Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons
Company: Constellation Brands
Distillery: Sourced from MGP and undisclosed distillery(ies)
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: Minimum of 2 years (Company website states blend of 2-13 year old bourbons)
Mashbill: Blend of bourbon mashbills:
- Straight MGP Bourbon(s): 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
- Straight Bourbon(s): 84% Corn, 8% Rye, 8% Malted Barley
Color: Light Gold
MSRP: $38 (2023)
High West Bourbon is a rebranding of the company’s American Prairie Bourbon. The company states that its blend hasn’t changed during the transition. When American Prairie Bourbon launched, High West stated it was a blend of 3 whiskeys: a 2 year bourbon from MGP (with a mash bill of 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% barley malt), a 6 year Kentucky bourbon, and a 13 year Kentucky bourbon. About a year after launch, the company adjusted its wording to, “A blend of straight bourbon whiskeys aged from 2 to 13 years. Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt from MGP. Other whiskey components are undisclosed due to contractual reasons.” Around the last year of American Prairie Bourbon’s release, High West continued to use this information on their website.
The bottle in review is from Batch No. 23A13.
The mellow aroma starts off with caramel, melted butter, and fresh cut apple at the forefront. Bouts of vanilla and light spicy cinnamon lean in, adding to the aroma’s complexity. It’s a down to earth collection of scents that ever-so-slightly err on the sweeter side. There’s a good base of classic “bourbon” aroma present, yet this bourbon offers them slightly tweaked, almost venturing into rye territory. Overall the aroma works quite well providing comfort and warmth, yet isn’t afraid to push boundaries in mindful ways.
The number of flavors present is on the lower side, with oak, vanilla, and spice doing the heaviest lifting. The bourbon has a nice roundness to its mouthfeel with a light buttery viscosity and orange zest pop. Though it isn’t enough to elevate the bourbon’s satisfaction in any meaningful way. It's very straightforward, with a light intensity neutering its overall impact.
The light flavors of the palate carry over to the finish with a good amount of spice thrown in. It’s the bourbon’s finish that shows the most life. Dry oak largely dominates, with toasted nuts and spicy cinnamon providing only a minor bump in complexity. It’s well received, but isn’t quite enough to heighten the whiskey in any meaningful way.
There was a time that High West was known for their incredible blends. They started as a non-distiller producer (NDP) before many bourbon drinkers had even heard of the term. Their blends of a decade ago have now become the stuff of legends in some whiskey circles. Nowadays, NDP and blended whiskeys from numerous sources are quite common, and High West, the once master of their domain, finds themselves losing much of the ground and goodwill that they worked so hard to achieve in terms of their overall presence as a forward-thinking blender in the whiskey space.
As a lot of the high aged whiskeys High West used to source dried up over the past 5-8 years, High West shifted gears and started distilling in-house. It wasn’t long after that High West sold to Constellation Brands and along with that the company’s founder and blending pioneer, David Perkins, quietly made his exit. Since then, High West has been rebranding their whiskey and has been slowly blending their own distillate into their rye products, including their popular Double Rye. High West doesn’t disclose directly if that is the case with High West Bourbon, but since the company says the blend hasn’t changed with the rebrand, it likely doesn't.
There was a time when American Prairie Bourbon (High West Bourbon’s former name) with its three-whiskey blend came across as unique. There were fewer multi-state blends on the market, and nearly all bourbons originated from a single distillery, not multiple. Its flavor profile stood out, not for any in-your-face reason, but for its slight distinctiveness. According to High West the blend that was used when this was labeled American Prairie Bourbon has not changed as it transitioned to being labeled Bourbon, its surroundings certainly have. At this point, I’d rather see a 100% in-house distilled High West bourbon than simply a rebranded American Prairie Bourbon. Sure age would be sacrificed, but I’d expect a much more distinct tasting bourbon that reflected High West’s skill and signature as a distillery, ultimately highlighting the unique part of the country where they’re based.
You still have to hand it to High West for keeping the price of High West Bourbon In the $30 range. Though High West states a $38 price point on their website, every store I’ve seen this bottle at has it priced around $30. That is a surprisingly low price compared to the bourbon market as a whole. It’s important to keep in mind the fact that High West isn’t Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, or Jim Beam. Despite being owned by a Fortune 500 company, they don’t produce bourbon on the same scale as Kentucky majors, and they certainly don’t source on that scale. Including bourbon aged up to 13 years in its blend certainly adds value (though the exact percentage is undisclosed). It’s too bad its sip doesn’t feature a bigger impact as it goes down. If you’re just starting out drinking bourbon and looking to explore blended bourbon on a budget, High West Bourbon is a decent place to start. For others, while its price may be attractive and considerably lower than other sourced blended bourbons on the market, its sip will leave you wanting more.
High West Bourbon continues the distillery’s storied history of blending whiskey of different ages and mashbills, though the times have changed, the bourbon struggles to keep up.
High West American Prairie Bourbon never quite achieved the same recognition and acclaim as the company's other whiskeys during their “golden age.” They tried to carry over their blending mentality that worked so well with their rye to their bourbon, but the impact wasn’t the same. American Prairie then and High West Bourbon now, still lacks presence.
In a world where MGP sourced bourbon is everywhere, High West Bourbon tastes like MGP bourbon despite its other blended components. High West has done little to differentiate their blended bourbon from every other MGP sourced bourbon on the market. When American Prairie was originally released, there was a degree of higher expectation based on the company’s history, but at this point, with new owners and blenders, and a new brand name, this product needs to stand out, and prop itself up on its own two feet. Sadly, that still isn’t the case, and this product blends into the sea with so many other similar sourced and uninspired bourbons.