Mile High Whiskey: High West Distillery

High West Distillery

When you think of Utah, high quality spirits probably don’t factor in to the list of attractions. Between five national parks and more than four hundred inches of snowfall at Utah’s ski resorts, we couldn’t blame you for overlooking Park City’s High West Distillery and Saloon, at least until now. As Utah’s first distillery since the 1870s, High West had a large gap to fill when they first opened their doors in 2007. We were lucky enough to stumble on them at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and after sampling a few of their blended whiskeys and vodka, it’s easy to see (and taste) that their quality and heritage is not lost to any drop of spirits that leave the distillery.

If you’re lucky enough to stop in to the saloon this ski season the first thing you’ll notice besides the altitude – High West sits a 7,000 feet – is the large, seven hundred gallon copper still. High West distills their own Silver Whiskey and Vodka 7000 in house. The clear, oat whiskey is unaged, so it retains an incredibly smooth feel, and is almost reminiscent of a blanco tequila. We found it works perfectly in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

The vodka was a welcome surprise as well. Maybe it’s the locally sourced oats or the thin air, but the Vodka 7000 and it’s peach infused small seasonal batches easily compete with top shelf vodkas from around the globe. Just make sure you pick up a bottle while you’re in Park City, because with only a few bottlings a year, it can be hard to source if you run out after your visit.

Where High West truly shines though is their blended whiskeys. They are sourced from a number of outside distillers and aged in-house to create a large set of unique tastes. The most well known is High West’s Rendezvous Rye, named for Utah’s first whiskey festival, at a mountain-man and fur trapper Rendezvous, in 1826. Blending six-year and sixteen-year rye whiskeys, this uncommon blend boasts an unusually high mash bill (95% and 80% respectively), and the complex flavor is what a true rye should taste like.

If you’re looking for a special order, the new American Prairie Reserve blend is a perfect taste of classic American bourbon, sourced from the MGP and Four Roses Distilleries. Named for the 5,000 square mile (roughly the size of Connecticut) Prairie Reserve in Montana, this bourbon celebrates the wildness that is seldom seen on the open plains anymore. Use it in a summer mint julip, or just on the rocks as an excellent sipping whiskey. Whatever your taste in spirits, High West’s line of blended and silver whiskeys, and unique oat-based vodkas will have you wishing you were in Park City all year long.