The biggest problem I have with High West’s Son of Bourye is that every time I see or hear the name I think of this classic bit from the Simpsons. Actually, now that I think of it, that’s not really a problem. The name also makes me think of the Vaselines‘ song “Son of a Gun”, thereby starting the endless internal debate as to which version of the song I like better: the quasi-primitive yet impossibly charming original…or Nirvana’s venerating, languidly frantic cover.
But that’s neither here nor there. Bourye, the father-figure here, was second whisky ever released by High West. Its blend of bourbon and rye whiskey was as novel at the time as it was delicious…and it was delicious. Proudly wearing the blender’s hat, High West’s head honcho, David Perkins, masterfully combined three whiskeys – a 10 year old bourbon from LDI/MGP, a 12 year old, 95% rye, rye whiskey from LDI/MGP, and a 16 year old straight rye (with a relatively low rye content of 53%) from Barton Distillery. Not surprisingly, Bourye was a hit, and since it was created from a limited stock of selected sourced whiskies, it has all long since disappeared.
High West released the Son of Bourye to help fill the demand for the dear departed father, and while the concept is similar, it really does seem like a young, slightly rebellious scion. The whiskeys used in the Son of Bourye are much younger, and a bit more straightforward. Two instead of three different whiskeys make up this expression: a relatively low-rye bourbon from LDI/MGP, and the 95% rye recipe whiskey from LDI/MGP. Initially, the youngest whiskeys used were five years old, but High West has been bumping up the age a bit as each batch is bottled. Currently, Son of Bourye is made up of six year old whiskeys and is an ongoing part of their lineup, but once the necessary stocks are gathered for another older Boureye release, High West says the father will rise again.
The Nose: Lots of rye initially but quite tempered by familiar bourbon notes. That MGP/LDI high rye is quite clear – rye bread, a little pickling spice, pepper, and hint of pine sap, softened by the bourbon’s vanilla extract, corn bread, spiced orange, and nutty toffee. The rye also provides a nice flinty-ness, think fresh sharpened pencil, and a subtle herbal quality…believe or not a touch of mint chocolate chip ice cream. The bold-ish spice notes of cinnamon, clove, peppercorns, and dried orange peel show off the bourbon more.
The Palate: Like the nose, the rye is prevalent yet still nicely balanced by the bourbon. At first, there’s warm caramel sauce, burnt toffee, and well-toasted rye bread with a thin scrape of marmalade. Baker’s chocolate and salted nuts make a brief appearance before lots of spice and a surprising (but pleasant) amount of oak for its age moves in. Crushed peppercorns, vanilla bean, Vietnamese cinnamon, clove, and mint lead to a hint of burnt popcorn and a little too much alcohol burn towards the end
The Finish: Drying, still a bit hot, rye-tinged and peppery, with a little salted nuttiness and barrel char.
Thoughts: High West always does a great job. It’s often hard for the son to live up to the father, and while comparisons to Bourye are inevitable, all in all, this is a satisfying, very well-crafted blend of bourbon and rye. There’s a vibrant youthful complexity throughout that works in its favor until the end, where things get a little too spirited and rough. I like this quite a bit over ice as it smooths those edges, but it also sips nicely neat. I found it also makes for an interesting twist in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or a Brooklyn. The $35-$40 price tag is a little on the steep side value-wise, but given that this is a smaller company blending sourced stocks into a rather unique product, I also think it’s fair. Recommended.