Review: High West Yippee Ki-Yay

High West Yippee Ki-YayHigh West’s latest little blend came out of nowhere, but here it is, for your frontier-style enjoyment.

Yippee Ki-Yay, inspired by Buffalo Bill and his ilk, is a blend of two straight rye whiskeys: One is a two year old MGP whiskey that is 95% rye and 5% malted barley. The second is a whiskey (reportedly 16 years old) made at Barton: 53% rye and 37% corn (presumably the remaining 10% is barley). (This is the current composition of High West Double Rye.)

Now for the fun stuff: this whiskey is aged normally, then barrel finished in two different wine casks: an oak barrel that previously held Vya Vermouth and an oak barrel that previously held Qupé Syrah.

As usual, High West offers no information on the proportions of the two whiskeys in the mix, or the length of time the spirit spent in the finishing barrels.

The result is exotic and quite unique. First, check out the color, which is very dark in shade, a chestnut brown with ruby notes driven from the syrah barrel. The nose is where things really start to move. Coffee and cloves give this a wintry, fireside character, almost smoky at times. On the palate, that coffee character really pops right from the start, but then it delves into a cuckoo combination of oxidized wine characteristics and more traditional rye whiskey notes. Look especially for flavors of burnt caramel candies, banana flambe, balsamic vinegar, and particularly some notes of bitter orange peel. The finish hints at bitter amaro, with lingering notes of over-ripe black fruit and an herbal kick of that long-since-oxidized vermouth, which is unexpected but also unmistakeable. (If one flavor stuck with me an hour after I put down my glass, it was vermouth.)

That said, the whiskey is lots of fun, and as I said, unusual and unique stuff — not what I was expecting but interesting enough to sip on for quite a while. Yippee Ki-Yay, indeed!

92 proof.

A- / $65 /

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4 Responses

  1. Kyle February 5, 2016 / 6:40 pm

    I always highly respect High West as although they source all of their product that they keep honest on what they use. Unlike so many “blenders” they reveal what they are using, not down to the proportions, but with grain bill and distiller info I can believe that I am buying a great product.

    For the Yippee Ki Yay, that is one that I have not yet had the pleasure of sampling but will seek it out soon. Thanks for the great review!

  2. RP April 24, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    I recently did the High West distillery tour and tasting while on vacation in Park City — I sampled the entire spectrum (American Prairie, Bourye, Campfire, etc) and Yippee Ki Yay made the most striking impression on me, so I bought a case to bring back to CA. They boxed it in sturdy cardboard packaging, and although TSA opened the box for inspection, it safely made it back on the flight to CA as checked luggage with all bottles intact. I’m looking forward to my next visit!

  3. Jose July 14, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    It’s a shame High West is not offered in Virginia. WTF?

  4. Conrad Buff July 16, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    Completely disagree on the coffee notes and the “wintry, fireside” taste. The initial taste is more of a cinnamon flavor. It almost drinks like a sherry, but much better. I would recommend if you’re looking for something nontraditional.

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