By Richard Thomas
Michter’s 10 Year Old Rye is one of the most hotly sought after items on the rye whiskey circuit that is still in semi-regular release. As recently as a few months ago, Wine Searcher traced a price spike for the whiskey, peaking at an average of over $200. That is a hefty 25% mark-up above the recommended retail price, and prices have soared even higher from time to time.
Not much is known about this whiskey, beyond the basic statistics on the bottle: single barrel, 10 year old minimum, 92.4 proof (46.2 % abv). Michter’s is secretive about their sourcing, and won’t even release mashbill information on products such as this. Michter’s started up operation of its own still only last year, so it will be at least a couple of years before some of their in-house spirit appears in even their standard US*1 Rye Whiskey, and a decade or more before it reaches the 10 Year Old.
My review is based on a bottle from the 2014 batch of Michter’s 10 Year Old Rye, and the expression skipped a year after that. The prevailing shortage hysteria tends to make every hiccup in the whiskey trade a result of disappearing stocks, so when Michter’s 10 Year Old Rye skipped 2015, some rumor mongers said supply was drying up.
Shortages had nothing to do with it. Instead, Michter’s Master Distiller Willie Pratt decided the stock allotted was short of its peak, and kept it in the wood. Thus, the missing Michter’s 10 Year Old Rye is now coming out.
In the bottle and glass, the whiskey has the lustrous look common to ryes bottled at this middling proof: an amber standing in the orange and red rather than the brown and red. The nose is packed with floral baking spices, coated with vanilla and tinged with an almost clay-like earthiness. No water required, because from the get-go this is whiskey is a good sniffer, approachable, but also worthy of serious study.
The liquid is smooth and buttery on the tongue, and this despite a spicy and slightly dry dance. The spicy goes from sweet to minty, herbal and a little peppery, although the vanilla bean is still there and gives the flavor its balance. It’s on the finish where the rye spice really takes firm control, leaving a prickly-but-pleasurable aftercoat, the lingering taste of dry wood, and mild, pleasant warmth.
While not the most sophisticated rye I’ve tried, the Michter’s 10 Year Old Rye is easily among the yummiest. It is just complex enough to be genuinely interesting, but not so much so as to diminish what is a supremely easy drinking character. This is exactly the sort of thing you could trot out to whiskey nerds without being ashamed, yet also use to bring curious neophytes up to speed without feeling it was being wasted.
The recommended retail for Michter’s 10 Year Old Rye is $150. As noted before, however, you could see it listed for much more.