Whiskey Review: High West Double Rye Whiskey

High West is a spirits company that is relying heavily on sourced and blended spirits, and they’ve generally had a pretty good track record of putting out products that are worth the price of admission. We’ve reviewed a number of spirits from High West, including some of their nicer rye whiskies, and today we’re going a little further down the price range to check out their entry level rye: the High West Double Rye.



Utah is a strange place to start a distillery.

Starting in 1847, the state was colonized by Brigham Young and his followers of the Mormon religion, and the laws of the church largely formed the laws of the state. According to the 1833 Word of Wisdom, alcohol consumption was strictly forbidden… but that didn’t necessarily stop it from happening.

According to Mark Twain’s accounts of Salt Lake City, in 1851 there was already an established whiskey being manufactured and consumed by Mormons within the state referred to as “Valley Tan”. Up until 1870, a number of distilleries were operating within the state — but by the end of the year, they had all been shuttered.

That all changed in 2001, when David Perkins and his wife Jane decided to bring whiskey production back to Utah. An experienced biochemist, David was visiting the Maker’s Mark distillery and was intrigued by how alcohol production relied on intricate interactions between organic compounds and microscopic creatures to create the spirits that we all enjoy. They decided to open their own distillery and start producing whiskey back in Utah, and in 2006 they opened their doors for the first time.

High West Spirits does have a 250 gallon pot still and a production facility, but the majority of its products are blended whiskey that use product from multiple other distilleries (primarily MGP in Indiana) and packages the blend under their own label. According to one article, this strategy of producing a blended whiskey was born out of necessity to keep a positive cash flow for the distillery, since aging their own whiskey would mean years of losses without any income that the Perkins were unable to cover themselves.


As a blended whiskey, this is a product that combines multiple different strains of whiskey from different distilleries to create a unique flavor profile. For High West, the majority of their product is reportedly sourced from the MGP facility in Indiana (a common producer for a number of other spirits) — but unlike the other bottles we’ve tried from High West, for this bottle they also produce some of the spirit in-house at their own distillery.

In this case, the Double Rye Whiskey is a blend of two specific straight rye whiskey strains: an MGP-sourced spirit that uses 95% rye and 5% malted barley in its mash bill, and their own in-house distilled straight rye whiskey that is 80% rye and 20% malted rye. High West proudly points out that unlike other rye whiskies, where the grain bill is just barely above 50% rye, they use two strains where rye grains make up over 90% of the total volume of the raw ingredients.

In either case, the grains are milled, cooked, fermented, and distilled to create the raw rye whiskey. Something else that they highlight here is that this is a combination of methods, as well: the MGP strain is distilled in a column still, and their in-house version is distilled in a pot still. The difference is that the column still produces a less characterful spirit but does so in volume, while the pot still is typically more flavorful.

That spirit is then placed into new charred oak barrels for a period of at least four years before it is blended together to make the bottle we see here today.


The bottle seems to be designed to evoke images of the Old West, and it’s pretty successful at doing so.

The bottle itself is styled more like a wine bottle than a whiskey, with a slender round body, rounded shoulder, and a medium length neck. Embossed on the bottle is the distillery’s logo (a horseshoe with their initials inscribed inside) and the name of the distillery. The whole package is topped with a rough looking wood and cork stopper that looks like it was whittled by an old prospector rather than made in a factory.

The label is relatively simple and designed in the style typically associated with hand bills and wanted posters you’d see in an old western. The paper is yellowed and looks worn, and the writing is in big bold block letters in a serif font with an image in the middle.

Something that I do appreciate is that this whiskey doesn’t try to hide what it is. It says right on the front of the bottle that this is “a blend of” different stuff, and they only claim to have bottled it at the facility. Some other distilleries try to pass off blended and outsourced whiskey as their own product (which is my pet peeve), but here they’re being honest and up front about what’s going on. I like that.

There’s a bit of a balance going on here with the design. The bottle itself is understated, but that label is really what drives home the ambiance and gets the first few lines of “Home on the Range” running through my head. The label is also just big enough to get the point across without completely obscuring the liquid within, which is a tough balancing act to pull off.



Just like the rest of their spirits, this whiskey is a beautiful amber colored liquid that looks great in the glass. First impressions of the aroma come with strong stereotypical rye components: green apple, black pepper, and caramel or brown sugar. There’s also just a touch of industrial alcohol near the end of the sniff, something that usually gets blended into the mix a little better in other offerings.

Taking a sip, there’s a good viscosity and weight to the liquid that nicely coats the tongue. Brown sugar and vanilla are the immediate flavors that come to the front, followed quickly by some delicious crisp apple that you’d expect from a rye. That’s mixed with some dark chocolate that gives the flavor some depth and richness as it develops, with some black pepper spice building towards the finish to cap things off.

With a rye there’s a tendency to go a little off the rails and be overwhelming when taken neat, but in this case I think the flavor is fairly well balanced. There’s just a hint too much bitterness on the finish when the black pepper spice kicks in, but overall it’s an enjoyable sip.

On Ice

A rye whiskey is one of those rare spirits where, typically speaking, it holds up well against some ice. The black pepper and the richer flavors tend to fare better than other spirits, and this isn’t breaking with that tradition. The flavors are all still there, just a tiny bit subdued — and I think that makes it even more delicious.

When taken neat, there was just a touch of bitterness but that’s completely gone now. The finish is peppery and delicious without that slight annoyance. What really shines through is the apple flavor combined with some delicious brown sugar, almost like a good candied apple you’d get at the county fair. Underneath that is still a touch of dark chocolate — enough for that hint of depth in the flavor, but not enough to be bitter or unpleasant.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

The best versions of an old fashioned cocktail start with a spirit that has some depth and richness, which is exactly what this spirit offers. Layer in the black pepper spice as a delicious additional texture and you’ve got yourself the ingredients to a really enjoyable experience. Especially with this rye, the herbal components from the bitters shine through and balance nicely with everything else in the glass.

If I were to make a suggestion, I’d say that this might be a good candidate to add a bar spoon of that sweet cherry syrup from a jar of maraschino cherries to the mix. It could use just a bit more fruit to make it really delicious and mingle nicely with the apple flavor that’s already present.

Fizz (Mule)

I don’t think there was ever a question about whether this would make for a good mule. All the elements were there: the fruity flavor, the deep richness, and the black pepper spice to add texture are all exactly what I look for when making a mule. All of which this rye has in spades.

That said, this could still be a little better. If there were a bit more depth to the flavor, something a bit richer than the hint of dark chocolate that we get, I think it could be improved. Not by much, but at this point we’re talking about the difference between an A and an A-plus. High marks either way.


Overall Rating

There’s nothing truly remarkable about this rye — the flavors are all expected, present, and well executed. But at this price point, really that’s all we need. It’s a blended rye whiskey that offers a good experience at a fair price and that’s enough for a proper three stars.

That said, I can’t really recommend it much beyond there. In this same price bracket and category, you have some heavy hitters like Few Spirits Immortal Rye Whiskey and Hudson’s Do The Rye Thing, which are both delicious and interesting spirits that have novel flavors to them.

High West Distillery Double Rye Whiskey
Production Location: Utah, United States
Classification: Rye Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $31.99 / 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
A worthwhile rye whiskey that is worth the price of admission, but might not blow your socks off.


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