Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Hogback High-Rye Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


When I travel, one of my goals is to check out local liquor stores in hopes of finding something local and, if not new to the market, then at least new to me. An easy way to do without going broke is to explore 50ml and 100ml bottles. You'd be amazed at what can be found there, especially in a larger liquor store.  I've seen airplane minis of mainstream whiskey priced at a couple bucks and higher-end Scotch where the cost is about $20.00 a bottle.  It provides a means to taste some of the pricey options without committing to a full bottle. If you don't like it, a few bucks investment is no big deal. If you love it, you know to pick up a 750ml.

On my most recent trip to Denver, I discovered a taster of Hogback High-Rye Bourbon.  Hogback is a distillery established in Wheatridge (a Denver suburb) back in 2016. It then relocated to Boulder adjacent to Vapor Distillery in 2019. Since that move, Hogback has entered into an agreement with Vapor to use their 1300 gallon copper pot still, which provided Hogback an opportunity to significantly increase production.

Scottish-born Graeme Wallace is the founder and master distiller. He emigrated to Colorado to follow a dream - to distill in the United States using traditional Scottish methods.  According to Hogback:

"For the previous 20 years, Graeme had been reviewing and writing about his native spirit – Scotch whisky. In the process, gaining experience at many of the world’s most famous distilleries and gradually building a comprehensive plan of how to make his own. Not only did he learn how to distill single malt whisky, he also learned the art of blending."

Part of the Scottish tradition is to source blends from other distilleries. Wallace has kept that tradition, sourcing a majority of  Hogback's blended spirits from other US-based distilleries. The High-Rye Bourbon is distilled from a mash of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley. Hogback's website does indicate the malt is sourced from Scotland and is peated. The distillate is aged "at least" six months in undisclosed cooperate (photos suggest 53-gallon barrels), and then Wallace proofs it down to 88° using water from El Dorado Springs. A 750ml bottle runs $37.99.

The big question, of course, is how does Hogback taste? Let's #DrinkCurious and find out.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Hogback presented as a brilliant gold color. The whiskey created a medium-thick rim which teared up to fat, heavy legs.

Nose:  Sweet aromas of honey, caramel, and corn greeted my olfactory senses. Just underneath them was cinnamon. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, sweet corn danced across my tongue.

Palate:  As the liquid sunshine passed my lips, it offered a medium body with a light Colorado hug. I was shocked at how sweet things were considering this was supposed to be a high-rye Bourbon. Corn and vanilla began the tasting experience. At mid-palate was soft milk chocolate. Then, on the back, it normalized to spice with oak and rye flavors.

Finish:  The medium-length finish consisted of oak, corn, and clove. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Hogback is an uncomplicated Bourbon featuring a sweet start and spicy finish. It lacks any real depth, but that's a quality some folks find appealing. In my opinion, this needs more time in the barrel. I do believe 88° was well-thought-out and proper. And, while I understand the need to get the product to retail as quickly as possible for a craft distillery, the market is saturated with Bourbons at this price that are aged longer and provide a bigger bang for the buck. Saying all of that, I like where Wallace has started with Hogback and am most interested in what can be done down the road. This takes a Bar rating and for Colorado whiskey enthusiasts to try.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

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