The way that distillers come into equipment can be unusual. Wyn Ferrell and Joe Von Feldt were distillers at a now-defunct Colorado distillery. It folded so fast that it had no money to pay them. So, instead of waiting for money, Wyn and Joe accepted distillery equipment as payment. They began operations as contract distillers, making spirits for 50 private-label brands.
Believing they could do their own thing, the duo founded Mile High Spirits and were joined by Chase Campbell. They aimed to build a Denver-based distillery and tasting room and create only high-quality spirits. Today, Mile High Spirits produces five spirits: Bourbon, Tequila, Rum, Vodka, Gin, and RTD cocktails.
From 2011 to 2018, they remained a Colorado-only market. In 2019, Mile High Spirits expanded to 12 markets. Its new, 14,000-square-foot campus includes a live music venue that attracts its fair share of talent from Denver and worldwide.
The distillery uses only locally-grown corn and grains, and the mash runs through a German-made copper pot still. Only pure, filtered Rocky Mountain water is used during proofing, and aging occurs in new, charred white oak barrels at its Denver-based rickhouse.
Today's review includes three Mile High Spirits Bourbons produced under the Fireside label. They include its Single Barrel Rye, a Rye-Finished Single Barrel Bourbon, and a Haz-Mat Single Barrel Bourbon. I’ll sip each from my Glencairn glass.
Finally, before I #DrinkCurious, I must thank Mile High Spirits for providing me with these samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews.
Fireside Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey
What’s a triple rye? That’s a great question! It is made from Midwest rolled rye, Colorado field rye, and German malted rye. The mashbill also contains beechwood smoked malted barley.
“It’s not every day you meet a whiskey so warmly welcomed by cowboys and aficionados alike, a whiskey created to be as comfortable around the campfire as it is confident on the judges’ table. The spirit of our Straight Rye Whiskey comes from the quality of its ingredients and the dedication of a small team of expert craftsmen.”
Barrel 17f22.4c7 aged six years before its dump date. A 750ml 52.80% ABV (105.6°) package has a suggested $65.00 price tag. Fun fact: 52.80% ABV represents the altitude of the Mile High City.
Appearance: This whiskey possessed a deep, dark, rusty color. Its wide rim superglued itself to the wall of my glass. Eventually, wide, wavy tears fell.
Nose: Despite the malt being a minor ingredient, it was the first thing I smelled. Its smokiness was evident – not in a peaty way, but just smoke. Rye spice, mint, and oak were easily found. What took more effort was a whiff of berries. When I drew the air into my mouth, there was creamy vanilla.
Palate: Sipped neat, this Rye’s mouthfeel was completely airy. As I wiggled my tongue with the liquid I held in my mouth, I felt nothing - nothing at all. I tasted bold coffee, dry cocoa, and nutmeg on the front. The middle offered oak, dry leather, and chocolate, while the back had rye spice, drier oak, and clove.
Finish: Medium-to-long in duration, the finish was big on chocolate, cocoa, nutmeg, clove, and, out of nowhere, caramel.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Dry was a definitive theme with Mile High’s Rye. I’ve experienced airy textures, but never one that I couldn’t even feel. That was an attention-getter.
Have you ever seen a play where, at the end, the actors parade out one at a time and take a bow? That’s how the flavors acted. With many whiskeys, you concentrate on plucking individual tastes. But, with this Rye, there was almost an introduction to each. What I’m describing really must be experienced. For $65.00, you’ve got 750ml of entertainment, and I’m happy to give it my Bottle rating.
Fireside Single Barrel Bourbon, Rye Cask Finish
The Bourbon is made from a mash of 70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% chocolate malted barley. After spending six years in oak, it was dumped and transferred to a barrel that previously held Mile High’s Rye.
Barrel 17f22.4c7 has the same number as the Rye. I’m assuming that’s a labeling error. It is also 52.80% ABV (105.6°), priced like the Rye.
Appearance: I held this Glencairn next to the one with the Rye. The Bourbon was a shade darker. A thick rim released slow, fat tears.
Nose: The aroma was dark chocolate, oak, vanilla, and graham crackers. Inhaling through my mouth produced caramel.
Palate: This Bourbon’s mouthfeel was slick and carried a medium weight. Corn, caramel, and cocoa flavors formed the front, leading to dry leather, shredded tobacco, and rye spice midway through. The back tasted of nutmeg, clove, and smoked oak wrapped things up on the back.
Finish: Toasted oak, dark chocolate, leather, tobacco, and clove combined to leave a long, dry finish.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I got some notes from the Rye cask, but it did not mute classic Bourbon flavors. That Colorado aridness was evident but still allowed an easy sipping experience. I enjoyed this Bourbon; I appreciated how Mile High Spirits took its flagship Bourbon and was curious enough to see how a used Rye barrel would interact. I believe it is worth the entry price and confer my Bottle rating.
Fireside Single Barrel Bourbon, Haz-Mat
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Haz-Mat refers to whiskey so high in proof it is illegal to ship it on a plane, per the FAA! Any whiskey that is 70% ABV (140°) or higher fits this description. Mile High Spirits’ Haz-Mat edition weighs in at 70.6% ABV (141.2°).
The same mash of 70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% chocolate malted barley was used for this Bourbon. Barrel 17c15.4a8 aged six years and has a suggested price of $70.00 for a 750ml bottle.
Appearance: If I thought the Rye and previous Bourbon had a dark color, this version was at least twice that, looking like burnt umber. The husky rim created a wavy curtain that dropped back to the pool. Like the Rye, it glued itself to my glass.
Nose: Shockingly, there was no ethanol blast to my face. Instead, I found rich, thick caramel that permeated my nostrils. A hint of strawberry struggled to garner my attention. Vanilla came next. If something was supposed to be spicy in the aroma, it couldn’t beat those smells out. When I pulled the vapor through my lips, I found heavy butterscotch.
Palate: Like the nosing experience, there was no ethanol blast. At Haz-Mat, no ethanol punch defies expectations. The front was 100% caramel. Midway through, I tasted butterscotch and tobacco leaf. The back featured oak and bold cinnamon spice.
Finish: Long, lingering, and lumbering, the finish consisted of oak, creamy caramel, tobacco leaf, and cinnamon.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I admit I was completely weirded out by this Bourbon’s nose. The palate did, too. Fireside isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this sans-ethanol phenomenon, but it is scarce. The list of flavors may be short, but this is one hell of a delicious Bourbon that will leave you scratching your head while you’re smiling. Is this worth $70.00? Most definitely, and you should gleefully spend that on this Bottle.
Final Thoughts: As much as I enjoyed the Rye and the Rye-finished Bourbon, the Haz-Mat Bourbon is, by far, my favorite. 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 you to do so responsibly.