High West A Midwinter’s Night Dram Whiskey
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High West is Utah’s first distillery, born in 1879. High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram Whiskey is a limited release of High West Rendezvous Rye finished in French oak and port barrels. This fine whiskey blends older straight ryes aged from 5 to 19 years in charred white oak barrels. This 98.6-proof whiskey is rich and full bodied with dried fruits, fig syrup, and candied ginger, finished with spiced blackberries, cloves, and cinnamon. Best enjoyed neat, due to its many layers of complexity, next to a warm fire as the snow piles up on the window sill.
High West’s A Midwinter Night’s Dram is one of, if not the only, annual limited release from the Utah-based distillery. High West takes their usual Rendezvous Rye Release (now a blend of 4-7 year old rye from MGP and High West), adds less water to get it to 49.3% ABV, and finishes it in port and French oak barrels to create A Midwinter’s Nigh Dram. Port is a very dense, sweet, and nutty dessert wine that adds a lot of dark and sweet fruit notes (think cherry, dates, prunes, raisins, grapes) and some nutty / cheesy / buttercream funk.
I don’t know much about French oak, so I won’t comment on what it brings to the whiskey. The only other port finished rye I can think of, outside of Double Rye! barrel selects, is Sagamore Spirit Port Finish, so A Midwinter Night’s Dram is a pretty unique whiskey.
This happens to be my first experience with this, which is exciting, so let’s get some first, second, and third impressions in this High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram Act 8 Scene 1 review. Even before smelling or tasting, I already notice the beautiful dark reddish hue, courtesy of the wine finish.
As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses from Amazon for my reviews and comparisons (because they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass, Set of 6, Clear, 6 Pack. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.
Even with the finishes, A Midwinter Night’s Dram first and foremost smells like rye – licorice and anise-forward with white sugar, honey, fennel, pineapple, guava, and citrus then doused in darker cherry, syrupy pear, green grape, and a little bit of Angosutra bitters from the port. The dark and intense sweetness reminds me of Sagamore Spirit Moscatel Finish (Moscatel is also dessert wine).
A Midwinter Night’s Dram is very sweet, but not overpoweringly so as there is supporting oak and cinnamon in the background to contrast the other notes. I did notice that there isn’t that much roasted oak here, which is similar to what I found in a Rendezvous Rye batch from 2017 (I recognize that this 2020 release was made using a different blend than was used in 2017). With everything going on, there isn’t much heat either, courtesy of a lot of air time in the bottle.
Swirling brings out some heat, but it’s still far from intense. After it settles, I smell that dense and syrupy dark honey and cherry sweetness, pear, licorice, anise, fennel, candied pineapple, some coffee grounds, toasted vanilla, and a little roasted oak. I’m actually getting a lot of pear, which is unexpected, that takes me back to the Copper and Kings Single Barrel Pear brandy, made from 100% pear.
The nose overall is rich and interesting, with the port and rye getting along nicely even though the port finish is very noticeable. I like it, simple as that.
taste & aftertaste
A Midwinter Night’s Dram is very sweet up front with a lot of honey, dark cherry in syrup, other red fruitiness I can’t quite pick out, licorice, anise, fennel, cinnamon, and oak. The flavors are round, rich, and kind of syrupy, but in a good way, and all with virtually no heat.
The flavors after “chewing” are still very sweet with syrupy cherry, honey, licorice, anise, fennel, candied apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, and a subtle hint of sweet wine funk, almost like funky buttercream. It’s a little more spicy now with more cinnamon, clove, and paprika.
The red fruits lead into the finish with licorice, fennel, pear, cinnamon, and honey. As the fruitiness subsides, I’m left with something a little vegetal and sweet that I can’t quite name, and it all lingers for ages with cherry and licorice. “Chewing” leaves more licorice and toasted vanilla first followed by cherry syrup, anise, and roasted oak. It turns into pear and licorice after a few minutes. Ah, so the lightly vegetal and sweet note is pear.
If you couldn’t tell already, A Midwinter Night’s Dram is a very fruity and tropical-y rye. The port and rye play well together, making it a great combination of dark and sweet from the port, and bright, herbal, and sweet from the rye. This is just delicious.