high west rendezvous rye review

High West Rendezvous Rye (2017 release)

high west rendezvous rye

Distillery: High West

Type & Region: Rye, Utah, USA

Alcohol: 46%

Composition: Blend of 5-19 year old rye from MGP and Barton

Aged: Blend of 5-19 year old rye whiskey

Color: 1.0/2.0 on the color scale (deep copper)

Price: $60-80 (750mL)

From the High West website:

“Rendezvous Rye is our flagship whiskey.  Almost every other straight rye whiskey you can buy today is barely legal, with 51-53% rye in the mash bill. Not Rendezvous Rye. It honors the way rye whiskey used to be made, with a high rye content and full, uncompromised flavor. With Rendezvous Rye, you get a taste of authentic rye whiskey. We hope you enjoy it”

Company Website

high west rendezvous rye overview

High West Rendezvous Rye is one of two High West year-round rye releases, the other being Double Rye! (exclamation included for free). The main difference between the two is that Rendezvous Rye uses more older whiskey in the blend. Just like with Double Rye, Rendezvous Rye’s blend is an interesting point of conversation because it has changed a number of times as the availability of higher-aged sourced rye dwindled and their own distillate aged.

 

Releases 2018 and onward are a blend of 4-7 year old ryes from MGP and High West’s own distillate while pre-2018 batches were 100% sourced. This 2017 batch is a blend of 5 to 19 year old rye from MGP and Barton, and pre-2017 batches were blends of 6 year old MGP and 16 year old Barton rye. 16+ year old Barton rye now is impossible to find, so the addition of it into the blend is still very unique and interesting. I bought this bottle in late 2019 on sale for $50, so it had been hiding out somewhere for a while, and for less than the usual $60-80.

 

Before I forget, this is the mashbill breakdown for this 2017 batch – 

 

  – 95% rye, 5% barley from MGP

  – 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley from Barton Distillery

  – 80% rye, 10% corn, 10% barley from Barton Distillery

 

Let’s find out more about this “vintage” whiskey in this High West Rendezvous Rye review.

high west rendezvous rye smell

There’s an absolute rye explosion of licorice, honey, fennel, and dill followed by a rush of guava, lychee, and a little banana. I love the tropical yet slightly herbal and vegetal fruit presence. Even with the older whiskey, I only smell hints of oak, cinnamon, and grain, but the alcohol is also very tame. I’m really loving this nose, but I’m also a sucker for rye.

 

Swirling kicks up the nose to another gear with mint, licorice, fennel, dill, and pine needles. The fruitiness flips and freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit take over as the primary fruit supplemented with cherry, guava, and lychee. Oak plays a supporting role, providing a gentle air of dark and roasted oak, but is still able to provide just enough darkness and spice to make this smell like an old-fashioned. Drink for thought – this could be an excellent base for an old-fashioned.

 

Just like the other great high-rye rye whiskeys, Rendezvous Rye’s nose is ridiculously bright, vibrant, tropical, and rich. I’m really loving it.

high west rendezvous rye taste & aftertaste

Rendezvous Rye kicks it off with rich honey, licorice, fennel, dill, guava, and a little honeydew. It does a lot to showcase the many delicious high-rye qualities, all supported a little charred oak and cinnamon. The oak presence is definitely there, but it’s far from what I expected from a blend with up to 19 year old rye whiskey, which would likely impart a healthy serving of oak even in smaller doses. High West must have really pared-back how much older rye they used given how bright this is. Still the flavors overall are fairly round and not thin for 92 proof, and the heat is well controlled.

 

“Chewing” releases the same flavors – licorice, honey, fennel, dill, guava, citrus, vanilla, and mint. And again, there’s a gentle oak and cinnamon presence with a little grain and cocoa, but the oak gets pushed aside by the other flavors, which are pretty round, and delicious. The heat picks up briefly, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. There’s a lot to like in the flavors, but they lack a certain burst or “wow” factor that I’ve found in the Double Rye!, Bulleit 12 Year Rye, and Sagamore Spirit Barrel SelectsThe flavors are herbal and sweet as expected, but I have a hard time saying that they’re well developed, complex, or bold. I kept looking for more and never quite found it, so I’m a little disappointed.

 

The finish is initially short with licorice, honey, and oak; it’s probably a little too short. The finish lengthens with “chewing”, with licorice, honey, orange, vanilla, dill, and oak, but it’s not lengthy by any means. A light alcohol tingle follows me for 5 or 6 seconds as well. I wish the finish were more impactful and lengthy, but it’s good while it lasts.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Mid shelf+

I’m a little conflicted about this 2017 batch of High West Rendezvous Rye. I really love the 2016 batch of High Double Rye (the cheaper release that was a blend of 2-16 year ryes), so I expected more from the Rendezvous Rye (you know, because it’s more expensive and everything). Unfortunately, even when I put my expectations and biases aside, it doesn’t quite reach the same level. It’s hard to say why, but I wonder if the 2016 Double Rye had a higher percentage of 16 year old rye than the Rendezvous Rye had of the 6-19 year old rye. High West will never tell, but I have a sneaking suspicion that is the case.

 

The younger high-rye still shines through every facet of Rendezvous Rye with bright, rich, and lush licorice, citrus, and honey. The nose is especially fragrant and tropical with freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit, cherry, then guava, lychee, and banana. Mingled with the oak and spice, it smells a lot like an old-fashioned mix of orange, cherry, and bitters. As always, I love the high-rye flavors; and while there are a variety of them, they just aren’t as rich and layered as I would like them to be. Also, the more subtle than expected oak, wood spice, and general darkness, as well as less richness than anticipated, are telltale signs of less older whiskey. The flavors let me down some, and that’s where it counts. 

 

Still, Rendezvous Rye is delightful to drink and I’m enjoying each dram, but not everything is there to take it to “Top Shelf” status. It’s close, but I can’t elevate it past “Mid Shelf+”. Lastly, I want to talk about price, which has no impact on the rating. If the post-2018 batches blended with High West’s own distillate are anything like this one, I’d pay up to $55. The problem for me is that it’s usually priced around $70-80, too high for this. As always though, pay what you will, but I highly recommend Bulleit 12 Year Rye instead. At the same 92 proof and $45-50, it’s a real knockout. Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select is great too.

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