The Rugged Whiskeys of the West

From single malts to Bourbon plus rye in a bottle, these free-wheeling Western whiskeys offer a taste of the great outdoors.
Photo by Marcus Nilsson

Whether you’re toasting the sunset from a campsite or streaming spaghetti Westerns at home, a new breed of free-wheeling whiskeys offers a taste of the great outdoors. These drams bring vanilla and spice, saddle leather and tobacco—like having a glass of the wild West.

High West Bourye (Park City, UT)

This is Bourbon plus rye in the same bottle. Until recently, High West sourced its distillate in Indiana and aged it in Utah (and has been transparent about that process). This year, however, the company released its first whiskey distilled in-house. It’s delicious, hitting all the right sweet-and-spiced notes. Even better: Travel to the distillery for a tour and bluegrass brunch with expansive mountain views.

Governor’s Reserve Taos Lightning Straight Rye Whiskey (Alcalde, NM)

KGB Spirits makes this brisk, super-spicy rye with a dry hint of leather by leaving barrels of whiskey outdoors overnight to exploit the extreme differences in day and night temperatures. It’s a unique way to utilize the region’s dry, high-altitude climate to impart terroir, says Owner and Distiller John Bernasconi. “I equate it with the cowboys who would rather be sleeping outside, under the stars,” he says.

Smoked Whiskey Campfire Cocktail

Wyoming Whiskey Barrel Strength Bourbon Whiskey (Kirby, WY)

From the Bighorn Basin, this distillery has made its name through whiskeys accented with praline and charred oak, like its Outryder bottling. Look for amped-up flavor with this new, higher-octane version. Road-tripping through the Cowboy State? Snag the new, special-edition Steamboat whiskey, a lighter, sweeter pour that features Wyo’s bucking horse and rider logo on the label.

Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey (Santa Fe, NM)

Santa Fe Spirits was started by an Englishman who moved to New Mexico two decades ago and first made spirits in 2010. Not surprisingly, this whiskey is a Southwestern take on Scotch. Instead of smoking the grain with briny peat, as they do in Scotland, Santa Fe uses mesquite wood for a sweeter, meatier smoke that evokes barbecue and cookouts.

Published on August 16, 2018
Topics: Drinks
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of several cocktail books, including Shake.Stir.Sip. and NIGHTCAP: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening, which debuts in September 2018. Email: spirits@wineenthusiast.net




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