I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a store and seen A Midwinter Nights Dram sitting on the shelf, the alluring packaging commanding my almost undivided attention while the $80 price tag stares me in the face saying, “I dare you.”
I’m not typically a gambling man. Sure, I’ve pulled the trigger on bottles I probably shouldn’t have, but in all honestly I’ve always preferred what I call the sure bet. That is, opting to purchase a cheeseburger and a beer instead of succumbing to the temptation of going overboard making across-the-board and trifecta-box bets because I have cash burning a hole in my pocket. Anyone who has been to the track with me knows this is an ongoing dilemma that I both embrace and embellish. I’m getting off-topic, but see you in April, Keeneland.
To me, this bottle was a gamble I wasn’t willing to make. I had attempted to split bottles of this with others (to save my money for fancy Scotch) but never actually got around to actually doing it. Thankfully, Sam (@bourbonchaser) was kind enough to send me a very stout sample of this whiskey to try it out.
Thank you Sam, you saved me from having to make a potential confession on a random Sunday morning years into the future. You’re a true gentleman.
High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram is a blend of two straight rye whiskeys finished in Port and French oak barrels and bottled at 98.6 proof.
The two mash bills used are 95% Rye / 5% malted barley for the 6 year rye from MGP in Indiana, and 80% rye / 10% corn / 10% malted barley for the 16 year rye from Barton Distillery in Kentucky. I don’t know the exact ratio of the blend, but more details can be found on High West’s website here.
This sample is from Act 2.8, Scene 1405.
An extremely thick, rich vanilla nose harkens back to many older whiskeys. Not older in the sense of an age statement, but older as in produced decades ago. Very few contemporary whiskeys I’ve tried have the thick and creamy nose this has in full force. It’s beautiful.
Plums, berries, and more vanilla float out of the glass backed by a slight alcohol sharpness to produce a big and pleasant bouquet. The character of the MPG rye is an unmistakable presence, but instead of running wild as it does in many younger bottlings (think Willett 4yr FE Rye) it’s relaxed and complimentary.
The Port finish also plays prominent and complimentary role in this drama, imparting and amplifying a pleasant mixture of candied dark aromas. For me to say this is typical of the genre would be misleading as I am admittedly not well-versed in Port wines or finishes, but its cameo appearance is noticeable and a welcomed addition to an already fantastic narrative.
The palate entry begins warm and cozy, and settles evenly, incorporating an almost endless list of holiday spices and flavors you can spend abundant time pinpointing. Clove, cinnamon, and citrus (mostly dark orange) are prominent, but beyond that there are traces of cardamom, pepper, mint, and more.
I must note that as the whiskey has had ample time to mingle with air in an open glass, a faint sourness can be detected along with toasted, dry oak, but it’s not anything that would lead me to reach for a rotten tomato. It’s quite the opposite, actually. The oak throughout the palate doesn’t overpower the entire act; instead it lends to a complex and enjoyable, much wetter palate than your typical American rye.
A strong flavor of cola emerges toward the back of the palate and melts into the finish. Mint attempts to take its time moving off-stage, but overall it’s an abrupt conclusion that leaves a little more to be desired.
I can’t help but dream of what this whiskey would be if it had a finish that exudes as much intricacy as the bouquet and palate introduce. I won’t say that it would be a truly great whiskey, but I will gladly go on record to say it would be a fantastic pour to keep around whenever you want something as different as it is approachable.
As much as I’ve downed and ultimately equivocated notes on the finish, my lingering and general sentiments are less negative and more a result of wishful thinking. That’s a good thing. The imperative and honest comment is that every time my glass became almost empty I poured a little more in to keep the experience going. Continually wanting more is a certified mark of interest in my book.
I’m a little upset I didn’t gamble on this–I’d love to have a full bottle–but at $80 I can’t say its absence on my shelf is a tragedy. If you’re on the fence go for it, you won’t be disappointed. You might not be amazed, but you will certainly enjoy.