Back in 2017 I covered the amazing journey of Michael Myers from east coast photographer to Rocky Mountains distiller. At the time, Distillery 291 was winning medals and garnering praise from a couple influential whiskey figures, but was still an off-the-radar craft distiller in a crowded and trendy field. Over the years, 291 has continued to grow and establish itself as a major Colorado whiskey brand.
Perhaps the clarity of vision Myers always held for Distillery 291 should come as no surprise from the former New York photographer. He wouldn’t hear of sourcing from someone else. They would create unique Colorado whiskeys that would be authentic from the beginning. Even when I tried the Colorado Rye Whiskey that was just over a year old, I couldn’t believe how good it was.
When I was with Myers in Kentucky a couple years ago, I asked him when they would be releasing aged versions of their spirits, assuming that was every distiller’s ultimate goal. He told me, even at that point, they could have already been releasing older whiskey. He insisted that the 291 team bottles their products when they reach the desired taste profile. Two years later, they’ve remained remarkably consistent with that philosophy. Which makes sense considering one of the biggest influences on Myers has been the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye- an astounding feat of craftsmanship at just 6 years old.
With the unprecedented variety of options available to whiskey enthusiasts these days, I find myself always coming back to one of my 291 bottles. That signature Aspen stave finish is just so unique and ties all the various releases together. It’s got a “funky fresh” flavor that works so well with the spice components driving these bold whiskeys. I was thrilled when Michael sent me the most recent releases of the “Bad Guy” (Four Grain) and the “HR” (High Rye) to try. As I’ve written before, both of these Colorado bourbons were the result of happy accidents that have since been welcomed as regular limited-edition releases. Let’s see how things have been going in Colorado Springs.
Originally made as an experimental batch, Bad Guy is a wheated four-grain bourbon. It is our most award winning bourbon whiskey. Our most bold, rich, and complex whiskey, heavier on the sweet side, this bourbon is incredible, given its high proof.Distillery 291Click to explore our complete library of reviews to help you choose your next perfect bottle.
Distillery 291 Bad Guy (Four Grain) Bourbon Batch #5
- DISTILLER: Distillery 291
- MASH BILL: 59% Corn | 29% Wheat | 9% Rye | 3% Barley
- AGE: 374 days (remember that’s for the youngest whiskey in the batch)
- YEAR: 2019
- PROOF: 123.3 Proof (61.65% ABV)
- MSRP: $115.00
NOSE: Sweet & Spice Dance | “Funky Fresh” Garden
TASTE: Complex | Caramel | Rye Spice | Aspen
FINISH: Decent Length | Aspen Flavor Lingers
SHARE WITH: Everyone. It’s a testament to how good young whiskey can be.
WORTH THE PRICE: For me, this is worth the $115 retail price. It’s completely unique, authentic and delicious. The blend of whiskeys 1-2 years old is surprisingly complex.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Bottle. If your palate is in any way similar to mine, you’ll be shocked how quickly you’ll go through it.
OVERALL: The good four grain bourbons are flavor bombs, adding both wheat and rye. This one amps it up with a 3-week Aspen stave finish. I call it “Funky Fresh” but it’s easier to enjoy than describe. It reminds me of Charbay. That lingering flavor is what keeps me coming back and makes this stuff so drinkable. Adding water was not necessary.
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Our High Rye Colorado Bourbon was first created by mistake when a double dose of rye was accidentally added to our bourbon recipe. After aging, the result was a delicious, complex bourbon that strikes a balance between our Colorado Bourbon Whiskey and our Colorado Whiskey, with a spice and fruitiness to round out the vanilla and oak.Distillery 291Click to explore our complete library of reviews to help you choose your next perfect bottle.
Distillery 291 HR (High Rye) Bourbon Batch #23
- DISTILLER: Distillery 291
- MASH BILL: 67% Corn | 32% Malted Rye | 1% Malted Barley
- AGE: At least one year
- YEAR: 2019
- PROOF: 121.9 Proof (60.95% ABV)
- MSRP: $115.00
NOSE: Dark Fruits | Armagnac | Baking Spice
TASTE: Spices | Cherry | Dryness
FINISH: Nice and long
SHARE WITH: Your whiskey friends who like being challenged and perhaps wine drinkers.
WORTH THE PRICE: This will all depend on how you manage your whiskey budget, and what you’re willing to take a flyer on. $115 is not cheap and for me, it’s not the easy drinker that I find the other 291 releases to be. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know to be careful recommending whiskeys that will not appeal to everyone. If you want to push yourself a little bit, it’s a fun release to tinker and have fun with.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: This is a bottle that has already begun evolving since being opened. The experience was also greatly affected by what was tasted before it. For these reasons, I’m glad to have a bottle and I might try pairing it with some different foods. However, I also suspect that these HR releases will be a little more polarizing so, unless you’re already familiar with some of the other 291 bottlings, I think Bar is a safer recommendation.
OVERALL: Tasting the HR immediately following the Bad Guy, I was caught completely off-guard. The nose hit me with a powerful wine or Armagnac-like flavor. Less complexity on the palate than the Bad Guy, it packed a stronger punch and left some dryness behind. I found myself missing the Aspen flavor I and I didn’t know what to think. I came back to the HR the next day all by itself and it was a completely different experience. What a difference! I still got the dark fruits from the day before but that “funky fresh” Aspen was back. On the palate, the rye spice was still powerful and the dryness at the end. A couple drops of water softened the spice and the dryness, which lowered the intensity. It all depends what you’re in the mood for.
Still one of my favorite distilleries, 291 continues to impress me. The Bad Guy and the rye (especially the barrel proof version) are easily my two favorites. That lingering Aspen flavor brings my mind to the mountains and there’s just no other flavor like it. The Bad Guy is a terrific four grain bourbon, complex and flavorful. The HR is a completely different animal, brash and forcing you to pay attention to it. Whichever one you choose to enjoy, take a sniff of that glass after you’ve emptied it. It’s wild!
Disclaimer: Distillery 291 provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.
Mark Twain said, “too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” A passionate whiskey hunter & gatherer, Brett serves his opinions and reviews just like his bourbon - straight and not watered down. A native Chicagoan, he attended the University of Kansas and Chicago’s John Marshall Law School before moving to Omaha, Nebraska, where he runs a packaging distribution company and enjoys opening bottles with good friends. Read Brett's full profile.