Tucked up in the high desert wilderness outside the tiny town of Wanship, the High West Distillery location is a sight to behold, its owner, High West CEO David Perkins, who already made history opening the original High West Park City location in 2007, Utah’s first distillery since the 1870s. High West began with humble roots, opening a small, 250-gallon still and Saloon in an historic livery stable and garage. What was once a small operation in downtown Park City has grown to be an internationally-recognized brand with four unique locations. In 2015, High West opened their distillery in Wanship, Utah, which acts as a space for educational whiskey tasting, pairings and tours, and houses a 1600-gallon copper pot still. Meanwhile, the Saloon continues to operate as a must-visit gastro-distillery, featuring alpine-inspired western fare alongside the original still, the Nelson Cottage offers unique whiskey-paired dinners, and the Saloon at the Salt Lake City airport allows for some last tastes of High West on the way out of town. High West’s products have received numerous accolades and awards. In 2016, Whisky Advocate, America’s leading whiskey magazine, named High West its “Distiller of the Year.”
A dark amber in colour. The bouquet seems very rich, wood-heavy at first, with lots of caramelized sweetness, but then things take a strange turn: metal friction, melted plastics, solvent, a bit of wet paint, and an odd note of rubbery medical equipment and disinfectant. The smoke is subtle at first, but as the dram opens up more it becomes apparent: a distant campfire, dry and smoky; and then a wetter, ashier note, like extinguished coal. An industrial symphony – very interesting. The palate shows an abundance of peat at first, then wet, earthy, decaying kind, coupled with a vanilla-scented, chocolate bourbon-y sweetness, just like a Christmas bourbon ball. Punchy, spicy rye with dill emerges strongly in the mid-palate, trailing off into a lovely dénouement of sweet malt and melon coated with cracked black pepper. This hits all the buttons – spicy, sweet, smoky – for a supremely satisfying experience. Once you know the concept behind this whiskey, it’s fun to pick out each of the three major components, yet the overall effect is pretty integrated.