Whiskey & Vinyl: High West Double Rye Barrel Select and Ryan Bingham’s ‘Junky Star’

Jim Casey02/17/23
Whiskey and Vinyl High West Double Rye Barrel Select and Ryan Bingham's Junky Star

(photo by Outsider)

Much of Ryan Bingham’s music isn’t meant to be sung at the top of your lungs going 80 down the interstate. Bingham’s catalog, in my opinion, is best enjoyed with a full glass of late-night whiskey (preferably by firelight). His music, like good whiskey, needs room to breathe.

So for today’s installment of Whiskey & Vinyl, that’s precisely what we’re doing. We’re spinning Bingham’s Junky Star on the turntable with a stiff pour of High West Distillery’s Double Rye! Barrel Select. Of course, we’ve got a fire going, too.

Stick around for the highlights.

High West Double Rye Barrel Select

(photo by Outsider)
  • Distilleries: High West (Utah) and MGP (Indiana)
  • Bottled: High West Distillery
  • Location: Park City, Utah
  • Style: Straight Rye Whiskey Blend
  • Barrel Finish: Rum
  • Proof: 102
  • MSRP: $65
  • Full Review

Very light alcohol greets the nose, followed by an immediate waft of bubblegum—like a big, pink square of Hubba Bubba. A deeper nosedive reveals eucalyptus and dark fruit, specifically dates and raisins. Truly delightful. On the palate, vanilla is forefront, followed by the aforementioned bubblegum. A little bit of chewing reveals this juice’s rum-barrel-enhanced dessert-like qualities in the form of fresh-baked date-nut bread (baking spices, dates, and walnuts). The medium finish brings just a touch of minty clove with soothing, warm vanilla. I wish it lingered just a tad longer because its off-bourbon profile is truly enjoyable thanks, in part, to the blending and barrelling.

Coming in at 102 proof, the warmth feels more in line with something in the 107-109 proof range. And that’s a compliment. If you’re in the market for something outside a traditional-tasting Kentucky bourbon, try a Barrel Select sip.

(photo by Outsider)

‘Junky Star’

  • Artist: Ryan Bingham
  • Year: 2010
  • Producer: T-Bone Burnett
  • Billboard Top Country Albums: No. 2
  • Best Songs: “The Poet,” “Depression,” Hallelujah”

Before he was the bunkhouse bad boy on Paramount TV’s Yellowstone, Ryan Bingham was, well, a musical badass (and he still is). In 2009, he took the music-loving world by storm with “The Weary Kind,” a song he co-wrote for Crazy Heart that earned him an Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy.

When it came time for Bingham to release his next album, 2010’s Junky Star, nobody would have kicked up much dust if he had tried to “go Nashville” with the project. Or, at the very least, a slight torque toward a more mainstream sound by country radio standards. Well, he didn’t (thank your junky lucky star).

In fact, he leaned the other way. Junky Star was more sparse—sonically speaking, from his Dead Horses backing band—than his 2007 album, Mescalito, or 2009 album, Roadhouse Sun. That put the spotlight on Bingham’s vocals and lyricism. And, of course, his 13 tracks delivered. Bingham opens the album with “The Poet,” a forlorn diddy where his dust-drenched vocals shine. Later on, Bingham fires away with the murder-ballad title track, before dosing us with “Depression,” an introspective plea about the power of love in a desolate wasteland.

And then there’s “Hallelujah”—an all-time Top 5 Bingham tune—that will just devastate you, especially when you consider the song’s ghostly narrator was killed in it’s opening stanzas. Bingham caps the album with “All Choked Up Again,” and bonus track, “The Weary Kind.” Fans of Yellowstone may recall Walker (S1E5) asking the bunkhouse if they want to hear a happy or sad song. When “happy” is declared, Walker plays them “All Choked Up Again,” perhaps the sadness song in his playbook.