Michter’s 10y.o. Single Barrel Rye (2022 Release) Review

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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 and inductee to the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame®.

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.

Since the first release of whiskey from the once-abandoned brand, Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, KY have earned a proud reputation for the quality of its whiskies. Of the various styles they produce, anyone can see that their commitment to single-barrel KY-style rye whiskey has created a range of whiskies which stand head and shoulders above anything they’re compared to. Why do I say this? Because Michter’s employs a combination of rigorous standards, traditional production methods, state-of-the-art science, and a ‘cost be damned!’ approach to achieve this distinction.

Michter’s rye whiskies are Kentucky-style rye which has a low percentage of rye grain and a higher percentage of corn. The grain used is of the highest quality available and is milled, fermented, and distilled on site before being put into custom deep-toast and charred ‘Michter’s’ barrels at the lowest proof in the industry- 103 proof, and aged to maturity in heat-cycled warehouses. Once ready, the whiskey is dumped as a single barrel, run through a custom chill filtration protocol, and bottled with detailed monitoring, analysis, and quality checks at every step in a collaborative effort combining the expertise of Master Distiller Dan McKee, Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson, and their dedicated teams. What happens if the whiskey doesn’t meet these rigorous standards? It’s either held back for additional maturation, or it’s sent to the ethanol plant across the street to be destroyed and converted into fuel ethanol. The result has been consistent releases of beautifully-aged rye whiskies which typically run much older than the 10-year age statement on the bottle and are my designated ‘desert island’ whiskey.

Today I’ll be taking a look at the very limited release of Michter’s 10 y.o. Kentucky straight rye which will be Michter’s only bottling of this rye whiskey in 2022 (due to ongoing shortages of mature stock and sky-high global demand). It’s worth noting that this year Michter’s have announced that there will be no release of their 10 y.o. single barrel Bourbon as the whiskey is not deemed to have reached its peak maturation and flavour yet. This has led many to believe that this year’s rye is going to be something very special with Michter’s President Joseph J. Magliocco confirming, “It may be the only release we do of a 10 Year whiskey this year, but it’s a really special one. At Michter’s it’s about never compromising on quality rather than maximizing sales.”  When speaking about this release Dan McKee and Andrea Wilson are quoted as follows:

“Given that we’re holding back our 10 Year Bourbon until 2023, I’m especially happy to be releasing our 10 Year Rye this summer. It’s one of my very favourite releases.” Dan McKee – Master Distiller

“This year’s Michter’s 10 Year Rye continues to provide a consistent, rich and complex experience with beautiful spice and citrus surrounded by decadent chocolate, caramel and fruit. It is the exceptional balance of sweet and spice with a subtle hint of oak maturity that makes Michter’s so special to those who appreciate a Kentucky style rye.” Andrea Wilson – Master of Maturation

Vital Stats:

Name:  Michter’s 10-Year Kentucky Straight Rye (Barrel #22E1671)
Age: 10 years old (rumoured to be older than this statement)
Proof: 92.8 Proof ( 46.4% ABV)
Type: Straight rye whiskey
Mashbill: Exact mashbill is not disclosed, however, this is a Kentucky style rye so we can assume the percentage of rye is close to 51% with the remainder being corn and a touch of malted barley.
Producer: Michter’s Distillery, KY
Website:https://michters.com/whiskey/10-year-kentucky-straight-rye/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with a complex blend of deep caramel shot through with herbaceous rye grain, warm baking spices, and soft stewed red fruit. This is followed by warm rye bread, a touch of toasted oak sweetness, and barrel notes of faint clove and cacao powder. As you nose deeper the herbaceous mint notes, fruit notes, and toasted oak notes all become increasingly robust. 

Palate: The palate opens viscous with dark caramels, bold fruit notes, and warm baking spice notes before a flash of white pepper spice and thick herbaceous rye washes across the mid-palate adding further warm toasted and charred oak notes. As the spice fades the mint and fruit notes remain in the background, with baking spice, barrel spice, dark chocolate, and warm rye bread notes generously layered on top.

Finish: The finish opens with warm lingering spice, dark caramels, herbaceous mint, dried black fruit, dark barrel spice notes, and a long aftertaste of dry rye, barrel mint, and bitter cacao.

Overall

When tasting one of these releases the question is never is it delicious? – because I’ve yet to taste a release I didn’t like. Instead, the questions in my mind are 1) how delicious is it? and 2) how does it compare to previous standout releases?

The first thing about this year’s release is to state the obvious: it’s complex, deep-flavoured, and packed with everything I could have asked for. Even trying to capture and reflect the scope of the flavour complexity, the intricate depth, and the subtle nuance in words is a ridiculously difficult task. All I can say is above anything else this tastes like a luxury rye whiskey and delivers its flavours with the elegance of a Michelin-star level dessert. What stood out most about this release were the rich mint notes which stayed present throughout and wrapped themselves around the other flavours to give the perfect rye experience.

After establishing how delicious this is, the second thing was to see how it compares to the previous two releases. The 2020 and 2021 releases were delicious in their own right, so the 2022 release had some tough competition. Tasted side by side, I found the 2021 release to have more complex fruit notes with these turning a touch tart as they develop on the palate and very little mint overall. The 2020 release had a more developed rye spice and grain note profile with a touch more mint than 2021 but nowhere near the intensity and complexity of what we get in the 2022 release. Tasted blind, the 2022 was as clear as a bell even in unmarked glasses and is the better whiskey overall with a more balanced profile across its flavours of caramel, fruit, baking spices, mint, and oak with those delicious oak notes being bolstered by the mint and hinting at older stocks being drawn from to meet the promise of being something special. This is further supported by the fact that of the three it is the darker whiskey as confirmed by naive observers recruited from unsuspecting friends and family.

At this point, we’re probably drinking what Michter’s had contract distilled in phase 2 of their resurrection of the brand. This may go some way to explaining why the flavours here are so complex and rich as these would have been barrelled into a deep toasted Michter’s barrel at their signature 103 proof. What barrelling at this proof does is it allows more interplay between the spirit and the sugars in the toasted oak creating a whiskey with far more flavour and complexity than one that was barrelled at 125 proof. It also means that less water is required to bring the whiskey from Michter’s standard barrel proof (approx. 110 proof) down to bottling proof (92.8 proof) leaving more flavour in the final product.

As Michter’s Phase 3 Shively distillate starts to filter into more releases my hope is we continue to get deliciously complex and rich whiskies reflective of the hard work, close collaboration, and attention to detail that went into producing them. Since Dan McKee has taken the reins as Master Distiller, the collaboration between his team, the tasting panel, and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson’s team has produced some of the best whiskies I’ve tasted to date. In fact, this year’s rye is so good I can almost forgive Michter’s for not giving us a 10-year-old bourbon this year!

Try or Buy?

The suggested retail price for this year’s bottling has increased $10 to $180, making this a whiskey I have to recommend you try before you buy. Historically these higher prices have been reflective of older stocks being bottled under the 10-year label, however, as this release tastes and appears older in colour than last year’s release (which was rumoured to be in the neighbourhood of 14 years old) I’d say we’re dealing with something more mature this year.

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