By Randall H. Borkus
When I think of the term “Yippee Ki-Yay” I think of cowboys, those tough, loyal guys cut from stainless steel fabric, committed to the purpose of driving cattle across the plains and the attached imagery of long lonely nights besides a camp fire reciting poetry, lamenting the love that was left behind from the night before, complete with some gunfire in the background.
High West’s Utah whiskey cowboys were in Chicago for Binnys’ World of Whiskies in March 2016. I have long enjoyed High West’s rye expressions, so it was a no-brainer to seize the opportunity to try the new Yippee Ki-Yay expression. I had the good fortune to enjoy (multiple) samples at their booth, made some new friends along the way, and was left with a longing to find a bottle (or two) of my own. A few months later and my wish came true, and it was worth the wait!
What I love about High West, second only to their rye whiskey, is the distillery’s integrity. The story from the Yippee Ki-Yay back label sums the latter point up, where they irreverently describe how they put a wine barrel finish on their standard Double Rye, clearly declared as a sourced whiskey.
This whiskey is finished in two different types of wine casks: an ex-Vya Vermouth barrel and another barrel previously held Qupé Syrah wine. As usual, High West offers no information on the proportions of the two whiskeys in the mix or the length of time the spirit spent in the finishing barrels. However, this is based on Double Rye, which is known to be made with two whiskeys: one with a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% barley malt, made at Indiana’s MGP; while the other whiskey is known to have a mash bill of 53% rye, 37% corn and the rest malted barley. The end result is bottled at 92 proof (46% ABV).
The result is a complex, unique whiskey that is enjoyable to drink, and will likely attract non-whiskey drinkers to give it a try because of the interesting intertwining of rye spice with the sweetness of Syrah and Vermouth.
In the glass, the whiskey has a very dark reddish, deep nut-like brown appearance, reminding me of a Syrah wine. The nose carries dried fruit and berries, plus baking spices with a hint of cinnamon and a subtle clove spice.
On the palate, the liquid has a nice mouthfeel, one that is refreshing and with almost no burn while coating the palate evenly. The flavor explodes with spiced cinnamon, burnt caramel candies, black cherry and a dried plum sweetness. The finish ponies up with a complex weaving of dried fruits, currants and raisins, all interwoven with a bold punch of cinnamon spice and dried berries seeping through a fountain of dark burnt vanilla caramel. And it does not stop there, but continues to excite the palate with hints of dried orange peel and distinct frisson of vermouth and herbs that stays with you long after the final sip.
The suggested retail price point is $59.