Thanks to /u/throwboats for the sample.
The word ‘Light’ really has been kicked around. It’s either some diet thing that didn’t learn from the 90s that diet things aren’t helpful in losing weight or some form of pop that has zero calories but doesn’t taste quite right.
So when I originally heard about High West 14 Light – Very Rare, I wasn’t wowed. Turns out that Light Whiskey is defined as a grain spirit distilled between 80-95% alcohol by volume. And since most is distilled to 94.5%, you’ve hit a level that most people call “vodka”. At that point you’ve stripped away everything but ethanol, and it’s that “everything but” that makes up the flavour.
Make your own jokes there about everything butt being flavour.
Scotch fans and Canadian whisky fans will identify that Light Whiskey is the same as grain whisky. They’ll also get on their immediate sides in the debate about blended whisky versus single malt, and the importance of selling blends in order to supply money to make single malts versus the fact that grain whisky takes a long time to pick up flavours.
So the idea behind High West 14 Light – Very Rare is that they found 100 barrels of said light whiskey at MGP. All of it was made from corn, and all of them were aged in second fill barrels.
So we’re at an odd moment here: This is rare. It’s rare because blended whiskies don’t exist in the US (apologies if it does, I am not cognizant of it EDIT: Turns out they do! And they are bottom shelf!). Let’s say it’s not happening often enough to warrant 14-year-old light whiskey being made. Also, it takes a long time to bring out flavour in these types of whiskies. So unless you happen to be one of those distilleries that hate money, you’re not really making this, because it has to sit longer than other bourbons.
On the other hand, it is not made for a reason. I typically avoid grain whiskies that are under 30 years old. But I’ve never had one from the US, so maybe they are different.
Also, I have to try everything or my hair and eyes turn white and my gnome powers go away. So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Lemongrass, golden syrup, brown sugar, mint, sticky toffee pudding
Lighter nose. Get it, light? I’m horrid.
Nice grassy, citrus note and some general syrup notes. Takes some time to grow from there, with more brown sugar and then some well developed burnt sugar/caramel/cake notes. The more I nose, the more I come back to this.
Taste: Mango, wildflower honey, wheat, light caramel
Sadly it doesn’t continue with the sticky toffee pudding. It goes in a, from this whiskey, new direction with tropical and floral/cereal notes. Eventually, it comes back to a lighter caramel.
Not the oddest departure, however, it was quite odd to go from rich caramel cake to tropical notes mixed with cereal. Eventually, it makes sense, but it’s a bit topsy-turvy at first.
Finish: Mint, cassia buds, lemon candy, butter, nectarine
Some of the spice from the nose felt left out and dove at my mouth like a desperate sailor who mistakes me for a manatee after days at sea. After that assaulting spice is done, there’s some citrus sweets and butter to round it all out.
None of this is overtly rough though, contrary to the very horrible turn of phrase. Think of it as I consenting to it all and it asking nicely. You know, like you’re supposed to. And if you aren’t, rethink your life.
Conclusion: Weird, light whiskey. It’s what I expect from a single grain whisky. And I’m impressed that they were able to make something like it in half the time it takes in Scotland. So yell USA and be happy about that, I guess.
That said, it’s hard to follow this sucker. It’s light in flavour and not too strong, and doesn’t ding you with assault vibes because of how light it is, but also has some twists and turns to maze you. It’s odd for the flavours. It does sugar really well.
If you’re ever wondering about what older single grain Scotches taste like, this is a good entry. I don’t know if bourbon fans will love it. Good change of pace for you.
Bourbon review #235, Utah review #21, Whiskey Network review #1549