Do you ever accidentally do something backwards? That’s how I felt coming into this review. The last time I looked at an expression by Michter’s was with their Barrel Strength Rye. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that it’s a personal favorite. And yet, like most of the brand’s expressions, it’s not exactly sitting on shelves collecting dust. Four bottles comprise Michter’s core lineup. Those few are the ones that most of us see on shelves. For context, there are 12 somewhat recurring releases in the Michter’s lineup that absolutely live up to the word “limited.”
Alluring as these releases can be, there’s always something to be said for bottles that one can just walk into a store and purchase for the suggested retail price. The itch to revisit Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye started eating at me more recently, and rather than indulging, I elected to stave off the craving. One subsequent trip to the store later and their standard Single Barrel Rye was added to my collection. Although the Louisville distillery claims to be aging their own distillate, presently available bottles contain whiskey from an undisclosed source (rumors point to Brown-Forman). My bottle is from barrel 22C772.
Nose: Soft and sweet with some mint, tobacco, and mild pepper. Faint, overripe banana and marshmallow with a subdued herbal note—leaning towards basil. Slightly musty with green tea and a mellow orange undercurrent that blends nicely with the other aromas.
Palate: Natural transition from the nose. Fruit and spice. Mid-palate brings vanilla that gradually transitions to marshmallow. Mouthfeel is light, yet soft and creamy. Brown sugar and some blackberry green tea.
Finish: A touch short; subtle and discrete. Rye shines more here. Light effervescence and brown sugar with hints of herbs while oak tannins intermittently tingle.
Now that’s what I call a comfort zone profile. There are many things I like about Michter’s Single Barrel Rye, from the sweet (but not saccharine) flavors to the soft balance of traditional rye notes, to the general sense of development. “Soft” is the word that keeps coming to mind, which can oftentimes be a red flag. Not so much the case here. I’ll admit the proof point is lower than I’d prefer, given the whiskey is fairly light and can come across as watery on the finish. However, it doesn’t feel thin the way other, similarly proofed bottles can. I’m inclined to attribute that in part to Michter’s alleged lower barrel entry proof. The overall experience is one that works just as well for casual sipping as it does for sitting down and analyzing.
Where Michter’s can be a tough sell is with regards to pricing. Their core lineup hovers around the $40-$50, often leaning closer to $50. And if I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: competition is stiff in that price range. From a sheer personal enjoyment standpoint, I can easily justify the price while being content (if not happy). Yet as soon as we factor in the likes of Sagamore, Stellum, Woodford Reserve, High West Double Rye, and Old Forester, Michter’s could easily (and understandably) fall by the wayside. I think the value proposition is a touch low, but I also don’t go to Michter’s when bang-for-buck is the core metric. It has a profile I gravitate towards and gets me just close enough to its superior, higher proof version to put off another pour. For now.