The white whiskey market had a rocky start — mainly because a lot of producers were simply bottling straight-off-the-still moonshine, stuff with no real craft behind it, and selling it for premium prices because of the novelty value. Results: Lots of rotgut on the market.
Finally, there are a couple of white whiskeys — High West calls them “silver” — on the market that are worth your attention, real artisan-crafted products that opened my eyes to how good white whiskeys can be. Both are intriguing and unusual and are highly worth seeking out, whether you want to dip your toe in the white whiskey world, or you’re looking to dive deep into the rabbit hole.
High West Silver OMG Pure Rye Whiskey – OMG? High West assures us it is intended under its old definition: Old MononGahela Rye, named after a river in Pennsylvania. This whiskey is made from 80% rye and 20% malted rye, meant to mimic the recipe for what whiskey would have been like in that area in the early 1800s. Results: Quite engaging for a silver whiskey, rich with apple fruit, nougat, and honey notes. The malted rye makes a difference, giving this whiskey a, well, malt character that you’d normally associate with Scotch and tons of body in comparison to so much other harsh, unaged whiskey — and at 98.6 proof, too. Reviewed: Assay #1, Bottle #106. A- / $37
High West Silver Western Oat Whiskey – That’s right: Oats! Just like your cereal. High West says people don’t make whiskey out of oats because they are a) tricky and b) expensive. We can buy that, and sure enough this is a remarkably smooth and complex spirit: The nose is much less harsh than most white whiskeys, and the body has a lightly sweet, cocoa- and coconut-infused character to it. It helps that this has been cut way down to 80 proof, softening the spirit up further and going out with a smooth vanilla finish. One of the most enjoyable silver whiskeys I’ve ever had. Reviewed: Assay 11G11 (bottled July 11, 2011), Bottle #60. A / $37