By Richard Thomas
According to David Perkins, founder of High West Distillery, the Campfire saga all began at the Bruichladdich Distillery B & B. He and his wife were served an unusual combination of fresh melon and sweet smoke. He believed it a very unforgettable experience, and the idea struck him to recreate this marvelous experience only with a bourbon as the base.
Perkins took the sweet honey flavor of bourbon, the floral fruity spice of rye and combined it with the smoke of a peated scotch whisky. As you probably already know, High West Distillery is one of this author’s favorite micro-distilleries. Even though they use sourced whiskeys, primarily from Indiana and Kentucky, they are masterful blenders and often make up their own rules for American Whiskey. This concoction is made by combining Straight Rye Whiskey, Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, and is bottled at 92 proof. Of course, the exact amounts and proportions are closely guarded High West secrets.
Looking at the generous pour in my Glencairn glass, the beautiful color of the whiskey is a brownish orange. It reminds me of an oak leaf at the height of its color glory on a crisp fall day. In addition, Campfire has very long, long legs. It doesn’t appear thick or syrupy and yet, the effect on the inside of the glass after swirling is surprising.
The nose is intense and I love it. You can easily pick up fresh fruit with floral overtones and all of this surrounding a butterscotch base. The smoke is subtle, but it is there gently wafting in and out. The taste is primarily mid-tongue back. The rye appears to be the major flavor factor supporting the more subtle sweet caramel and vanilla and slight fruitiness. However, the smoke is ever present, but never harsh or overpowering. Campfire Whiskey has a medium to long finish that is spicy and warm. It invites another taste and swallow. You get a real sense of the presence of pepper and rye.
This whisky is so good that you may not want to mix it with anything (including water). However, I still encourage you to take a look at Julia Ritz Toffoli’s recent column using the High West Campfire as a base for mixed drinks. It really is that good.
Scotch and bourbon purists will find things to complain about with this whiskey. But for the rest of us, I think it is another home run for High West and well worth your time to explore it. This would make an excellent gift that might taste like a much more expensive whiskey for your friends (and certainly unusual and memorable).
Unfortunately in Texas, we can’t get very much whiskey shipped to personal addresses from out of state and it keeps our prices a little higher on some items. I found Campfire advertised for anywhere between 54.00 and 75.00 (US). Here in San Antonio, I paid $66.