Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tasting: High West Campfire

High West Campfire
Straight Rye Whiskey, Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Blended Malt Scotch Whiskey

Batch No. 14A14. Bottle No. 1253
Non Chill Filtered.

Distillery: High West
Origin: MGP (Indiana)
Age: Blend of 5-8 years old Rye,Bourbon & Peated Scotch Whisky
DK Price: $105USD/700dkk
ABV/Proof: 46%
Release: Ongoing

91/100 points

High West Distillery was founded in 2007 by former biochemist David Perkins and his wife, Jane, who opened the original distillery in Park City, Utah known as The Saloon, an historic livery stable and garage. In 2014 a second distillery was build in Wanship, Utah just 20 minutes drive from the original distillery.   

Even though High West are most famous for their Blended Whiskeys like their American Prairie, Double Rye, Rendezvous Rye, Campfire and their limited releases A Midwinter Night Dram, Bourye and Yippee Ki-Yay, High West also distill their own whiskies called Silver Whiskey Western Oat and Valley Tan.

Sadly High West Distillery was recently bought for $160 million by Constellation Brands, the makers of Corona Beer, and shares faith with other relatively never whiskey distilleries like one of my all time favorite NDP’s Smooth Ambler and Angel’s Envy. If it has any interest, the majority stake at Smooth Ambler Spirits Co. was bought by The French beverage giant Pernod Richard. Angel’s Envy and thereby the newly build Louisville Distilling Co. was bought by Bacardi Limited. Fortunately David Perkins will continue to work with head distiller Brendan Coyle for High West, at least for now. 

I have nothing but the deepest respect and I personally salute any whisk(e)y distiller who has the courage to transparence their work methods. High West is defiantly not fully transparent, but they are a huge steep in the right direction, by revealing mash-bills, approximately age statements and barrel types on their website, and last but defiantly not least, saying out loud and clear, that they are in fact sourcing their whiskey from MGP.   
Being an equally Scotch and Bourbon lover with a soft spot for Islay’s peated whiskies and high rye bourbons, High West’s Campfire sounds like Brendan Coyle just made my dreams come true, and ever since I first learned about the existence of this blended bourbon/Rye/and peated scotch I have been wanting a bottle, and now I finally got it.

The story behind Campfire goes that while David and Jane Perkins was staying at Islay distillery Bruichladdich, they was serving a desert of ripe honeydew drizzled with peated syrup, and that’s where David came up with the idea for Campfire; The sweet bourbon mixed with the peated whisky. This brings us to the mass bill. Campfire is, as mentioned, a blend of bourbon, rye, and peated Scotch whisky, ranging in age from 5-8 years old. It’s a blend of Straight Rye Whiskey: 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP, and Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt from MGP, and blended Malt Scotch Whisky: witch sadly is of an undisclosed source, but it is very likely that we are dealing with a Islay Distillery due to its peated nature, but as we all knows, there are other Scotch distilleries who uses peated barley, so we can’t really know for sure. Campfire is matured in new charred white American oak barrels, and 2nd use Bourbon barrels.

I let it sit in the glass, for about 15 minutes or so, to really open it up, as I tend to do when I have broken the seal on a new bottle.

The nose got written Creme Brulee all over it, followed by toffee, caramel, mint and a deep layer of very pleasant light cigar smoke and just the right amount of oak, which counterbalance the sweetness perfectly. If I were to review Campfire only by its nose, it would already rank among our highest rated whiskeys.

A bit more dry than I had expected, but certainly not in any bad ways. A gentle hug of heat at first. The Creme Brulee has turned into whipped cream on the palate, with a fruity sweet taste of candied apricot and dark cherry, vanilla, and a bit of nutmeg wrapped in a soft peaty blanket.

Tingling mouth feeling as the rye spices kicks in, with a smoky sweet caramel finish that lingers.

Overall Impression:
I’m sold. I don’t know how High West managed to pull it off, but boy they did. Campfire is one of those projects that on paper sounds like a brilliant idea, but when realized very easy can turn sour on you, but that’s defiantly not the case here. I truly believe that Campfire are the child prodigy, who has gotten the best genes possible from both sides of the family. Defiantly one of the most interesting whiskeys I have had in a long while.     

Photo & Review By: Hasse Berg