps that would have been a much better mash to use for their white dog.

While it’s a clean whiskey (not a term usually associated with whiskey), it’s also a fairly dull one. The whiskey doesn’t seem to have gotten anything out of being in oak and it fails to deliver anything interesting in the palate. Perhaps more time in oak would help, but that then begs the question, should this be a white whiskey?

There’s very little that distinguishes this whiskey from a neutral grain vodka (in fact, it may just be an unfiltered version of the High West Vodka 7,000′ Vodka ). It’s lacking character and flavor and is the thinnest and one of the dullest white dog I’ve sampled yet.

High West Silver Whiskey Rating:
Not Recommended

  • I’m a HUGE fan of their Rendezvous Rye: http://jewishsinglemaltwhiskysociety.com/?cat=77

    I just don’t know what to make to this new push toward moonshines (or spirits close to it like this one…).

  • I think the push towards white whiskey / moonshine push is happening for a number of reasons.

    – The Micro Distillery boom. There are a lot of micro distillers who are really proud of their base spirits and so they want to show them off ‘naked’/unaged
    – Buzz. Between Max Watman’s book, Chicago Trib, SF Gate and NY Time articles on the space the category is getting buzz.
    – Quality – some of these white whiskeys are REALLY good. Charbay’s is amazing, try it and you’ll see better why this is taking off.

    I was really bummed by High West’s Oat White Whiskey, had heard great things about their rye and was surprised at this one which was so very dull.

  • David Perkins

    Hi Geoff,
    Disappointed you didn’t like the product but I certainly appreciate your honesty. The one constant I have learned in this business is that you can’t please everyone’s palate and at the very least I have to be true to mine. A little background on our oat whiskey. We have distilled lots of different grains – corn, malted barley, rye, wheat – and they are all good in their own way. When traveling to sell our aged whiskies, I always bring a white dog for educational purposes, never expecting that I would one day sell it. To my surprise, I received more requests to sell white dog than I would have ever thought. Moreover, people loved the oat more than any other grain. That was surprising to me. I admit oats make a less challenging spirit, sort of like drip coffee vs. French press or merlot vs. a big Cab – but that’s OK. So I finally broke down and decided to bring out our own line of “whites” or Silver’s as we call them. I opted for a more European style “eau de vie” for the oat whiskey, because, in my opinion, oats are a very subtle grain and their character is better appreciated in a “cleaner” distillate (as opposed to a full-on dawg). We “clean” it by distilling it to 85% abv, rather than >95% for vodka or <80% for straight whiskey. I personally think the longer chain alcohols (often called fusels) easily overwhelm the delicate oat flavor and can be a big turn off to lots of people. Because my goal is to get people turned onto the taste of "white whiskey", I opted for a "cleaner" spirit. I also opted for 80 proof as again, I want to turn people onto white whiskey and most people don't know what to do with higher proof alcohols. We tested the higher proof with people, and got the familiar "that tastes like moonshine!" or "that burns!" or "how do I mix something this high in alcohol?" (really!). So, right or wrong, thats why we did what we did. I personally think the oat whiskey is elegant rather than dull, and it has an enormous range of wonderful (yet subtle) fruity esters. So I love it, but I also like heavier spirits too, I even like corn whiskey. High West has more Silver's in the works. Given what I think you might like, I can't wait for you to taste our malted barley dog.

    And just to catch you up, you no longer need a membership in Utah to come into a bar. We got rid of that silly law just last year. So I hope you find an opportunity to come and visit us and taste all our experimental whiskies. I bet you'll like at least one of them!

    David Perkins (Proprietor)

  • David,

    Thanks for your comment. Hope you didn’t feel I was being to harsh, figured at this stage in the white dog game the most pure feedback I could give the better. I’ve heard GREAT things about your Rye and do very much look forward to your malted barley.

    Glad to hear that Utah finally did away with that ridiculous bar law. Every time I paid my membership fee I felt like I had stepped into some sort of time machine. Used to go to Park City every year for Sundance, may do that again some year soon.

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  • Thanks for this! Good all around review. Perhaps with some time, they’ll be making better spirits in Utah. They’ve got a long way to catch up with the rest of the country.

    • I actually tasted their Bourye at WhiskyFest and it’s REALLY good

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  • John Menes

    Just an FYI, to be fair and balanced for High West, the American Distilling Institute just had their annual meeting and Best Craft American Whiskey competition on May 4th. ADI is the industry association of micro distillers in the U.S. High West Distillery’s Bourye was awarded best of show – Best American Craft Whiskey. High West’s Rendezvous Rye won best rye whiskey and their High West Silver Whiskey tied for first in the un-aged whiskey category! There were 10 judges and it was a blind tasting of 65 whiskies. You can see the results here:

  • There’s actually a controversy brewing around the Bourye although it won best in show at ADI it was discovered that High West doesn’t distill it, instead it’s a blend of stuff from other producers. As much as I respect the ADI I see some glaring holes in the awards, don’t know if it’s because some of the great distillers didn’t submit or what. Also after tasting Rouge’s other whiskey I am shocked that anything they do could win any award anywhere. Their Rouge whiskey has been called the worst whiskey in america by one of the major whiskey writers.

  • Keep in mind that the High West Bourye also won in the Best Blended category, so one can hardly say “it was discovered that … it’s a blend”.

  • hightechredneck

    I don’t know what this review was talking about, but this was some of the best, smoothest whiskey I have had in a long time. I usually drink scotch, but this caught my eye at the restaurant I happened to be eating at. In my opinion it had the quality and all the traits I look for in a good single malt scotch. This was the first silver whiskey I have ever tried and if it is even a fair representation of the style, it will not be the last.

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  • Zach

    It seems really unfair to refer to Utah as one of the driest states in the nation when in fact it’s not dry at all. It’s actually against the law for the state to have any dry counties and our liquor laws are loosening up all the time! As David said, we no longer need memberships to get into clubs and it’s really quite easy to get a drink here. Please consider your wording when writing these articles as it’s quite easy to further the incorrect notion that Utah is a dry(ish) state when in fact, it’s not.

    • To be fair it’s been a couple years since I’ve been to Utah, but over the years my experience with Utah has been that it was much more severely controlled that almost any other state in the west. It’s great to hear that it’s changing, but it’ll be hard to shake that reputation after years of low abv beer requirements, tight control on alcohol sales and membership requirements to drink in bars. Having said all that it’s my understanding that Philly is much more controlling over their liquor than Utah,

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  • bob k.

    Just tried this oat whiskey. I can honestly say I agree completely with the review above. Really thoroughly disappointing. I may pour it out because I don’t care for it neat, and it tastes even worse mixed with Coke. The bottle is cool though. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

  • val

    Not to beat a dead horse here but maybe the reason you like the aged High West spirits is because they are blends that are made by other distillers.