For American rye the mashbill must be at least 51% rye. The remaining percentage will be corn and malted barley and distilled to not more than 160pf and put into a new charred oak barrel at not more than 125pf. To be called Straight Rye, it must be aged at least two years. Prior to prohibition, rye whiskey was abundant in the Northeast U.S. as there were distilleries in Pennsylvania and Maryland but after Prohibition, those distillery disappeared. Today, rye whiskey is made by the large distillers that includes Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill and various micro distilleries scattered throughout the U.S. Another large producer of rye whiskey that's far off the radar and one you've probably never heard of is Lawrenceburg Distillery Indiana (LDI) who also produces many other spirits such as bourbon, gin and grain neutral spirits (GNS).
Rye whiskey for many years was the dominant whiskey consumed in the U.S. but then dropped off significantly over time but more recently it's been making a comeback and as a result, we've seen many new labels showing up on the shelves. One such producer is High West Distillery based out of Park City Utah which is where the High West 12 Year Rye comes from. High West offers other whiskies and what's exciting is the variation and quality of the whiskey being distributed.
The 12 Year Rye was tasted blind by 13 participants and they were asked to rate the whiskey based on a 100 point scale and provide tasting comments. My feedback on this particular whiskey is as follows:
Color: Moderate golden hue, medium depth
Nose: More floral profile on this one. Mild yet appealing
Entry: Nice combination of sweet/spice. Reasonably balanced showing a bit of age. Spice kicks in about mid palate. Mouthfeel a little on the thin side.
Finish: Moderately long with spice dominating most of the way and then subsiding giving way to a little sweet rye flavor.
Rating: Compelling and appealing. I like this one. This one gets a 87.
The group ratings were:
95-100 A Classic Whiskey - 1
90-94 Excellent Whiskey - 2
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey - 7
80-84 Average Whiskey - 4
There were no scores below 80
Additional group comments included:
"A well-balanced rye, probably 5-8yo. The original spirit is still hanging on with the barrel notes add to the experience. Needs a bit more depth though"
"both sweet and bitter, a good combo finish...falls off a little at the end"
"The mint is in check on this one and this strikes me as a good rye, but the taste just falls flat for me and really knocks this one down"
"Hmm… rye and menthol. There is some spice, but it is hidden behind the menthol touches. Not bad juice, just not something I would reach for"
"Nice transition to a long, dry finish. Begs for another sip"
This rye may not be found in many markets but I would at least call your local liquor store or ABC manager and ask them about availability. Bottle is 750ml and priced about $35.