Battle of the High West Manhattans

I’ve admired High West’s The 36th Vote since it was introduced and have recommended it to many. Now that they’ve discontinued it, I thought it was time to explore other options. Tonight I’ll compare a similar Manhattan made in the same proportions (2:1) and using the same whiskey (Double Rye). For my version, I’ve employed my favorite Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth and Angostora Orange Bitters.

The barrel aging of The 36th Vote is so readily evident on the nose and palate, offering a sweet toffee in balance with the wine. On the palate, the wine is more evident as is the older rye component of  Double Rye (as opposed to my usual Wild Turkey 101 Rye). These flavors meld together so wonderfully in the barrel in a way that seems to elevate this traditional cocktail (I told you that I liked it). Fruity flavors intertwine with barrel char, spice and toffee to create this delectable cocktail that showcases the whiskey as it should be.

I don’t know which vermouth High West used in The 36th Vote, but it’s nowhere near as rich as Antica Formula. This cocktail still shows a bit of barrel char from the whiskey but the fruit flavors are more stewed than wine-like. The orange bitters add just a bit of zing to sharpen things up. I think the ratio with this vermouth is too high and that 3:1 may be more appropriate to let the whiskey show through more. Still, this is a nice cocktail, but not as enticing as The 36th Vote.

Since it’s so easy to increase the whiskey ratio, I’ve done it tonight. At 3:1, the rich vermouth is finally retreating, but still a bit too dominant. At 4:1, I’m finally satisfied with the balance of whiskey and vermouth. I can now taste the rye spice and the rich fruit flavors are still there all the way through to the finish. Even at this ratio, I prefer The 36th Vote, so I guess I really like a barrel aged Manhattan.

I’m still left with the unavoidable disappearance of this product, so I’ll be trying more experiments with another rye (Rendezvous) and another vermouth (Ransom). One thing I’ve determined tonight is that Antica Formula isn’t as expensive as I once thought because you need less of it.  The flavor is awesome and you can use it sparingly compared to other cheaper products. Stay tuned for more Manhattan exploration.

StraightBourbon D/FW Meet-Up

20140322-184540.jpgThanks to the generous hosting of Eskwar, seven of us were able to gather for an afternoon of sharing and tasting.  I’d have to say that the highlight of the day was a tasting of some dusty (paper label) Weller 12 Year and Old Weller Antique and the subsequent blending into a 50/50 StraightBourbon Blend.  We were also able to do a side-by-side comparison with current bottles of each as well as the blend.  Unfortunately, this demonstrates how superior the old products were and how much better they blended.  On the positive side, StraightBourbon Blend is quite competent with the current stock and I must put these on my list to buy and blend.

Here’s the list of what I tasted for the first time:

  • Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection OESO Barrel Proof – woody with some mild heat
  • Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection OESF Barrel Proof – more caramel and vanilla than OESF, still the same wood with mild heat
  • High West 21 Year Rocky Mountain Rye – mild spice, mild wood, mild flavor, not much here for a rye
  • Jefferson 10 Year Rye – not much flavor or spice for a rye, more dry than sweet
  • Yamasaki 12 Year  – woody with honey, grass, bitter through to finish
  • Hookers House Bourbon – Pinot noir finished and its noticeable on the finish especially, tobacco, plum, raisin without sweetness, menthol, reminds me of wine finished ER10
  • Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel 1998 – caramel, cherry, nice sweetness, tobacco, short finish but very good
  • Black Maple Hill Bourbon – sweet, menthol, tobacco, dark fruit, cocoa
  • StraightBourbon Blend  – definitely better than either Weller 12 or Old Weller Antique, tends more to OWA
  • StraightBourbon Dusty (Paper Label) Blend – less sweet and bit more wood than the newer blend with a longer finish
  • Tom Moore Bottled-in-Bond – really solid bourbon at around $20 for a handle

My pick of the day was Hooker’s House Bourbon because of it’s unique flavor profile.  The wine finishing really worked better than I expected it to.  This is only available in California as far as I know, so I’ll have to be on the lookout on my travels.  The other standouts were the StraightBourbon blends, Black Maple Hill and the old Evan Williams Single Barrel.  I did come home with a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel OESF, thanks to a generous fellow StraightBourbon forum member, so that’s worth mentioning, too.  Oh, I almost forgot about my final pour of the day, Tom Moore BIB, which was very good.  I plan on looking for a bottle of this one so that I can study it a bit more, but I was very impressed with my quick introduction and the price makes it a bargain.

High West Rendezvous Rye

Straight Rye, 6-16 Years, 46% ABV, $40

This is a blend of 6 and 16 year old sourced rye according to the distiller. That makes it the oldest rye I’ve had yet.  It’s also worth noting that the 6 year old rye contains 95% rye in the mash bill (only 51% is required to call it rye whiskey).

The nose is mild, but nice… toffee, straw, ginger, cocoa and dark cherries. The taste fruity and spicy up front and mildly woody on the finish without loosing the fruity and spicy elements… and it lasts a long time. The flavors are lemon, ginger, cherry, apple, pear, honey, dark roasted coffee, black pepper and orange. The finish is woody, but not leathery and the complementary spice and subtle fruits add a lot to it.

This is a great rye whiskey and my favorite to date, edging out the Willett Single Barrel mostly because of the nice aging elements. I’d love to get a taste of their now depleted 16 year old Rocky Mountain Rye, but that’s highly unlikely. At some point I may spring for a bottle of their 21 year old version.