We received several samples from the High West Distillery in Utah and our most recent foray into Beehive State spirits was the Son of Bourye whiskey. What is bourye? May as well ask what is a jackalope, which is an appropriate question because jackalopes are on the label of the bottle.
Bourye, as it turns out, is a blend between a bourbon and a rye whiskey. The original Bourye was a blend of their Double Rye whiskey (a blend of a 2yr old and 16yr old rye rye whiskeys) with a 10yr aged bourbon. The Son of Bourye is a younger and friskier version: a blend of a 5yr bourbon and a 3yr rye. It’s a brand new edition where the distiller was trying to improve on the original.
How did the Son of Bourye stack up? To find out we put it through the paces of tasting straight, a dry cocktail, and a sweet-creamy cocktail.
Tasting neat, we were expecting fruity tones because of the youth and got none of it. Dry, dry, dry as the back of a rattlesnake in the desert. Drinking blind, we would’ve declared this a rye whiskey straight up and probably missed the trace of char on the finish (presumably from the bourbon). Very short finish—swallow it and it’s gone. Our tasting was split with some whiskey enthusiasts insisting it should be taken with a dash of water to bring out the brilliance and to others a skilled whiskey but probably one that wants to be mixed. One notable comment rang out: “It’s youthful, inexperienced, and immature; it’s the teenager fumbling in the backseat—and in retrospect that might get the job done but it’s not your best experience.”
Well, rye is particular spirit and you can't please everyone.
Some insisted neat and some suggested mixed… so let’s mix it. We start with a Sazerac cocktail. This is the greatest of all cocktails and we’re very traditional about it: Peychaud’s and only Peychaud’s, a decent rinse of (and only a rinse) of absinthe in the glass, a fresh lemon twist, a touch of sugar. And, of course, a full two ounces of the Son of Bourye whiskey. Here we thought to really show off that rye and we were not disappointed. On the nose the lemon and anise are gorgeous accented by the dry whiskey. Tasting, the Son of Bourye shines—the rye whiskey, like any rye whiskey should, finishes off the sweet beautifully like the final low chord when the singing violins trail off. Or, less pretentiously, one of us commented, “It reminds me of Mardis Gras: somewhat fun and licentious.” The Sazerac is built to show off rye and it does. For the Son of Bourye, it’s like Macbeth finding his Lady and making the play—it needed mixing and having found it’s mate, it’s a beautiful thing.
What about another style? We taste it on the other end of the spectrum with a sweet, creamy drink: the Huntress cocktail. This classic mix calls for bourbon whiskey, cherry liqueur (we used Heering), a little half-and-half with a dash of triple-sec. It has a whiff of cherry/chocolate… the finish of the rye is very subdued (almost subsumed). Here, we thought the bourbon would better serve the drink. But wait, is there whiskey in there? In a lesson to all folks out there: do not slavishly follow direction but follow your palate: we poured in more whiskey since we couldn’t find it in the existing cream and cherry stew. That helped a lot. It allowed the cherry and the cream to amplify rather than subdue the whiskey. So we’re back to our original position: this is a great mixing whiskey but the whiskey should still be the star rather than the sidekick. It would be an absolute waste to put Son of Bourye in a cocktail designed to hide whiskey… use it where the whiskey is to showcased.
Verdict: we can give an unqualified recommendation as mixing whiskey; sipping on its own will appeal greatly to a group of committed whiskey drinkers but it becomes the life of the party in almost any cocktail. Just like a good singer becomes a great singer with a chorus line, so this whiskey shines in the mixed drink.