With strong ties to a distilling legacy spanning over 250 years, the Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, KY, has been producing a comprehensive range of award-winning American whiskies since the brand was resurrected by Company President Joseph Magliocco in the 1990’s. Now distilling in their own facilities since August of 2015, the Michter’s brand has seen a quick return to global recognition for the quality of both their own and their sourced whiskies under Master Distiller Dan McKee, Master Distiller Emeritus Pam Heilmann – the first woman to serve as a Master Distiller at a Kentucky Distiller’s Association distillery since prohibition, and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson – the first woman to ever serve as Chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association.
The Michter’s core range of whiskies, which are bottled under their popular US☆1 line, consists of their small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon, their single-barrel Kentucky Straight Rye, their small batch Unblended American Whiskey, their small batch Original Sour Mash American Whiskey, and several limited edition variations of these. Their age –stated whiskies, which are bottled under their 10 year old, 20 year old, and 25 year old labels consist of straight Kentucky bourbon and rye whiskey which come from sourced stocks and are released on a ‘when-ready’ basis to eager fans. In recent years Michter’s have also released two innovative satellite brands – Shenk’s Homestead Sour Mash Whiskey, and Bomberger’s Declaration Kentucky Straight Bourbon – which honour the heritage of the Michter’s brand.
Since reviving and revitalising the once-famous Michter’s brand, Michter’s Distillery in KY have earned a proud reputation for the quality of their award-winning bourbon, rye, and American whiskies. Of these styles, however, it can be argued that their firm dedication to single-barrel KY-style rye whiskey has produced a calibre of whiskies which stand head and shoulders above the rest and make up some of their finest releases. There’s the core rye – US☆1 single barrel rye; the premium rye – 10y.o. single barrel rye (which is rumoured to regularly feature 13y.o.+ stocks); the very limited release rye – US☆1 barrel strength toasted barrel finish rye, the ultra-mythical rye – 25 y.o. rye, and let’s not forget the ever-sought-after rye – their US☆1 single barrel rye bottled at barrel strength. All these whiskies have put Michter’s on the map as a dedicated rye producer putting out rye whiskies which are full of flavour, drinkable as hell, go great neat or in cocktails and are on par or better than anything their put against. To produce these rocking rye whiskies, they start with a Kentucky-style rye mashbill that has a very low percentage of rye and a higher percentage of corn. These rye stocks are then aged in custom deep-toast and charred ‘Michter’s’ barrels, put into the barrel at the lowest proof in the industry- 103 proof, and aged to maturity in heat-cycled warehouses before being dumped as a single barrel, run through a custom chill filtration protocol, and bottled at the chosen proof or at barrel strength. This produces Michter’s target profile of a rye whiskey which retains its grain character whilst showing the delicate interplay between the impact of the casks, the flavour effects of maturing at a lower proof (more wood sugars present in the final product), and the art of filtration.
Today I’ll be taking a look at the 2022 release of Michter’s US☆1 single barrel rye bottled at barrel strength (try say that 5 times fast after having a few pours of this whiskey!) This whiskey was announced in March and is the third release of their barrel strength rye since 2019, with the average proof of the barrels being 111.6 proof.
Name: Michter’s US☆1 Barrel Strength Rye (Barrel #22B325)
Age: NAS (between 6 – 8 y.o.)
Proof: 109.2 Proof (54.6% ABV)
Type: KY straight rye whiskey
Mashbill: Not disclosed (minimum 51% rye grain)
Producer: Michter’s Distillery LLC, KY
Nose: The nose opens complex, sweet, and peppery with dark caramel, white pepper, luscious red and black fruit, thick warm toasted oak, dry baking spices, herbaceous rye, and a touch of bitter char. As you nose deeper the caramel notes go darker, the rye notes become more peppery with more warm tannic/fruity toasted oak notes emerge as you nose deeper.
Palate: The palate opens viscous with warm toasted nuts sprinkled over sweet red fruits that have been stewed in warm caramel, before herbaceous rye spice builds on the palate giving peppery notes, baking spices, a touch of grassiness, and sweet toasted oak tannins. As you continue to chew the spice recedes to give more toasted nuts alongside dry charred oak, lingering rye spice, dark chocolate, and thicker toasted oak notes.
Finish: The finish opens with lingering heat, sweetness, and a dry roasted nut note. This is followed by subtle white pepper rye that leads into a herbaceous aftertaste that’s heavily accented with drying toasted oak tannin notes.
If you’ve ever wondered why Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye is one of their most sought-after limited releases, this whiskey is the answer. Bold complex flavours shine alongside peppery herbaceous rye spice, and sweet red-fruit forward toasted oak notes give you a barrel strength rye whiskey experience you’re not going to forget any time soon! Honestly, I have yet to taste one of these that has missed the mark and Michter’s skill in weeding out barrels that don’t match their exacting standards is second to none. As with most whiskies that are finished or aged in heavily toasted barrels, having a pour and then leaving an inch or so of air in the bottle does wonders by helping some of those oak tannins to oxidise and dissipate, allowing the profile to unpack itself for future pours. In this case, for the first two weeks that I had this open, I got a very distinct circus peanuts note that I had never gotten from a Michter’s whiskey before. A few weeks (and a few pours) later, poof! No matter how hard I go looking for it, the peanut note isn’t there anymore. In its place are warm toasted oak notes giving mostly soft-red fruit and near-butterscotch notes as opposed to the dry and earthy circus peanut note. I know people can get touchy around the subject of neck pours but this has been my experience specifically with whiskies that have been aged or finished in a heavily toasted barrel.
As mentioned in my review of the 2021 release of Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye, the past few years have seen us blessed with what seems like increasingly regular releases of Michter’s Barrel Strength rye. This isn’t just great for fans or those hoping to get their hands on a bottle, but also means that if you’ve been lucky enough to have bottles from previous releases you can have yourself a nice little side-by-side tasting to taste the differences that can be found across barrels. When I compared my 2019, 2021, and 2022 bottlings I found the 2022 release to be sweet and fruit-forward with some decent rye spice and toasted oak notes, whereas the 2021 had more butterscotch, toasted oak tannins, spice, and a consistently darker profile overall with charred oak exerting its influence. The 2019, in comparison, was the most fruit-forward of the lot with much less toasted oak influence and more rye-driven herbaceous notes. Of the three, overall the 2022 tasted the most balanced across its flavours with a near-perfect harmony between the various flavour elements giving you a rye whiskey that does an excellent job in representing both the style and the brand with pride.
By combining the knowledge of their Distillation and Maturation teams, Michter’s continue to produce some of the most sought-after annual limited releases and so it’s no surprise that their limited release rye whiskies top my ‘to buy’ list every year. By exercising acute attention to the minute details of production, their hard work and dedication continue to pay dividends for both the brand and their fans who consistently get some of the best whiskies to come out of KY. Hopefully, as they continue to innovate we might see a 10-year-old barrel strength soon, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
Try or Buy?
With a recommended retail price of around $100, existing fans of Michter’s rye can buy this with confidence. If you’re new to Michter’s products and not sure if you want to drop a $100 on a single bottle, then I’d recommend you try this first from a bar or a friend. If you see this on the shelf for near MSRP and you can make it happen, know that the opportunity might not come again and choose wisely.