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Whiskey review: High Bank Whiskey War, Whiskey War Barrel Proof

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by High Bank Distillery. This in no case, by our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the purchase link at the bottom of this review, our site receives a small sponsorship payment which helps support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Named for a local saloon owner whose twin pistol handling sparked the whiskey wars of prohibition, High Bank Distillery Whiskey War & Whiskey War Barrel Proof bottlings owe their existence to the very recent relaxation of prohibition era laws. In Ohio, distilleries were not allowed to operate a restaurant on the same property and could only sell directly to consumers if they kept production low. This limited revenue streams for new establishments (in an industry with an already expensive bar at the entrance) and limited consumer reach (not everyone is ready to sip in a tasting room, but add hamburgers, beers and cocktails…).

Co-founder and master distiller of High Bank, Adam Hines, estimates that while craft distilling across the country is about a decade behind craft brewing, Ohio is even further behind due to these restrictive laws. Since the change in state law, the number of distilleries has more than tripled and High Bank was among the first wave of new establishments, having opened its doors in March 2018.

The High Bank range includes a vodka, a gin and this pair of whiskies: the High Bank Distillery Whiskey War & Whiskey War Barrel Proof. The distillery uses a pot still with optional rounds (used for the aforementioned vodka and gin) to distill batches, using the heads for sanitizing solution. Although an on-site distilled bourbon is currently aging, High Bank Distillery Whiskey War & Whiskey War Barrel Proof was only aged and blended on-site, using rye mash bills from Indiana and Tennessee. It will be interesting to see whiskeys distilled there, but that will be for another day.

According to the handwritten note on the label, I will be reviewing High Bank Distillery’s Whiskey Wartime Lot #33 and High Distillery’s Whiskey Wartime Barrel Proof Lot #29. Bank.

High Bank Whiskey War, Whiskey War Barrel Proof (image via Suzanne Bayard/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: High Bank Distillery Whiskey War

Vital Stats: Aged at least four years, container types not provided, 44% ABV, mash bill: 80% rye, SRP $36.99/750ml bottle.

Appearance: This whiskey is pale orange gold in color.

Nose: On the nose, the whiskey is very aromatic. It exudes notes of fresh orange zest, allspice, clove and bruised apple. There is a slight hint of pastry like a butter croissant. Its aromas show a tangy side, with hints of warm chutney, mango and sweet cherries. I get a hint of lavender soap and fresh laundry with a suggestion of red wine vinegar and dandelions.

Palace: It opens with a whisper of vinegar that leads to hints of vanilla bean and musk. There are lots of fruity notes on the palate, with repeated hints of yellow apples, spicy chutney, mango and dried herbs. It ends with a suggestion of dried Provencal herbs. The finish is quite neutral and clean, leaving a sweet alcohol impression on the tongue. Although it is pleasant enough neat, it goes well with a little water and orange bitters.

Rating: 4/5

Tasting Notes: High Bank Distillery Whiskey War Barrel Proof

Vital Stats: Aged at least four years, container types not provided, 58.25% ABV, mash bill: 80% rye, SRP $50/750ml bottle.

Appearance: High Bank Distillery Whiskey War Barrel Proof is a moderate orange gold with a red-brown undertone.

Nose: The nose is slightly more neutral than its low ABV version. It opens with a note of musk, black cherries, roasted marshmallows, moss and wood lacquer.

Palace: It’s milder in taste and, unsurprisingly, very spicy. The note of acetone is also noticeable there, but it complements the notes of cherry cola, grilled corn and wet pine. I really enjoyed the finish as the peppery feel of the higher proof brought out more of the red cherry and red apple flavors.

Rating: 4/5

Final Thoughts: My preference is to enjoy them neat, over ice or as the star ingredient of a cocktail. The High Bank Distillery Whiskey War Barrel Proof didn’t sound overly aggressive, but might be a more useful cocktail ingredient than regular bottling, if you could get hold of it. Luckily, I don’t think you’re missing out on much if you can’t, as regular bottling is pretty good. These two were very impressive, especially for the money.