REVIEW: Michter’s 10 Year Rye (2017 release)

 

Michter’s 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey
Barrel #17A37
92.8 Proof

The 2017 incarnation of Michter’s 10 Year Rye is the first release greenlit by new Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann. If you had concerns about quality lost in the changeover from Willie Pratt—and I’ll confess that I did, simply because the 2016 release was that good—let go of them. Right now. This is excellent whiskey and worth every cent of its top-shelf MSRP.

The nose on M10R is a storybook grandmother’s kitchen: brown sugar, sweet caramel, and banana bread. This is something of a departure from last year’s batch, which did have hints of sweetness but also featured a more pronounced spiciness (mainly a mix of cinnamon and black pepper). As with last year, the texture is all velvet. Unlike 2016, Heilmann’s initial rye run has primary notes of wood and leather, with background hints of banana bread, cinnamon, and citrus. This isn’t a “hot” whiskey by any means (and at 92.8 proof, I didn’t expect it to be), and it’s finish isn’t massive in terms of burn, but it seems to linger forever. More importantly, M10R comes with the signature warmth from start to finish that makes it—in my humble opinion—the best rye on the market for the second straight year, which is really saying something given my affinity for WhistlePig 10.

For all of tmichters 10 rye 2017his praise, there is also a catch. While not as absurdly difficult to find on store shelves at the Van Winkle line or the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Michter’s 10 Year offerings (not to mention the unattainable 25 Year special release) are moving in that direction. As more and more folks find out just how good these bottles are, the more the flippers take notice, and the higher secondary prices climb. I’m generally not an advocate of bottle hoarding. But if you find a few of these on the shelf at MSRP, grab them all, they’re worth the investment.

Value: Normally, at $150, I would have a hard time giving a bottle two thumbs up in this category, but M10R is the exception that proves the rule for me. If you can find this at MSRP, buy it.

Drinkability: Highest. (Though, ironically, I’d probably share bottles with much higher price tags on the secondary market with house guests before I parted with too many drams of this one.)

Overall: 9.4 (edges 2016 by a tenth of a point)

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REVIEW: Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey

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.

michters bsrw.jpgThe 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.

Overall: 8.4

** Special Thanks to Lillie O’Connell and Michter’s for generously providing areview sample **