Barrel Strength

Review: Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye (2020)

For the last several years, Michter’s has knocked it out of the park with their toasted barrel finished whiskies. While they were all of outstanding quality, the one that stood out for me was their Toasted Barrel Finish Rye Whiskey. There was something special about it. Here’s what I wrote about their 2017 release:

The nose is ripe with dark brown sugar, vanilla and a cornucopia of baking spices.  The latter is more pronounced here than in Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye.  On the palate, this toasted barrel-finished rye comes across as rich and bittersweet.  Dark caramel and burnt sugar kick things off, followed by lovely toasted rye bread and a cabinet full of baking spices like allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.  A layer of vanilla cream acts as a counterbalance against all the spice.  The medium-length finish features spiced caramel and a touch of smoke.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Part of the reason is the quality of those custom toasted barrels, which were made from 24 month seasoned wood. The barrel finishing adds layers of baking spice and vanilla richness to an already bold rye whiskey. That rye whiskey also obtains its richness from a lower barrel entry proof. Michter’s new make spirit enters the barrel at 103 proof as opposed to the standard 125 proof used by a lot of other distillers.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye is bottled at cask strength, with the average bottling proof sitting around 109. My sample bottle came in at 110 proof, though it drinks more like a 95 or 100 proof whiskey. As far as tasting notes, I’m keen to ask you to refer to my notes for the 2017 release above. My 2020 sample shows very slight subtleties, such as a touch of burnt orange peel in the mid-palate. After all, these are single barrel releases so slight variance is to be expected. But this goes to show the strict tolerances in keeping their flavor profile intact between releases. Kudos to the Michter’s team. For a suggested retail price of $85, you can’t find a much tastier rye on the market.

Thanks to Michter’s for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey (2019)

One thing Michter’s does well is produce a rich whiskey. Their April 2019 release of barrel strength rye whiskey is no exception. I consider it one of the brand’s trademark characteristics.

Michter’s Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson may have an explanation for that. “The increased corn and malted barley used in the rye recipe really allows the barrel to transform the product into a super smooth, rich, and complex rye whiskey with an elegance on the palate.”

Another factor could be the low barrel entry proof Michter’s employs. Straight whiskey requires barrel entry proof no higher than 125 proof, or 62.5% ABV. Michter’s whiskey goes into the barrel at a much lower 103 proof.

The single barrel whiskies in this release have an average bottling proof of 110.8. My sample bottle, 19C472, is right under that at 109.8 proof. It’s where I’d typically add a splash of water, but not here. This whiskey is fantastic right out of the bottle.

The nose features hints of brown sugar, maple syrup, rye toast, vanilla, and some oak. On the palate, things aren’t as sweet as the nose suggests. Sure, the rich brown sugar is there, but it’s accompanied by orange peel, cardamom, bitter herbs, and rye spice. That last one ramps up in intensity to a satisfying but not overwhelming level. The finish features spiced cocoa, caramel, and tobacco.

Single barrels are different by nature. So while yours may vary a little, the big picture in terms of flavor profile remains constant barrel to barrel. The good news is Michter’s barrel strength rye whiskey is an example of a not-too-spicy rye whiskey with slightly concentrated flavors. It’s the right flavor delivered at the right proof. It’s worth every penny of the suggested retail price of $75. What boggles my mind is why this bold expression isn’t as popular as some of Michter’s older age-stated whiskies. It’s cheaper by a large fraction, but can still be somewhat easily found. I guess that just means there is more for the rest of us. Highly recommended. 8.5/10

michters.com

Thanks to Michter’s for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Old Ezra Barrel Strength Bourbon

When this bottle of Old Ezra came across my sample table, the idea of a 7-year-old barrel strength bourbon excited me. The fact that it’s available for less than $40 is icing on the cake.

From a value standpoint, Old Ezra Barrel Strength checks off all the boxes on paper. But most important of all – is it any good?

It is, friends. In spades.

The nose is bold and full of rich caramel, spice, and some nuttiness. Taste-wise, Old Ezra Barrel Strength is full-bodied and robust, featuring hints of salted caramel, toasted oak, and black pepper. The finish is warm, with lingering cinnamon and toffee notes.

Luxco has another hit on their hands with this one. I hope Old Ezra Barrel Strength is a whiskey we can easily find on shelves. Luxco hasn’t made any mention of this being a limited release in press materials.

I can’t say it enough – this bourbon is fantastic! It’s on my shortlist as one of my favorite bourbons released in 2018. I know the flavor profiles are different and all, but this gives Booker’s a run for its money. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how huge a Booker’s fan I am.

Highly recommended. 8.5/10

Luxco.com

Thanks to Luxco for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.