High West out of Utah has been an innovator in whiskey for some time now, first starting with sourced barrels and are now bottling their own whiskies. The most sought after whiskey is A Midwinter Nights Dram, which is their Rondevous Rye finished in port wine casks. Double Rye! on the other hand in a blend of sourced younger rye whiskey distilled in columns stills blended with High West’s pot stilled rye, which is older. The idea behind Double Rye! is to create the spiciest rye whiskey out there. Hokus Pokus did a barrel pick of Double Rye! which they aptly named “Ghost Town Rye” for 2021’s first barrel pick. The really neat part is that the whiskey is finished in Banyuls (a french fortified wine similar to port which has been described as bitter and milk chocolate meets strawberries in wine form) barrels for eight months after blending.
This bottle comes in at a healthy 96.2 proof, as opposed to Midwinter that comes in 98.6 proof or the standard Double Rye! that is 92 proof. The color is a nice caramel color, with a lovely film and legs on the swirl. On the nose are lovely caramel and vanilla notes from the High West distilled rye, with rye spice notes and dark fruit notes in the background. Really nice. On the palate, the rye spice notes come in up front and are more assertive than on the nose, but those nice vanilla notes are still there, with lovely grape notes following on to the finish which mixes delightfully with the rye spice.
Which reminds me an awful lot of a Midwinter Nights Dram, as it should. High West rye finished in fortified wine barrels are definitely in the same ballpark.
So I thought I would compare them. Dram Act 8, scene 6, which is last year’s release, is a little darker in color, accounting for the absence of the younger rye in Ghost Town. The noses are very similar, however. On the palate is spicy rye, just like Ghost Town, but with some grassy and herbal tea notes which are, in my mind, unique to last year’s Dram release and, frankly, it isn’t as good as prior years. Lovely dark fruit on the finish. A number of whiskey reviewers remarked the Act 8 was not as good as prior years, and I get that.
I also had a little bit of Act 5, Scene 3 left. Just lovely; spicy rye but not grassy. Super smooth and velvety on the tongue, the rye and the port finish are perfectly balanced. Blackberry crumble desert, cinnamon and oak were the notes I got went I first opened this bottle and I just killed it; those lovely notes have been there first sip to last. There is a reason why people are nutty about this whiskey. It is really good.
Which brings me back to Ghost Town. The rye spice is a little rougher than in Act 5, but it doesn’t have the grassy notes Act 8 does. Is Ghost Town better than Dram? It depends on the Act it seems. But, at $46 a bottle and Hokus Pokus has plenty of it, this is a must get for anyone who is a fan of Midwinter Nights Dram, or, even if you have wanted to try Dram and haven’t been able to get a bottle because it is so highly allocated.
But most of all, this whiskey is an example of why barrel picks by liquor stores generally and Hokus Pokus in particular are so much fun. You can get something unique and excellent for a very reasonable price. If Ghost Town is Hokus Pokus’ lead card in the 2021 whiskey barrel pick card game, 2021 is going to be one hell of a ride for those that shop there. I am looking forward to it. What does this mean for folks who don’t have a Hokus Pokus near them? Talk to your local liquor store about getting a High West Double Rye! barrel pick. It is definitely worth it.