This simply bottled whiskey, purporting to be a “blend of straight rye whiskeys” would probably be easy to gloss over were it not for what comes next on the label: “selected and blended by Jim Rutledge.”
Jim, as many readers know, is the former distiller at Four Roses and is now making a name for himself again with a variety of limited edition and one-off releases like Blue Run. High Plains has much more modest aspirations, which is probably good news for many drinkers hoping to source a bottle of something that Jim has put his fingers on.
We got a bottle to taste. But first, some details:
The J. W. Rutledge Distillery team has been working on High Plains Rye for more than a year. This multi-state blend includes five straight rye whiskeys from four states – Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and New York (listed alphabetically). Each straight whiskey used in High Plains Rye has its own unique recipe—varying from 51% rye grain to 100% rye—and yeast strain. This generates a very distinct flavor profile and weighs in a 48.5% abv.
“A lot went into the selection of the whiskies that we use for this blend,” said Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. “I’ve wanted to do a rye for a long time, but I wanted it to be something unique. By combining these five different recipes, we created a really nice straight rye whiskey that is gentle on the palate with a nice, smooth finish.”
Adding to that is some additional info. The whiskey doesn’t carry an age statement but is said to be four years old. The actual distilleries in the mix are Kentucky Artisan, Middle West, MGP, and New York Distilling — so quite a cast of characters.
The whiskey’s nose is immediately youthful, ample barrel char melding well enough with some classic rye spice character — cardamom, dusky clove, pepper, and just a pinch of brown sugar. Light on the palate, the charred barrel notes are decidedly restrained — that’s a good thing — which lets more exotic elements through: Indian spices (almost curry-like at times), Earl Grey tea, and some dried fruit notes, all informed by a healthy grind of pepper. There’s a perfumed, almost incense-like quality to the whiskey, surprisingly delicate considering its constituent ingredients, though a toasty granary note — touched with butterscotch — comes back into focus on the back end, offering a fairly blunt, straightforward, and somewhat pedestrian finish.
B / $55