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High West: American Whiskey

high west american whiskey
Utah may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think booze, but Park City is home to a distillery you should know: High West. It was the first distillery opened in the state since the 1870s, and after taking up residence in historic buildings, it’s been taking the drinking world by storm.

David Perkins, a Southern biochemist, started the aptly-named High West after he moved to Park City in 2004. Perkins studied the process in Kentucky and Scotland– two places which know a thing or two about whiskey. The High West compound includes a Victorian home built in 1914, and the National Garage (that made the transition from livery to automobile garage) next door, carrying beautiful scars from a nearby fire in 1981 that melted and melded the decades of paint on its sign into a cool mosaic of its history. The Utah Heritage Foundation even gave High West an award for giving these buildings new life. Did we mention they have a ski-in saloon at the bottom of the Quittin’ Time slope?

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Now, there’s a caveat: High West is a very young distillery, so much of what they’ve created on location in their 250-gallon copper still is aging. To keep us in hooch while we wait, they’ve created incredibly unique, drinkable blends from whiskies made back east.

So what’re they serving? A lot. Let’s narrow it down a bit: start with their Rendezvous Rye. It’s won awards and for good reason. Two straight rye whiskeys, ten years apart in age (16 years and 6 years-aged) mix and mingle gorgeously in the bottle to create a smooth, spicy-sweet concoction of deliciousness. This is as close to “authentic” whiskey as High West thinks you can get and it’s best served neat, but that certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be used in your favorite cocktail. The name pays homage to the 19th century summer tradition of trappers reentering society for a day or two to drink and swap goods. Feel free to trade your own stuff while drinking this.

Maybe you’re in the mood for something a little different. Go for the 21 Year Rocky Mountain Rye: this whiskey sits around twiddling its thumbs in used barrels, which isn’t common for the industry. The idea is that because the barrel isn’t fresh, the whiskey’s flavors aren’t disrupted or overpowered by that woody taste. High West recommends 21 Year Rocky Mountain Rye as the perfect compliment to after dinner drinks: step aside, cognac. But hurry! They’ve only got 75 barrels of the liquid gold.

High West didn’t just conquer whiskey and cool their heels. They also offer vodkas. Vodka 7000’ is named after their elevation level and uses the melted snow filtered naturally in rock aquifers as the drink’s base. Unlike a lot of vodka makers these days, High West uses oats, which can make for a more difficult distilling process, but it gives the drink a distinct, extremely unique flavor palate you won’t find in most vodkas. Note to Hollywood: this seems like the perfect the vodka of choice or some very lovable, quirky Bond villain, or maybe even Bond himself. High West recommends it ordered neat, on the rocks, or in a dry martini.

Ski on into High West for a bite, a sip, and a tour.

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