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High West The Prisoner's Share (2023) Review
Since the first release of A Midwinter Night’s Dram over a decade ago, Utah’s High West Distillery has earned a reputation for taking bold swings with wine cask-finished whiskey. Some of those releases have become beloved staples; A Midwinter Night’s Dram remains one of the holiday season’s most sought-after releases. Others — notably the vermouth and syrah-finished Yippee Ki-Yay — eventually fell by the wayside as the brand tightened its core portfolio.
In 2022, the distillery announced a new wine-and-whiskey collaboration dubbed The Prisoner’s Share. The release is a blend of both straight bourbon and rye whiskeys, aged between four and 15 years and finished in French Oak barrels that previously held The Prisoner Red Blend.
From a taste perspective, the partnership seemed like a fun step into familiar territory. From a business perspective, brand synergy was clearly at play, as both High West and The Prisoner Company are owned by Constellation Brands. The exact whiskey blend is undisclosed. But given the age statements and High West’s blending track record, it’s widely assumed to be a mix of in-house whiskey and sourced distillate from Indiana’s MGP and other distilleries.
The 2022 release of The Prisoner’s Share was available at High West’s Park City Saloon, via limited online distribution, and at some retail accounts nationwide. In late 2023, The Prisoner’s Share returned for a second batch. Let’s dive in to see how this latest blend stacks up.
High West The Prisoner's Share (2023) Stats and Availability
The 2023 release of High West’s The Prisoner’s Share carries a suggested retail price of $174.99. Some bottles were available via High West’s website to customers in Alaska, Kentucky, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia, though they have since sold out. The release was also distributed in limited (undisclosed) quantities to retailers nationwide. Unlike A Midwinter Night’s Dram Act 11, High West has not released a specific bottle count for this expression.
I’ve seen it in retail shops across a few states at prices as low as $150 (a noticeable discount!). But more often I see this bottle listed at or somewhat above retail, topping out at around $400 in the most expensive markets, like Manhattan.
It’s rumored that 2023 will be the last of this specific blend and finish for The Prisoner’s Share. However, given the brands’ shared parent company and the continued popularity of wine finishes in American whiskey, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either a continuation of this series or similar collaborations down the road. After all, popularity talks.
High West The Prisoner's Share (2023) Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
The nose starts with a red fruit bonanza: maraschino cherries, ripe strawberries, and red raspberries. At first, it’s reminiscent of Cherry Heering before spicier elements bring the senses back into firmer whiskey territory.
That spice is hefty with cinnamon and baked cloves, coupled with heavy floral elements that border on potpourri. Also notable early is freshly crushed black pepper, a scent that extends all the way to the back of the nose with almost every return to the glass.
More time in the glass brings menthol, spearmint, and pine. After years of drinking High West’s wine cask-finished whiskeys, those cooling sensations on the nose can still catch me off guard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and these notes help keep this particular Prisoner’s Share release from falling too far into spiced fruit territory. There’s a deft touch when it comes to this straight whiskey blend, whereas a single-source bourbon or rye could lack the complexity needed to compensate for the wine’s influence.
At the very end of the nose comes a light sulfur component, almost folded into but still distinguishable from the pepper.
Fruit kicks things off on the palate, but it’s quite different than on the nose. Instead of red berries, early notes include apricot, dark plum, and very ripe pear. Black pepper enters in leaps and spurts, punctuating some flavors without commanding as much as it did on the nose.
The fruit fades gradually starting at the tip of the tongue, and by the midpalate, The Prisoner’s Share is a sweeter creature, morphing into light caramel and toasted hazelnuts. Spice lingers in the back of the mouth, the rye showing its stripes by integrating flavors of allspice, clove, sage, and a touch of cumin. There are also herbal elements missing from the nose: dill and parsley, flavors typically associated with MGP’s 95/5 rye blend, which High West has traditionally used in many of its rye whiskey blends.
It’s tough to identify each shift specifically, but it’s easy enough to imagine the palate as a progression from wine to bourbon and then finally rye.
While the very end of the palate is mouthwatering, the finish is both long and comparably dry. Citrusy notes of grapefruit and orange zest pair with pumpernickel for a complex and lingering series of afternotes.
High West The Prisoner's Share (2023) Rating
Instead of copying A Midwinter Night’s Dram, High West has done just enough to differentiate The Prisoner’s Share from its older sibling. The Prisoner’s Share stands apart both for its base blend of straight whiskeys and the peppery, fruity influence from these particular wine barrels.
Those who enjoy heavy interplay between whiskey and wine are in for a treat. Yet I’d still encourage drinkers who prefer a lighter finish to give this a try. It’s an awfully fun (and tasty) challenge to pick apart specific influences from the bourbon and rye blend.