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High West A Midwinter Night's Dram 2.8 and 3.2

High West A Midwinter Night's Dram 2.8 and 3.2

High West A Midwinter Night's Dram is a blend of straight rye whiskeys finished in port barrels from a California winery and French oak barrels. The base for this rye is none other than the recently reviewed High West Rendezvous Rye. HWRR is a marriage of 6 year old MGPI straight rye and 16 year old Barton Distillery straight rye. The website makes no mention regarding the ratio of port to french oak barrels that are used or the additional aging time. It will be interesting to see if the additional time in the port and french oak barrels improves an already fantastic rye.

Barrel finished whiskeys have been growing steadily more popular over the past couple of years. Some brands such as Angel's Envy offer their whiskeys year around while others such as 1792 offer one time limited releases with no word of a possible follow up (Port Finish). High West seems to be somewhere in between with their private barrel program as well as the ongoing but limited release of the HWMWND. What is the purpose of barrel finishing whiskey? Improve an existing product by creating a new and different experience? Or is the reason something nefarious such as trying to pass off a mediocre whiskey or even simply putting a twist on an otherwise average whiskey to make an extra dollar?

Initially the HWMWND was a gift shop only release in early 2014 and eventually saw nationwide release later that same year. Each release is labeled with an "Act" and "Scene" number in an obvious nod to the Shakespeare play that this whiskey is named for. Act 3 is the latest release and began to show up in the fall of 2015 (at least in SC). There has been some discussion among whiskey enthusiasts as to wether there is a significant difference between releases. Lets find out.

High West A Midwinter Night's Dram Act 2.8

Cost: Sample provided by /u/WhiskeyMasterRace. 

Proof: 98.6

Filtration: Non-chill

Age: Blend of 6 year old MGPI straight rye + 16 year old Barton straight rye. Ratio unconfirmed. Barrel marrying period also unconfirmed.

Mashbills: MGPI 95% rye / 5% barley + Barton 80% rye / 10% corn / 10% barley

Act: 2 

Scene:

Pour: 2 oz neat in a Scottish Glencairn

Nose: Shortbread cookies up front and then jumps into the red fruit, berry, and red wine aromas. Homemade cranberry sauce, raspberry jam, and concord grape juice are followed by menthol and cinnamon. 

Palate: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and red wine show up in layer upon layer. Oak, creamy rye spice, cinnamon, dill and finally mint round this one out. 

Finish: Big spicy finish with tart red berries. Cinnamon, white pepper and fresh mint along with a lingering warmth. The finish is ultra long and leaves a pleasant mint aftertaste well after the other flavors have gone.

Score: 4.5/5

High West A Midwinter Night's Dram Act 3.2

Cost: $80 pre tax in SC. 

Proof: 98.6

Filtration: Non-chill

Age: Blend of 6 year old MGPI straight rye + 16 year old Barton straight rye. Ratio unconfirmed. Barrel marrying period also unconfirmed.

Mashbills: MGPI 95% rye / 5% barley + Barton 80% rye / 10% corn / 10% barley

Act: 3  

Scene:

Pour: 2 oz neat in a Scottish Glencairn

Nose: Begins with some soft caramel before taking a swan dive into the red fruit, berry, and red wine aromas. Homemade cranberry sauce, raspberry jam, and concord grape juice are followed by dill, muddled mint and cinnamon. It took a while to tease out the caramel and cinnamon but they end up working nicely as the book ends.

Palate: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and red wine show up in layer upon layer. Oak, creamy rye spice with cinnamon and finally mint round this one out. 

Finish: Big spicy finish mixed with tart, red berries. A healthy dose of cinnamon and pepper make up the spice component. Super long finish that fades with a pleasing warmth and light mint. 

Score: 4.5/5

A Midwinter Night's Dram is a great example of how barrel finishing can be well executed and offer improvement over the base whiskey. This further convinces me to go out and try other barrel finished Rendezvous Rye variants. The french oak and port barrel finishing add some very nice fruit, berry and wine layers to the already complex RR. However, with the added fruit/wine complexity the MGPI dill and some of the oak from the older Barton rye are a bit subdued. I also rarely comment on color but this juice has a really nice ruby hue from the time it spent in the port barrels. 

The differences were so subtle between 2.8 and 3.2 that it would be impossible to choose one over the other. Both are amazing and just slightly different. The caramel was more pronounced on the nose of the 3.2 while cinnamon and white pepper were more pronounced on the finish of the 2.8. The dill and mint seemed to hop around and switch places between the two releases. Regardless of which Act and Scene are available, HWMWND definitely lives up to the hype and the price tag. This rye will always have a place in my liquor cabinet and in my glass.

Recommended: High West Rendezvous RyeHigh West Double Rye!Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Straight Rye WhiskeySmooth Ambler Old Scout 8 Year Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey

- Mark @ Entry Proof

Lagavulin 16

Lagavulin 16

High West Rendezvous Rye Review

High West Rendezvous Rye Review