High West’s story as a whiskey producer elicits a wide spectrum of reactions. Intrigue, surprise, endearment, disappointment, confusion, the list goes on. In a 15-year span they built a reputation as a fresh face to whiskey thanks to some respectably aged (usually sourced) products, barrel selections with some curious finishes, and a small list of limited releases for good measure. Over time, however, they’ve had to incorporate younger stocks into their existing portfolio, and to say that long-term buyers noticed would be an understatement. Case in point: Double Rye!
Something of a little brother to Rendezvous Rye, Double Rye is named for its unsurprising use of two rye whiskeys, one young (at least 2 years) and one older (up to 7 years), in the final product. It’s alleged that Double Rye previously combined 2-year Ross & Squibb (then MGP) with 16-year from Barton 1792. High West also explicitly justify the use of the exclamation point in Double Rye to “showcase the beauty that is rye and create the spiciest rye whiskey in the world.” I can already hear the Ross & Squibb fans priming their pitchforks.
One of the more curious details about Double Rye is that, in its current form, the younger rye is Ross & Squibb while the older portion is High West’s own distillate. The former is the popular 95/5 rye while High West’s is 80% rye and 20% malted rye. Portions are undisclosed. Double Rye is non-chill filtered and, in its non-pick form, bottled at 92 proof. A full bottle retails for around $40, but can sometimes be found for cheaper.
Nose: Smells like your typical light, bright, and marginally aged rye. Lemon-lime, cereal, lavender, and gin-like botanicals to include peppercorn. A faint layer of berries with some anise works its way in over time. The youth is obvious but not detrimental.
Palate: Thin overall; a spiky and lightly syrupy mouthfeel. On the floral side with a little sweetness and mild spice. Honey, licorice, and evergreens. Frosted Flakes, citrus, and light herbs.
Finish: Citrus begins veering into orange territory. Some lingering pepper spice, but it’s mostly gentle and short-lived. Lightly herbal and refreshing.
And the contender for least surprising rye whiskey goes to…
Double Rye is a simple, unceremonious pour in every sense. The fact it’s a two-part blend utilizing 2-year whiskey would lead a more discerning shopper to suspect a fairly grain-forward experience. Although the whiskey wears modest aging on its sleeve, the end result is more agreeable than not. Cereal-like notes are present, but matched with botanical qualities and just enough sweetness to round the experience out. As a neat pour it’s ultimately forgettable and nothing to write home about.
High West’s own branding effectively positions Double Rye as a cocktail bottle, which it achieves with neutral colors. The profile seems suited to lighter, brighter cocktails meant for spring and summer. I’m also happy to report that it makes a solid base for a Sazerac. Where Double Rye become difficult to justify, however, is in its price. $40 isn’t the worst price to pay for a whiskey resigned to cocktail duty, but where something like Willett Family Estate Rye is an interesting neat pour and fantastic cocktail whiskey, Double Rye is merely acceptable. I struggle to call Double Rye a bad product; I also struggle to call it a great one.