Feb 8, 2024 - News

1 big thing: The 19th century law guiding High West's new direction

Illustration of alcohol being poured over the U.S. flag

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

High West is putting the focus on its own distilled whiskey with a limited release bottle prepared under strict guidelines of a 127-year-old law.

The intrigue: High West rose to national prominence by elevating the art of blending whiskey that was actually distilled elsewhere.

  • By contrast, its new "Bottled in Bond" rye whiskey follows a process that rigidly emphasizes provenance, giving the Summit County distillery a chance to take its own barrels out for a spin and see what they can do.

Catch up fast: Bottled-in-bond (BIB) spirits follow federal regulations drafted in 1897 after Kentucky distillers complained they were being priced out by wholesalers passing off rudimentary jungle juice as bourbon.

Details: The law has loosened over the years, but it originally granted a certification to 100-proof whiskey in its "original condition or character," distilled in a single season by one distiller and aged at least four years in an approved warehouse.

Between the lines: The process "provides such an intimate picture of what was going on in the distiller at that moment in time," said Isaac Winter, High West's director of distilling.

Why it matters: That's a big departure from the approach that made High West famous.

The bottom line: That was "a gamble at the time," Whisky Advocate noted, but it redefined the market.

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