Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey
Michter’s Distillery (Louisville)
111.8 proof / 55.9% ABV
Barrel # 16D432
If you’ve spent much time on B&B, you know we’re fans of Michter’s whiskey. And you might also have picked up on the fact that I, personally, lean toward ryes. That said, I’m not generally one to go nuts for a barrel proof offering—so I wasn’t altogether sure what to think about Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye as I pulled the cork.
The nose on MBSR is mellow; sweet (caramel/vanilla), hot (duh), and surprisingly lacking in black pepper. You pick up on the “umph” almost immediately, but it’s not overwhelming—and it actually lulls you into thinking the difference between a standard 90 proofer and a 111.8 is only about 11 percent. Plus, on the octane spectrum of barrel proof whiskeys, MBSR is technically residing on the moderate end. Rare Breed and Maker’s Cask hover around 112, Old Granddad is at 114, and then things only go up from there: Bulleit at 119, Booker’s at 120+, E. H. Taylor Jr. in the high 120s, Stagg Jr. at 135, and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof in excess of 135. So how hot could it be?
In short, if you’re drinking MBSR neat, it’s hot. Too hot for most folks, likely—but then, most barrel proofs are too hot for the average drinker to take straight. The texture isn’t as velvety as the Small Batch or 10 year labels; oak, a mix of caramel and vanilla, and just a touch of dried fruit come through. Given the heat and given that we’re talking about a rye whiskey, I was admittedly surprised that this wasn’t spicier. The finish is where MBSR excels; and by that I mean, it goes on and on and on (and it might still be going, actually).
A touch of water is the golden ticket here. All of the fruit flavors—apricot and cherry, especially—lurking behind the heat are pulled to the forefront. The oak gives way and some of the natural rye spice also regains its footing, which will make people who specifically picked a barrel strength rye happy. (Rye should taste like rye, after all.) When mixed properly, MBSR essentially becomes a diesel version of Michter’s Small Batch—a great in its own right and preferable to many single barrel offerings—with significantly more pop, added pepper, and a drastically elongated finish.
Value: If you can find this appropriately priced at retail (somewhere in the vicinity of $70), it’s absolutely worth adding to your bar. I prefer it to the other barrel proofs within relative range (OGD and Rare Breed); it would make one hell of a Christmas present if you can find it.
Drinkability: As noted, this is a tough sell to sip neat. But that’s going to be the case for most people tangling with barrel proof whiskey. A splash of water transforms this rye into a very pleasant evening drink, especially when temperatures start to drop.
** Special Thanks to Lillie O’Connell and Michter’s for generously providing areview sample **