February came and went without a post. My apologies. It's a short month, I'm busy...No, excuses are like assholes, everybody's got one. In any case, I have a couple of posts in store for the next week or so. Today I'm reviewing High West Campfire. Typically, I will write in my whisky journal and then transfer my thoughts onto the blog in an organized fashion. Today you will get my thoughts as I have them; I am sitting with the glass as I type. I have tasted this whisky before, so it's not totally blind. If you don't know much about High West, out of Utah, the owner is David Perkins. Perkins had a background in biopharmaceutical engineering and wanted to get into the whisky business. He set up a distillery but, like most craft startups, realized it's not a profitable model to sit on your thumbs while your whisky ages. So he began sourcing and blending whiskies from other producers. Some whisky folks turn up their nose at this, and go so far as to claim that buying and repackaging other folks' juice is not an art or a skill. But if you know anything about the history of brown spirits, blending is a huge part of the industry, and indeed takes a great deal of skill and technique. And if you haven't tasted any of High West's products, which include a couple of fantastic ryes, a bourbon/rye blend called Bourye, and several others, than you don't know what you are talking about. Perkins is marrying products with totally different mashbills, ages, and styles, and the results are totally unique products where the components work in perfect harmony. My favorite High West whisky to date is the Rendevous Rye. The K&L Spirits Journal has an interesting podcast interviewing Perkins if you want to have a listen.
Campfire is a blend of rye whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey, and blended malt scotch whisky. Yes, you read that correctly. Scotch and bourbon in one bottle. The text below is from the blog Sour Mash Manifesto, and gives a little more info on the components:
"Here’s the gist of Campfire Whiskey. Its a blend of a six year old bourbon distilled and aged at Midwest Grain Products (Formerly Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana or LDI), a 5.5 year old rye whiskey also distilled at the former LDI and aged in the upper floors of the famed Stitzel Weller Warehouses in Kentucky, and finally an 8 year old peated Scotch whiskey from the Scottish mainland."
You can read Jason Pyle's full review here. I read it when he first posted it but I am not looking at it now as to not be unduly influenced in my review.
Nose: Fairly gentle. Perkins writes on the back of the bottle about honeydew topped with peated syrup, a dessert he had in Scotland that inspired the drink, and I'd say the nose about matches up with that concept.
Taste: This is a fantastic whisky. The smoke is certainly there but plays a supporting role. This would be good for someone who wants an introduction to smoky whisky but isn't ready for the punch of a Laphroaig 10 year. It's a bourbon at heart, for sure, but the rye spice is present in addition to the smoke. Fruit drizzled with honey, oaky backbone, and all of it is laced with the smoke. It's like when you cook over an open flame, every bite of your steak has some smoke influence, but again, it's not the dominant flavor. My father in law loves peated whisky, and I wonder if the peat influence here will be too faint for his palate. But as a bourbon lover it suits me just fine.
Finish: This one is about perfect at 92 proof. Just a tiny bit of bite but on the whole is it very mellow. It would indeed be a perfect pour in front of the campfire, but I'll settle for my living room on a nippy early March night in the Northeast corridor.
Value/Intangible: I love the creativity of this product. I have a review of a Compass Box scotch coming soon, Compass Box does some neat things on the other side of the pond, but for me High West is the high water mark for artisanship with sourcing and blending whiskies. Fifty bucks for me does not an everyday pour make, but a fine price for a Sunday evening pour. If you can get your hands on it I'd highly recommend it.