Barrel Strength

Michter’s US*1 Toasted Barrel Finish Rye Whiskey Review

Oh boy!  

Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Rye is one of my favorite uncut whiskies.  It’s not the most complex rye I’ve tasted from Michter’s.  Their 10-year-old rye holds that honor.  However, the barrel strength rye is an extremely enjoyable pour full of rye spice and brown sugar richness.

With this new release, Michter’s takes that rye whiskey and lets it rest in toasted barrels for a short amount of time, just like their previous releases of Toasted Barrel Bourbon.  This is the first time they’ve barrel finished a rye.  The barrels used for the finishing process, as the name implies, have been toasted and not charred.  The wood used for the barrels was air dried for 24 months.

What does this toasted barrel do to the base rye whiskey?  In short, it intensifies the flavors.

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.

Wow.  The barrel finishing added a different dimension to Michter’s rye whiskey character.  To add even more uniqueness, this release is a single barrel whiskey, which means each barrel could be slightly different.  My 110 proof sample came from barrel 17C570.  It’s simply fantastically rich and flavorful.  The price is right, too.  $75 for a 750ml bottle.  Now the bad news – this is a limited release and not a regular offering.  Fans of Michter’s rye whiskies should rush to pick this one up.  9/10


Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” Review

Photo credit: Booker’s Bourbon

As autumn hits us, so does a new batch of Booker’s bourbon.  The fifth batch of 2016, “Off Your Rocker,” references both late Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe’s favorite chair and his lively personality.  A statue of Booker sitting in a rocking chair can be found on the grounds of the Jim Beam distillery.  As for the man himself, he was known as a straight shooter and a funny guy.  I just started reading a new book about Booker’s life – “The Big Man of Jim Beam” by Jim Kokoris.  So far, it’s a great read about an interesting, larger-than-life man.  I’ll share some thoughts on the book soon.  In the meantime, let’s talk about the whiskey.

Booker’s bourbon is always bottled at barrel strength.  This batch comes in at a high 129.7 proof.  The youngest barrels in this batch are 6 years, 7 months, 23 days old, and all barrels come from four different rack houses.

One thing that’s common among all batches of Booker’s is a big vanilla note.  “Off Your Rocker” is no exception.  Buttered corn grits, vanilla and molasses play big on the nose.  That high proof is evident on entry at first, ever so slightly numbing the tongue.   Your sense of taste quickly recovers and experiences big vanilla, cornbread, and cinnamon & allspice notes alongside some oak, roasted peanuts and a touch of leather.  I’ve never detected leather as a tasting note in Booker’s until now.   (After several tastings it’s still there.) The finish is long and warm, as expected, and carries caramel corn and oak notes.

I’ve said before that I’ve never encountered a batch of Booker’s I didn’t like.  Sure, on the surface they all have that Booker’s flavor profile.  Dig a little deeper and you can find some nuances that differ from batch to batch.  Most batches I like, and some batches I really like.  Batch 2016-05 falls in the latter category.  The subtleties here make it slightly more intriguing than previous batches.  Pick up a bottle and let me know what you think.  Highly recommend.  9/10

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

Booker’s Batch 2016-02 “Annis’ Answer” Bourbon Review

Bookers 2016_02

The second batch of Booker’s bourbon released in 2016 is called “Annis’ Answer”, honoring the day former Jim Beam master distiller (and this bourbon’s namesake) Booker Noe proposed to his wife Annis.  Since 2015, every batch of Booker’s is dedicated to one aspect of Booker Noe’s life, both professional and personal.

Bookers 2016_02 BBooker’s is a barrel-strength bourbon.  Other than filtering out chunks of barrel wood, this bourbon is pretty much straight out of the barrel.  This uncut whiskey is usually aged between six and eight years.  Fred Noe, current Jim Beam master distiller and Booker’s son, said, “The batch is made up of barrels from four different production dates stored in 5 different storage areas. The oldest barrels in the batch were 7 years, 1 month old and the youngest barrels were 6 years, 2 month old.”

Batch 2016-02 is bottled at 126.7 proof.  Bourbon beginners might want to add a splash of water.  However, I think everyone should experience a barrel strength whiskey at least once.  Maybe take a few sips neat before adding water.

The nose is filled with robust vanilla, caramelized sugar, burnt orange peel, and charcoal over a hint of lavender.  Taste-wise, a tantalizing concentration of dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, fresh orange, and toasted oak.  The finish is long and warm with notes of cinnamon, vanilla and slightly drying oak tannins.

This is one of my favorite batches of Booker’s since “Dot’s Batch,” which was released early 2015.  It’s a tad more complex than the usual releases.  However, I haven’t run across a bad batch yet.  My reaction to Booker’s usually goes from “mmm… me likey” to “oh my God!”  The latter was from tasting Booker’s 25th Anniversary, one of my favorite bourbons ever.  Just like Annis said to Booker the night he asked her to be his wife, say “yes” to this batch of Booker’s.

(Note: A review sample was provided by Beam Suntory.)