I traveled to Chicago a few years ago for my first ever Whisky Fest which was put on by Malt Advocate (now known as Whisky Advocate). For those of you who have never been, let me explain. Whisky Fest is all about whisky (you would never have guessed that, would you!) of every type and from every country the world over. It is a celebration of ‘uisce beatha’, otherwise known as the water of life.
But this is a tasting on a grand scale. Every whisky company worth its salt is represented at the event which draws several thousand people for one night of sampling, seminars and shenanigans (after the event). The focus though, is on education, so as a result many distillers and distillery workers travel from Scotland, Ireland, Japan and all the way from as far as Kentucky amongst other states.
So there I was standing at a booth having a wee drop when I bumped into Tim Boebel. Tim is one of my good customers here at the store. He is also one of the reasons that I got into whiskey in a deeper way, as he would bring samples of whiskies by the store that I had never had the pleasure of tasting, or bottles that were not available in Indiana or the USA. So Tim told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to get to the High West booth and taste their rye before the evening was done. I hurried off and there I met David Perkins owner and master distiller of High West distillery which is located in Park City, Utah.
That is where I had Rendezvous’ Rye for the first time. It was like stumbling into a whole new world and from then on I was hooked. What I loved about this particular bottle was that it was quite spicy on the nose with hints of caramel and flowers. When I tasted it there were lashings of toffee and caramel, with dried fruits, soft but with another rush of spicy cinnamon on the finish. I remember thinking that it was complex in terms of flavor but was still oh, so drinkable.
At that point in time High West was a relatively small operation, but was gaining a cult reputation within the whiskey world. However, it was not yet available in Indiana. In fact, High West only entered the Indiana market (after much persuasion) last year but has been gaining a steady group of loyal followers since. Unfortunately, I had been informed that Rendezvous Rye would not be distributed here as the whiskey was needed for other core markets.
But lo and behold, out of the blue, I got a call last week from my distributor to say that the Rendezvous would be available, but only for a one-time shot. I put in my order and it arrived last Friday. We received just 36 bottles, so I don’t expect it to last long. For $54.99 you get a 16 year old with a rye content of 80% along with 10% corn and 10% barley married to a 6 year old whiskey with a whopping 95% rye and 5% barley in the mix.
Rendezvous was one of those whiskies that really helped the rye category free itself from its low-life brown paper bag image and sit proudly on the shelf with small-batch bourbons. Of course receiving a score of 95 points from John Hansell, editor of Whisky Advocate only helped the cause. I remember a few years ago, having just three ryes on our shelves, now we have three shelves of rye! It is that popular!
PS. If you want to hear the full story of High West and their whiskies then keep a look out for an upcoming event with the distillery.