Whiskey Review Round Up: High Wire Distilling Whiskeys - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review Round Up: High Wire Distilling Whiskeys

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by High Wire Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

High Wire Distilling Company is Charleston South Carolina’s first distillery since prohibition. They make small batch spirits; in addition to whiskey, they also produce gin, vodka, and amaro—a Southern expression of an Italian liqueur. We tried their Southern Revival Bourbon back in 2016, and found it generally pleasurable. And earlier this summer, we wrote about their approach to making bourbon and rye with heritage grains that reflect one of its founders’ own past as a baker.

Founded by husband and wife Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, High Wire’s growth has been impressive; according to Garden & Gun, they’ve gone from two barrels produced in 2016, to between 175 and 200 barrels to age by the end of 2018. And this summer, the Charleston City Paper reported that High Wire is expanding their operations, with a $3 million investment that will create 45 new jobs.

High Wire doesn’t just source standard grains from anywhere. They go local, and in some very interesting ways.

Their New Southern Revival Brand Rye is made with 75 percent abruzzi, an heirloom rye that originally comes from (you guessed it) Italy, but does well in the South. According to High Wire, it’s been grown in the Carolinas for centuries. The rye also uses heirloom white corn.

Their New Southern Revival Brand Straight Bourbon is made with 100 percent Jimmy Red Corn, a rare varietal that had dwindled significantly, but was revived around 2014. High Wire worked with Clemson University Coastal Research and Education Center on the corn, and the two were instrumental in this resurgence of this corn breed that had once been used by coastal moonshiners. The first edition of this whiskey—all 750 bottles—sold out within 10 minutes back in 2016.

High Wire whiskeys

Two whiskeys from High Wire Distilling (image via Carin Moonin/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: High Wire New Southern Revival Brand Rye Whiskey

Vital stats: 90 proof; mash bill of 25 percent heirloom corn and 75 percent abruzzi rye; about $60 for 750 ml

Appearance: It’s a bit subdued. A brownish gold versus an orangey gold.

Nose: It’s very sweet, but like…smooth, at the same time? Can smoothness be a nose? The nuttiness comes across on multiple inhales: hazelnuts, and marzipan. Meringue. Caramel. “It makes me feel like going to a farm to pick pumpkins,” said one of my tasting companions.

Palate: Not a lot of bite, which we appreciated. It starts with that nuttiness and finishes with toasty marshmallow and graham cracker. The corn in the mix mellows a lot out, I think. It doesn’t taste hot, or, as another companion says, “burn-ey.” There’s a lingering mellow sweetness, and not a lot of bite.

Final Thoughts: It’s got a cozy, library vibe, which we enjoyed. An easy drinkin’ sipper. Drink it neat.

Rating: 4/5

Tasting Notes: New Southern Revival Brand Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Vital stats: 95 proof; mash bill of 100 percent Jimmy Red corn; about $100 for 750 ml

Appearance: More robust and shiny than the rye; Grade A maple syrup…with the sun shining through the bottle

Nose: Although the color is brighter than the rye, its nose is more subdued: clover honey. Banana bread. Slightly spearmint. Also, there’s a mellow floral vibe to it, in that it’s not a specific flower per se, but more like a faded floral perfume.

Palate: A bright color plus a faded nose equal…I’m not sure? It’s not your typical bourbon, even for an all-corn bourbon. It’s floral on the palate, but also savory. The mouthfeel is much thinner and sharper than the rye. My companion invoked the “burn-ey.” Definitely not as smooth. I thought the corn would make it pleasantly sweet, but it doesn’t. It’s bordering on harsh. It tastes kind of experimental, and I guess it is.

Final Thoughts: It’s interesting, but it’s not exactly satisfying. Not something I’d reach for consistently. I’m giving it three stars for the evident craftsmanship, collaboration, and scarcity of the corn, but my companions wanted to give it 2.5 if that. Add ice for the burn.

Rating: 3/5