By Richard Thomas
Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye and their Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon are among the popular favorites of the company. That high octane Rye of theirs has a cadre of ardent fans in the American Whiskey blogosphere in particular, while the Toasted Barrel Bourbon has brought out the best potential of the double new barrel Bourbon concept and consequently earned some serious love among enthusiasts.
In hindsight, it was probably only a matter of time before Michter’s applied a toasted barrel finish to their Rye. Shooting for a home run, they chose to cross the streams of two favorites and give us a cask strength, double new barrel whiskey.
For it’s part, double new barrel aging differs from conventional finishing in that both primary and secondary maturation take place in new white oak. Finishing usually involves a used barrel of some kind, and in the uncommon instances when the secondary cask is new, it’s in Scotland or Ireland and the primary casks were used. Whiskeys of this type, such as Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and Jim Beam Double Oak, are noted for their intensely vanilla sweet characters. Insofar as I know, double new barrel aging hasn’t been used on a Rye Whiskey before now, making this not just a combination of two popular product concepts, but a novel expression in and of itself as well.
As a cask strength Rye, the whiskey clocks in at a respectable 110 proof (55% ABV), typical for the Barrel Strength Rye series. On the double new barrel side, after primary maturation the whiskey was rested in a fresh set of new, toasted barrels made from air-dried rather than kiln-dried staves. This is also an unbilled single barrel product. Michter’s told me they transferred the whiskey from the original barrel directly to the second, new oak toasted barrel without batching it.
The Michter’s Toasted Rye has a reddened copper look in the glass, and coating that glass leaves behind plenty of skinny legs. The nose smacks of enough baking spices to fill a whole shelf on the spice rack, plus notes of fruit syrup, toffee and musty wood.
I found the whiskey had a light, silken texture on my tongue, but I also found it a little too hot in my initial sips. That was a little disconcerting compared to past experiences with the base Barrel Strength Rye expression, nevermind for a whiskey under 120 proof. In any case, in went a splash of water, and that fixed things right up.
The flavor was thick with the aforementioned baking spices (allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon) and a hefty dollop of vanilla, along with a tablespoonful of cherry syrup. Although the palate is less complex than the nose, it’s got just as big a body. The finish is fairly short and light, with a touch of syrupy sweetness and a touch of barrel char.
Whereas the double barrel treatment gives Michter’s standard US*1 Bourbon something extra and special, it doesn’t do that when applied to their Barrel Strength Rye it. Instead, the finish works as an example of creating a new expression that is not necessarily better. While certainly different, I think it remains on the same par as the whiskey from which it is derived. In any case, it’s a limited edition and (at present) a one-time deal, so if you are a diehard fan of cask strength Ryes, you need to snag yourself one.
The recommended price tag is $75.