In theory, I could strap on a pair of snow skis and slide right into the High West saloon. The tavern, cut into the Rocky Mountains at 7,000 feet, is part of the High West Distillery and serves its line of small-batch, blended whiskies.
I got to talking about them with Sean Liotta, the bar manager at Capdeville, who just added a High West whiskey to his cocktail list. Another customer at the bar, overhearing us, got so excited (hands flying, voice stirred) that I knew it must be something special.
High West's Son of BouRye (pronounced boo-rye) merges rye and bourbon whiskies, each aged six years; taken neat, it's supple and pleasing, opening with toasted caramel and moving through peppery vanilla before its clean, long finish.
I found out later that the program at High West is modeled after distilleries in the U.K. that blend Scotch whiskies and "create their own style," said David Perkins, the High West proprietor who bought up very old bottles of Four Roses bourbon for their original blend, BouRye.
"We didn't want to sell [Four Roses] as its own product," said David. "We wanted to put our own stamp on it."
On Son of BouRye, that "stamp" is literal: when Sean brought out Capdeville's bottle, it was hand-labeled, and so David could tell me that it had been bottled on May 23, 2012.
Son of BouRye leads Sean's new "Upper West Side" cocktail (a reference both to the distillery's altitude and to the Manhattan on which it's based). This puts to bed arguments about whether a Manhattan should use rye or bourbon: here it's both, and to good effect.
Sean pairs the whiskey with vermouth that has more dried cherry than sweetness (Dolin Rouge), brightened further with a spray of Peychaud's bitters and muddled orange.
It's a smooth, clean drink, served in a place where your biggest test isn't navigating a ski slope - it's steering clear of a parking ticket.
Capdeville, 520 Capdeville St., 371.5161
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