We tried this on the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Our hearts were light, our glasses heavy, and our minds turned easily to picture folks drinking a whiskey not unlike this, straight out of the antique bottle, decades before Prohibition, on some far away prairie after a hard day’s work. We quickly realized we had almost nothing in common with them, so we returned to our glasses.
On the nose, raisins and cactus. Raisin Arizona? There are roads on this nose. Roads running through a meadow of clover and sorghum and brome grass and—hey! look at that!–jackalopes bounding merrily, scores of buffalo grazing gracefully, and groundhogs munching diffidently until—what’s that?!—I’m screeching to a halt to avoid Audrey Hepburn’s deer. It staggered out from the brush and if I didn’t know better, I’d say it was drunk. Now the nose gives way to burnt rubber, deer pellets, and marshmallow clouds. Lucky Charms™ marshmallows. “They really blended the shit out of this,” I averred. And the literal minded Stephen replied. “Yes, there is absolutely no shit in this.”
The mouth prompts me to break the third commandment and contemplate breaking the second. Rum raisins. Lemon candies dropped onto a cast iron pan. Then the raisins and candies stud a brass belt buckle posted into a horsehide belt hole. This is a mouth that really stands up, the flavor commands attention like a pre-Prohibition travelling burlesque group. Late on the mouth there’s a gingerbread man holding a gingerbread cookie and crying tears of darkened bourbon from his bourbon-soaked raisin-eyes. He is a reluctant gingerbread man cannibal. The finish (of both the whiskey and the cookie) is spicy and peppery. Purified cayenne spice; all vim and heat. It makes my saliva flow like an maple syrup sugarhouse operator tapping multiple maple trees under the moonlight.
The High West American Prairie Reserve is H. L. Mencken’s “Bilder aus schöner Zeit”— It is an impressive catalog of drinking, but sadly notable for its lack of bourbon in general and of the High West in particular.
Our thanks to David Perkins, Troy Karnes, and the great people at High West for the sample!