By Richard Thomas
The Kentucky Bourbon Affair is a celebrated fantasy camp held every year in late Spring, centered on Louisville. It’s not hard to see why its so celebrated. Individual events this year included a tour of the newly opened Bulleit Distillery in Shelbyville (something I haven’t been invited to do yet!), several private barrel selection events, and plenty of fine dining coupled to the host distillery’s whiskey.
A feature of this year’s event docket was visiting the Michter’s Distillery (one of many Kentucky Bourbon Affair destinations not open to the general public) for lunch and to mark the release of the Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Bourbon. Although the have a similar version of their US*1 Rye in periodic release, Michter’s has never released a cask strength version of their staple bourbon before. They did so this year specifically for the Kentucky Bourbon Affair, and participants in the Michter’s luncheons got a bottle to take home with them.
Given that Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye has a cadre of diehard fans, including our Deputy Editor Kurt Maitland, I’m sure there are people out there who will be very eager to get their hands on this. For them, I have some very mixed news. The good part is that it’s available beyond the Kentucky Bourbon Affair, and the bad part is that it’s a Kentucky-only release. You’ll need to come down to the Commonwealth (or reach out to a friend here) to get a bottle.
In terms of looks, this bourbon are a middling amber leaning hard into red and above middling viscosity. A swish and coat drops some heavy, slow moving tears.
The nose is thick with vanilla and candy corn, seasoned with hints of anise and citrus zest, and just a trace of oak. What is more, there isn’t even a hint of burn to it, which is a pretty good sign for a 110.6 proof (55.3% ABV) bourbon. Like it’s rye cousin, this whiskey has a big, bold scent, without even the slightest harshness to it.
The potency is more evident on the palate. Vanilla and brown sugar meet campfire-roasted corn, with a little of that heat-driven spiciness rising up from back to front. It’s not so much, however, that I think the whiskey actually requires water, although it’s improved by just a few drops worth. As I discovered after my initial tasting, just a little dilution from an ice cube (this is mid-June) is enough to take care of it.
From there, a light, slightly tannic finish and plenty of 110-proof warmth.
As is so often the case in American whiskey, taking the proof up to a sweet spot found somewhere in the zone between 100 and 120 improves the product. That is the case with Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, it’s the case here too, and it’s the case for several other expressions.
This Kentucky-only item has a suggested retail price of $75.