High West Bourye (2024) Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
High West Bourye (2024) Review

I’m old enough to remember when the American whiskey industry largely kept categories like bourbon and rye whiskey in their own lanes, so to speak. It’s not necessarily that the idea of blending the two was contentious or something people didn’t think would work–it was more that doing so opens up a can of worms when it comes to labeling, as the resulting product can no longer be labeled as either “bourbon” or “rye whiskey.” It has now become a “blend of straight whiskeys,” which is a bit more of a hurdle to explain to the consumer. That alone was likely enough to keep many distilleries from fooling around with the idea, at least until High West came along and gave birth to “Bourye.”

I’m not positive that High West Bourye was really the first of its kind in the commercial market, but it was certainly one of the earliest examples, well predating another key example such as Wild Turkey Forgiven. Back then, when High West first put out this release it was 2009 and the company was strictly sourcing aged whiskey from abroad as their own distillate aged. Much of it was from MGP, though Bourye releases have often included Kentucky bourbon as well. The company doesn’t really acknowledge where any given year comes from, but does state that “multiple distilleries” are involved.

The modern High West Bourye, meanwhile, has become one of the distillery’s signature releases over the years, and each year reflects a different blend of bourbon and rye. For at least a year or two, this has also potentially included some of the most well-aged examples of High West’s own rye whiskey distillate, with its 80% rye, 20% malted rye mash bill. This year’s 2024 release notes that it is composed of whiskeys bearing age statements of at least 10 years from multiple distilleries–we would assume it’s MGP, High West and maybe a Kentucky distiller as well. It weighs in at the usual lower strength of 46% ABV (92 proof).

Note: I have never truly known how to pronounce this particular brand, having heard some people say “boo-rye,” and others “bow-rye,” while my brain always wanted to parse it as “bore-yeh.” Suffice to say, I still don’t know, so let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, the first thing I notice here is that the profile doesn’t present itself all that assertively–it’s not quite as punchy as you expect many limited releases to be, which I suppose is only fair given the 92 proof. But considering the aromatic intensity of something like the Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon at 94 proof, this is definitely more subtle. I’m getting traces of caramel and particularly butterscotch, with orange zest, into more earthy rye tones. The earthy, slightly buttery note calls to mind a muffin or something, perhaps maybe with rye or spelt flour. There are some hints of deeply charred oak as well, and the overall profile reads as almost more on the savory than sweet side, with supporting notes of bay leaf, caraway seed and a little anise.

Things turn somewhat sweeter on the palate, with initial upfront notes of toffee and honey before a big surge of peppery spice. There’s something slightly exotic and hard to put a finger on here, reminiscent almost of grains of paradise. I’m getting burnt orange peel carrying the citrus theme through, with modest impressions of dried herbs and then stronger roasted oak, which contributes a heavy dose of bittersweet espresso and some drying astringency to go with it. All in all, this High West Bourye release communicates its maturity primarily through the sweet oak component, but the texture stands out as thinner than I would have expected for something with this age statement, even for the proof point. Ethanol is unsurprisingly quite mild.

At the end of the day, I’m not usually much of a proof hound, and rarely am I ever the one calling for something to be presented at a higher strength, but this does stand out as one instance where I feel like perhaps it could have benefitted from being somewhere beyond 100 proof, in order to make the nose more assertive and the flavors more vivacious. I like this profile, but I feel like it could stand to be amplified a bit, particularly in the context of an annual special release.

Distillery: High West
City: Park City, Utah
Style: Blend of straight whiskeys
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $125 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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