By April Manning
David Perkins was a biochemist touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery when he saw the opportunity for a change in careers. Perkins realized there were similarities between his biochemistry work and the fermentation and distilling process. He began distilling in 2007, and the High West Distillery was founded in 2009.
In order to get over the financial hump that many small distilleries face, High West has crafted blended whiskey from other distillers until theirs can age properly. Among whiskey geeks, High West has earned high marks for their relative transparency.
High West also wants to make its mark by supporting a great cause: preserving and promoting the American West. High West donates 10% of after tax profits from each High West American Prairie bottle sold to the American Prairie Foundation. This foundation supports an amazing effort to assemble the largest wildlife reserve in the lower 48 states, the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana. So if you need an excuse to try a new whiskey, try High West American Prairie a whiskey bottled in honor of a noble cause.
At 92 proof (ABV 46%), High West American Prairie is a blend of straight bourbons that are at least 2 years old. The ratio of the blend is top secret, as is the exact source of the mysterious 6 year old and 13 year old Kentucky bourbon. However, we do know the 2 year old bourbon is from MGP in Indiana, made with a 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% barley malt ratio.
High West American Prairie has found its home in the gritty west. This whiskey would be best suited in the hands of a harsh, persevering rancher. The first severe impact is to the nose with the rustic astringency of cleaning a barn with strong chemicals. Allowing it to breathe after popping the cork does allow for the eye-watering sharpness to abate… somewhat. Then a hint of the charred oak barrel wafts through.
When American Prairie hits the tongue the initial and final thought is of extreme pepper heat. For the proof there is an unexpected bristliness in this bottle that seems to detract from the overall character of this whiskey. This is the 2-year-old bourbon showing it’s immaturity that the older, wiser bourbons just can’t seem to overshadow leaving a rough finish.
This is not a drink for those looking for a pleasant experience; rather it is a drink for those ruggedly adventurous types who are ready for whatever experiences may come their way.
$35 to $40 for a 750 ml bottle.