Classification: Blend of Straight Ryes
Company: Constellation Brands
Distillery: High West & MGP
Release Date: May 2021
Age: NAS (Blend of straight rye ranging in age from 4 to 7 years per company website)
Mashbill: Blend of rye mashbills: 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP,
80% rye, 20% malted rye from High West Distillery
MSRP: $70 (2021)
High West Rendezvous Rye is the company’s flagship rye, and was once a year round release. In 2021, the company announced Rendezvous Rye would become an annual limited edition release and see a label change featuring artwork from rotating artists. The 2021 release features art by Ed Mell. The company has slowly been introducing more of their own pot still distillate into their brands. Notably, the company’s mashbill contains 20% malted barley, which is relatively high for a rye whiskey.
A bouquet of herbal scents is subtle and airy. This wispy aroma consisting of sage, lavender, mint, and grass is fresh and crisp. Light oak and caramel help add some weight to the nose, yet aren’t overly impactful. Instead, its herbal-dominated aroma works mainly because of its uniqueness. Though never venturing into shocking territory, it surprises and pleases in equal measure.
Mint, pine, and orange create an interesting and surprising opening to the sip. It works well in conjunction with additional lighter notes of oak, cranberry and graham cracker. This combination of flavors is rather unique tasting when they come together, although it falls short of all out impressive. Much of this has to do with the overall lightness of its flavors and lack of immediate impact. Fun and interesting, yet lacking the necessary weight to make it overly memorable.
Light oak, cocoa powder, and mild cinnamon get right to the point in the finish. Straightforward and lacking punch, the finish’s impact is largely lackluster. A slow ramp up of heat begins to take hold late into the finish and is welcomed, but is inconsequential in the end.
Rendezvous Rye has evolved (or perhaps de-evolved depending on how you look at it) over the years. Once containing ample amounts of 6 and 16 year old rye in its blend, it helped the brand stand out from just about every rye on the market 7+ years ago. Over time, High West, most likely out of necessity, changed Rendezvous Rye’s blend to contain more younger rye. What once made the whiskey so unique, now has started to resemble the majority of the ryes on the market - at least on paper.
Gone is the balanced flavor profile of sweet and spicy with a heavy oak backbone of Rendezvous Rye’s yesteryear, instead replaced with a flavor profile that doesn’t even resemble its previous iteration in the slightest. Leaning heavily on an herbal and botanical flavor profile, the whiskey almost has more in common with a gin than a rye. Sometimes young rye can have these traits, but at 4-7 years old and with zero trace of pronounced youth, the new limited edition version of Rendezvous Rye offers uniqueness to make up for what it lost. This goes a long way in helping to keep Rendezvous Rye in the “conversation” when talking about ryes, despite it losing so much of what it used to offer.
High West has done well over the years keeping their prices fairly consistent. Forgoing the major price increases of many of their competitors has left a feeling of goodwill among their many fans. Yet it's hard to know for sure if this was heartfelt or they understood the drastic changes their product line has gone through and know they couldn’t get away with charging any more than they already do. Their products - Rendezvous Rye in particular - simply don’t reach the same high bar they once achieved.
Case in point: charging $70 for the current limited edition Rendezvous Rye is difficult to swallow. It’s not that the whiskey doesn’t have anything to offer, but uniqueness can sometimes only get you so far, and can even straddle the line of polarizing too. Rendezvous Rye is still a good whiskey, but $70 good, is another story completely.
The evolving Rendezvous Rye is back in limited edition form, bringing with it a unique and interesting flavor profile, but it has a hard time fully impressing and justifying its price.
Rendezvous Rye was once High West’s premier product and rightfully so. It was one of the best rye products on the market. But a lot has changed in the whiskey world in 7+ years. Brands evolve and this is especially the case with Rendezvous Rye. With the brand’s latest changes, it resembles its old self only in name at this point, offering a flavor profile in complete contrast to what it once was. It probably would have been better to simply call it something else truthfully, yet there’s a certain amount of intrigue to watch how a company is forced to change a product due to changing market conditions. The 2021 Rendezvous Rye is a shell of its former self, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything to offer. It is no longer the king of the hill, and instead has been forced to reinvent itself. This change brought with it a unique flavor profile, that may not downright impress, but at least isn’t run of the mill either and is worth a try for its unique traits alone. It's a humble new beginning for Rendezvous Rye and after any major change, it might take a little bit longer to get back up on its feet.