Whiskey Review: High Bank Distillery Whiskey War

Last time I happened to be in Columbus, Ohio my friend introduced me to High Bank Distillery over lunch. Self-described as “an elevated, yet casual, distillery pub with seasonally inspired takes on modern American cocktails & cuisine”, I was intrigued about their wide variety of spirits being offered: vodka, gin, and whiskey. I hadn’t originally planned to check a bag on my flight home from this trip, but High Bank had me quickly changing that plan.



The history of High Bank Distilling starts with co-founder Adam Hines, his father, a pair of Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the hills of bourbon country. As they were cruising through Kentucky, Adam’s father explained that the multitude of dirty white buildings that dotted the countryside were rickhouses: buildings used to store and age whiskey. As the two continued south, they ended up coming to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. According to their website, “that was the beginning of a lifelong obsession for brown spirits and years later Adam would co-found High Bank Distillery and become its first and only Master Distiller”.

The distillery opened in 2018 and operates out of the heart of Columbus, Ohio, and shares the space with a full service restaurant. The name of the distillery is a nod to the founding of Columbus in 1812 — the state legislature adopted plans founding the city on February 14, 1812, on the “High Banks opposite Franklinton at the Forks of the Scioto most known as Wolf’s Ridge”.

Ohio is a state liquor-controlled state, meaning all hard liquor is sold through a state agency. In 2016, House Bill 351 made it easier for micro-distilleries to produce more spirits and offer food for sale. In 2017, the Ohio Division of Liquor control made it possible to sell spirits directly (while still ensuring the state get their cut of taxes). 

High Bank has seen fast growth of their distillery and restaurants, opening their second location in Gahanna, west of Columbus in 2022. They recently announced plans to open a third location in Westerville, north of Columbus, in the Spring of 2024.


There is not much available about the production process shared by High Bank. 

As of the publishing of this article, the High Bank Distillery has only been operating for six years and it seems that they have been focusing mainly on creating spirits in-house that are a bit quicker to bring to market — gin and vodka chief among them since neither requires time in a barrel. For this Whiskey War release, they specifically state that this is a “blend of straight whiskies”, which is technically possible to have created locally… but it is more likely that these are sourced spirits that High Bank has blended to create exactly the flavor profile they want. This is a common practice among newer distilleries, and typically we 31W reviewers only get picky about it if they don’t disclose whether the spirits themselves are outsourced.

The mashbill for their bourbon is not disclosed. However, they do let us know that it uses about 80% rye, which technically means it’s a rye whiskey. The remaining 20% is not disclosed, but it’s most likely corn — although since it’s a blended whiskey, the mash bill for the blended products may or may not be the same.

After the mash is fermented, it is distilled into a high proof white whiskey. This is placed into new charred oak barrels to age for a minimum of four years to earn the “straight whiskey” designation. From there, the whiskey is blended together with other strains to create the exact flavor profile intended by High Bank.


The bottle reminds me of Nikka from the Barrel, only stretched to be a bit taller. It’s a square bottle with rounded edges, that comes to sit on a round base. This shape is unique in a world where many bottles are round. While shorter than most bottles, the short neck sits atop a gently sloped shoulder, and it’s all topped off with a synthetic stopper. 

While reminiscent of Nikka, the taller bottle eliminates many of the difficulties you might experience when trying to pour from the Nikka bottle, making this a nice upgrade. 

The name Whiskey War comes from an event taking place in Westerville, Ohio. 

In 1875, Henry Corbin took a chance and opened a saloon in an area known to strongly oppose the consumption of distilled spirits. Not once, but twice, the saloon was blown up. It was said before the first explosion, Henry came outside to address the protesters with two pistols drawn. That single act is believed to have ignited the Whiskey Wars of prohibition and launched the Anti-Saloon League.

The two pistols are seen at the top of the dark grey label. The text is all white, and boldly stands out on the label, listing the name of the product, and key legal information.

I like the bottle a lot — it’s a unique shape, easy to pour from, and looks great overall. The only nitpick I’d have would be the size of the label, which covers a majority of the bottle and hides much of the whiskey inside.



The first thing I notice about this whiskey is the strong citrusy aroma that emanates from my glass. It’s excessively strong, especially for the high rye content. Speaking of the rye, a scent of black pepper can be found under the citrus (to no one’s surprise).

Taking a sip, you can immediately recognize the spicy black pepper that accompanies a typical rye whiskey. It’s not only black pepper, though — there are also notes of ginger and baking spices. All of this is contrasted with a temperate sweetness that reminds me of pecan pie, heavy on the pecans with a strong nutty flavor. There is also a docile note of citrus.

The pepper is the most prominent flavor from the very beginning. It gives way to the sweetness towards the middle and finishes with a slight burn. The citrus notes are present throughout the drink. 

For a sub-$40 bottle of whiskey, this spirit tastes good. It’s not as smooth as I would like, which I attribute to the shorter aging cycle and lack of full control in the distillation process (as my assumption is that they source their whiskey).

On Ice

Ice can often change the flavor profile of a spirit, making some flavors stand out and muting others. In this case, it’s the sweetness that becomes more muted. What was once a sweet and delicious pecan pie is now closer to taking a shot of vanilla extract.

The more conspicuous flavors are the black pepper and baking spices, but in a rounded and smooth way — not in a rough in-your-face way. I can almost taste a hint of eucalyptus pulling the flavors together, and the citrus flavor is still present but has become more bittered. 

Overall, this is what I look for in a rye whiskey: it’s bitter, dry, and lingers, providing a warming sensation throughout your body. 

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

This bottle of High Bank whiskey makes a very nice old fashioned.

Overall, the cocktail tastes nice and balanced. No single flavor is overpowering, and all the tasting notes can still be picked out. The flavor is slightly peppery and bitter, but these notes pair well with the rye spice. And the muddled sugar seems to enhance the flavor of the pecan pie, giving the bitterness a balance point. 

The citrus seems to balance in the middle, filling in as needed. It can sit with the sweet side of the drink or get cozy with the bitter spice if needed.

So far, this is my favorite way to drink this whiskey.

Fizz (Mule)

I am pleasantly surprised with this cocktail. It’s no secret that I don’t love a Kentucky mule — so when I taste one that I enjoy, it’s always a noteworthy occurrence. 

The biggest flavor I am getting from the whiskey is the black pepper, which seems to go well with the ginger beer. The citrus notes also blend well with the lime in the cocktail, making the cocktail pretty well balanced and the whiskey doesn’t get lost behind the mixer components.

That said, it’s not as good in the mule as it is in the old fashioned. This is a flavor-forward whiskey, so I had an expectation to be more brazen than it actually turned out to be.


Overall Rating

I’ve mentioned it a few times, but my biggest knock against this whiskey is my hypothesis that it’s sourced and blended (based on the facts that High Bank highlights their blending and it’s a newer distillery that has not had the time to age whiskey appropriately). Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with sourcing whiskey and using blending to add your personal touch to the final product — I would just appreciate more transparency in the process. A great example of this is how Bardstown Distilling has embraced sourcing as they wait for their own whiskey to come to age.

That aside, this a good product. It drinks well neat, on the rocks, and in a cocktail — and most importantly, it does not break the bank. As with all new distilleries, I am excited to go back, try more of their product, and watch their evolution.

Also, if you happen to be in Columbus, I would highly recommend that you check out their restaurant and distillery. The food is amazing (and if you don’t want to take my word for it, take Jeff M’s word for it on Yelp… trust me, it’s worth the read).

High Bank Distillery Whiskey War
Production Location: Ohio, United States
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 44% ABV
Price: $38.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 3/5
I would not start a war over this whiskey, but I will certainly stop in for more next time I am in Columbus.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.