Michter’s Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Finish Barrel No. 20H1762 (2020)

MASH BILL – unknown

PROOF – 110.4


DISTILLERY – Michter’s Distillery

PRICE – $130

BUY AGAIN? – No, due to both $$$ and taste. But it’s a welcomed wild ride in my whiskey journey.

My journey with Michter’s has been marked by my reluctance to pay the high prices they ask for products that I find, on the one hand, extremely well made and very tasty, and yet, on the other hand, underwhelming and forgettable.

It’s a stupefying paradox. The brand is like a big budget Hollywood mystery—slick yet somehow false. That I can’t crack it annoys me. So, despite their veiled sourcing and high prices putting me off, I keep paying for yet another round to see what else I might find that could make clear to me why their whiskeys nose and taste so very good, only to then, on the finish, bail from both the glass and my memory.

So let’s get to this barrel strength, toasted barrel finished rye. Here are some notes in brief, taken a week after uncorking and a couple pours into the bottle, tasted in a Canadian Glencairn.

COLOR – deep, rich, vibrant oranges, like fire

NOSE – woah! Old fashioned handmade caramel hard candies, sweet burnt marshmallow, a squeeze of lemon on overly toasted rye bread, toasted honey, bacon, tangy BBQ sauce, bright and zesty wild herbs of some kind

TASTE – the woah continues… very true to the nose, with that brash mix of burnt and toasted marshmallows and breads, some of the lemon juice, and the caramel quite subsumed by the now sharply tangy BBQ sauce

FINISH – a pepperiness that’s somehow both faint and painful, the burnt bits, a distant whiff of the caramel, everything fading pretty quickly leaving an almost cooling heat at the back of the throat to linger longest

OVERALL – very different from any other Michter’s experience I’ve had to date, so, refreshing in that regard and legitimately intriguing, but also not my favorite experience…

This is a brash beast, that’s for certain. It really took me by surprise. If I didn’t know it was Michter’s I never would have guessed it. The flavor profile is profoundly different, with nothing of the familiar floral bouquet and particular bright caramel I’ve found across their line—whether the 10 year bourbon, the 10 year rye, Shenk’s, or Bomberger’s… The only familiar aspect is the whiskey’s gorgeous range of colors.

As usual, the label carefully offers no clarity as to where the rye is distilled. My assumption is that it is sourced like most of their products. However, enough years have passed that it’s possible their own make is starting to find its way into things. It’s not crystal clear whether this toasted barrel release is a single barrel. The “Finish Barrel No” on the bottle’s neck would suggest it might be. But nowhere are the words “single barrel” used, as they are on other single barrel products offered by Michter’s. And a single finishing barrel may have been filled with a blend of multiple other barrels. (A visit to the Michter’s website is of no help—as of this post, the info there is still in reference to the 2017 release.) So, in theory the whiskey could be 100% sourced, 100% Michter’s make, or some blend of both.

That it tastes so different from any other Michter’s product I’ve tried leads me to suspect it’s either their own distillate or else sourced from somewhere different than their other products. It could also be that the impact of the toasted barrel finishing is so profound as to alter the flavor profile entirely.

It’s a fascinating puzzle of a whiskey. So assertive and distinct in its personality. I can’t say I like it, to be honest. But I’m genuinely intrigued by it. It’s like some amazing baked dessert, made of exceptional ingredients, that accidentally got burnt, and, in the mayhem of pulling it smoking from the oven, someone knocked over some BBQ sauce on it. It almost works. For me, it almost works. For someone else it might be paradise in a glass. But there’s just something sharp about the burnt breads, burnt sugars and tangy BBQ sauce that I can’t fully go for.

I did also try a bit in a traditional Glencairn. There it was notably less forceful, and the caramel was able to surface more through the burnt ruins of the sugary dessert. But the unappealing aspects remain. I do like burnt toast lathered in butter, charred meat fresh off the grill, and flaming marshmallows toasted over a smoky campfire. But up to a point. This Michter’s Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Finish Rye crosses that point for me.

Well. My wayward journey with Michter’s continues, this time with a welcomed unexpected curve in the road, even if that curve didn’t take me somewhere I care to go. It certainly woke me up, I’ll give it that! And that’s something I can appreciate. I’ve seen theater, movies, and other art that had a similar impact—not something I fully enjoyed, but I really appreciated how it threw me for a loop and woke up my senses.

Cheers to the unexpected!

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