MICHTER’S SINGLE BARREL 10 YEAR RYE
Barrel No. 18E595 (2018)
MASH BILL – Undisclosed
PROOF – 92.8
AGE – 10 years
DISTILLERY – Michter’s Distillery (sourced)
PRICE – $141
BUY AGAIN? – If I found it at msrp, was feeling flush, and nothing else was vying for my $$$, I might.
Michter’s is a bit of a conundrum for some people. Their products are generally well regarded from the standpoint of taste. But high prices combined with undisclosed sourcing can be a turn off. Add to that a 2015 legal tussle with a smaller company, Pennsylvania-based Bomberger’s Distillery, around the use of the name “Bomberger’s.” Although Michter’s won out, the incident took on a David & Goliath aspect in the popular attention, not in Michter’s favor. And, perhaps stemming from the inter-state conflict, a rather petty complaint pops up from time to time: company president Joseph J. Magliocco’s New York accent.
I’m rather ambivalent about these aspects of Michter’s. Their prices are indeed on the high side, so I’m not a frequent buyer and haven’t explored their full line. But after looking into their meticulous process of selecting entry proofs, bottling proofs, and even chill filtrations specific to each product, I do see the justification. By not settling for a one-size-fits-all approach, Michter’s increases the labor that goes into making each product.
I’d enjoyed their 10 year single barrel bourbon very much, without being blown away by it. And when you’re paying three digits you want to be blown away. But it was impressive enough that, being a big ol’ rye fan, when I came across a bottle of their 10 year single barrel rye at a decent price I went for it.
When I uncorked it, the cork snapped in half. Having gone through innumerable vintage Wild Turkey cork crises, I knew what to do. Luckily the broken Michter’s cork did not crumble and was easily extracted. This mix of failure and success made an appropriate prelude to the tasting experience itself.
Here are some notes in brief, taken three pours into the bottle the day after uncorking, and sampled in a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – an utterly gorgeous orange, with flecks of yellow, gold, and russet red
NOSE – very fragrant, with rye grasses, sun-dried moss on oak bark, honeydew melon, black pepper, and a very rich caramel
TASTE – the caramel and herbaceous elements seamlessly blended right up front, then more caramel, some of the honey without the honeydew melon, the black pepper, very faint and pleasant oak tannins, all with a silky but slightly gooey texture like a warm melted caramel sauce
FINISH – lingers a medium-long time, but so subtly, with the caramels, rye florals, some oak with a hint of tannins, now some faint peanut, and just a dusting of the black pepper
OVERALL – clean, elegant, refined, so smooth, with a strong nose and taste, then a notably underwhelming finish
Much like its 10 year bourbon cousin, this rye strikes that peculiar balance of being at once impressive and forgettable. The nose is remarkable, with a unique combination of caramel and herbal elements I don’t immediately associate with other rye experiences. It may indeed be my favorite aspect of this whiskey. It comes on very strong, but not like a Booker’s or an Old Potrero. The aromas are intense, but very pretty and elegant, with just the hint of a dark side adding intrigue.
The taste then carries on from the nose, fulfilling its promise with similar flavors, intensity, and elegance. The finish at first made me believe it was on board for the ride. But there the flavors quickly dial down their already tempered intensity to such a degree that the finish doesn’t feel as long as it actually is.
I like this rye. I liked it right away. And I know I will enjoy it. I don’t know that I’ll ever buy it again. I’m ultimately a bigger fan of intensity. I like rollercoasters that throw me around. I like sunsets that erupt with color. I do like quiet meditations by a small lake, but for hours. For shorter communions with nature I prefer a massive ocean. So a tasty, subtle rye that doesn’t stick around for the finish is not something I’m going to open my wallet for often.
Overall, this 2018 edition of Michter’s Single Barrel 10 Year Rye is good. It doesn’t demand attention and it will talk with you very congenially, if you take the time to engage it without expecting spectacular insights. It’s articulate but subtle. It actually might rather listen to you than have to say much itself.
What does all that personification mean? (Other than I’m a theatre maker who can’t help but seek out metaphors? 🎭) It means that unless the price puts you off, you’ll enjoy this whiskey, and it will make a great accompaniment to pleasant conversations with friends. It’s not a party whiskey. More of a dinner party whiskey. That lingering conversation you thoroughly enjoy in the moment but don’t think back on too often afterwards.