Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye Review

Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye

Whiskey Name: Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye

Distillery: See Michter’s Toasted Rye

Whiskey Type: Straight rye

Release Date: Batches started being released in 2015.

Price: £90

Age: NAS

ABV: Mine is 53.9. Proofs may vary.

Mashbill: Undisclosed

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Introduction/Background: Not much more to say that wasn’t covered in last week’s Toasted Rye review.

Michter’s make one of the most respected ryes out there, and for many the Barrel Proof edges out the 10-year-old as the peak of their contract-distilled juice. (Though now that the Toasted Barrel has been launched, the debate has only grown more convoluted).

It’s certainly good enough to have been voted our Rye of the Year in 2017, and though it naturally varies a little from batch to batch, I’ve always found it pretty consistent.

Whilst working from a sample of the Toasted Rye last week I thought I ought to side-by-side it with the standard issue. Out of respect.

So I did, and here’s what I thought:  

Appearance: Deep, though a smidge less so than the toasted. (Would be weird if it wasn’t, of course)

Nose: Not quite as intense as the Toasted, though still a big rye nose. Much more on the dry side, and all about richness and depth. Less of the caramel, more of the leather and cigar. In fact, make that cigar box. Fruit blooms from the depths; blackcurrants and blackberries. With time those black fruits take on an almost jus-like aspect; the sort of thing you’d find served with game at the restaurants I can’t afford to eat at.

Mouth: Fierce and firm arrival. More intense than the nose. Booze is prominent, but flavour concentration keeps it in check. Not quite the heft of body that the Toasted has, but more than a high-rye from MGPI would. The corn content of the pour has more weight here; sweeter caramels and oils, particularly on delivery. That settles back into the leather and walnut wood aspect. Something bit like stepping into one of those old libraries.

Finish: Spices arrive alongside dried fruits. Nutmeg and raisin. Almost – dare I say it? – Christmas cake. No, it’s after 6th January. I don’t dare. Fruitcake. Long, and gradually drying.

Value for Money: Again, see the Toasted.

Summary: No real shocks here: this is a cracking rye.

What’s really great though is the scale of difference between this and the Toasted. Although certain family traits show through, these are two very individual beasts. The Toasted is sweet, mouthfilling, opulent whiskey, whilst this kit is drier; more shirt-and-tie, drawing room stuff.

I’m still on the fence as to which is my favourite. The Toasted has a bigger nose, and is probably more accessible in terms of flavour. But perhaps it comes down to whether your tooth is more sweet or savoury.

Gun to my head I think that the Toasted probably edges it for quality and for sheer size of personality. But I reckon I personally prefer this standard-issue juice. How’s that for inconclusiveness?

The point is, there’s more than a place for both of them. Takes all sorts, after all.

Overall Verdict: Comfortably in the must-try category. A modern classic.