Michter’s Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Rye Review

Whiskey Name: Michter’s Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Rye

Distillery: Michter’s has this contract distilled. But are tight-lipped on by whom.

Whiskey Type: Straight rye 

Release Date: 2017

Price: £98 - £110 depending on where you shop

Age: NAS

ABV: Mine is 54.4%. I gather the proofs vary a little. 

Mashbill: Not disclosed. 

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Introduction/Background: Michter’s commission a bloody good rye. The standard issue is a very solid pour indeed, and the barrel proof was a worthy winner of BBS ‘Rye of the Year’ 2017.

So there was some excitement when news filtered through that the latest limited release from Michter’s was a barrel proof rye with a toasted barrel finish. Which is to say that they’ve taken their standard barrel proof rye, and dumped it into a brand new virgin oak toasted barrel for a few extra weeks.

This isn’t the first time Michter’s have played around with toasted barrel finishes. A few years back they released a bourbon that had undergone the process. But that wasn’t barrel proof, and – for my money – Michter’s are better at rye than at bourbon. (Until you get to the really high age stuff, but that’s another story and price league).  

Anyhow, the toasted oak rye landed in the UK about a month ago, since when BBS members have been buying it by the bucket-load. (Or barrel-load, perhaps?) Great to see a limited release available on UK shelves, and great to see it priced pretty closely to the standard barrel proof.

Appearance: Darker than the standard, as you’d expect. Horse chestnut.

Nose: Good grief! About as big an upfront caramel and toffee hit as I can remember. Chocolate too – like Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Caramel. Once you’ve adjusted there’s rather a lot of menthol and Eucalyptus, Coonawarra Cabernet-style, alongside charcoal and a smatter of dusky herbs. The leather and cigar humidor of the standard barrel proof rye is still here too though; the Michter’s DNA certainly hasn’t been swamped.

Mouth: Thick, viscous mouthfeel. Hugely mouthcoating for a rye, really. Caramel, muscovado and post-mix cola is cut through by immense rye and oak spiciness. Sweet cinnamon and liquorice. Lashings of black pepper, nutmeg and allspice. Skewer their way through the caramel, meaning balance is just about maintained despite the enormousness of the pour. Black cherry fruit on the side.

Finish: Spices win out, as you’d expect.

Value for Money: It certainly isn’t cheap, but the quality matches the price.

Summary: Huge. That body, by rye standards, is insanely big. Flavours (and especially aromas) are gargantuan too, which means this more than copes with its alcohol level. There really isn’t much burn at all, given the strength.

There may be those who think it’s a little too much, and prefer the drier, more classic elements of the standard barrel proof, but as for me I think it’s a riot. It would certainly be difficult to love Balcones as much as I do and not have a place in my heart for this.

I’m on the fence as to whether I prefer this to the standard barrel proof bottling; they’re definitely different animals. I’d probably drink the standard more often; this one’s practically a meal in a glass. But hats off to Michter’s; they’ve found a new take on rye, and it’s absolutely fantastic.

Overall Verdict: Awesome. And brilliant fun too. I need a lie down.