rye whiskey

Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection Heavy Char Rye Whiskey

Starting this September, the 13th edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection will hit shelves. The 2019 limited edition release from Heaven Hill Distillery is a rye whiskey aged in heavily charred barrels. As with the past few Parker’s Heritage Collection releases, Heaven Hill will contribute a portion of the proceeds from each bottle to the ALS Association in honor of late Master Distiller Parker Beam.

Typically, the distillery utilizes a Level 3 char, but the barrels used in this release saw a Level 5 char. That equates to about 50 seconds more charring compared to a Level 3 char. The distillery states the intense charring allows the whiskey to penetrate deeper into each barrel stave.

The whiskey itself is made from the distillery’s standard rye mash bill and aged eight years and nine months] on the seventh floor of Rickhouse Y. Additionally, this release was bottled at 105 proof and non-chill filtered.

Let’s dig in.

The aromatic nose features a heavy helping of baking spices, including the usual suspects – cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, and cardamom. Those spices are complemented by dark caramel, vanilla bean, and oak as well as toasted rye grain. Dark and spicy, but not overly so. Taste-wise, we’re looking at more of the same. Initial waves of slightly burnt caramel intermingle with oak spice and freshly baked rye bread. Creamy vanilla custard adds weight. Slightly astringent oak tannins grip the back palate and the bittersweet and spicy medium-long finish.

Compared to the distillery’s Pikesville Rye, which is only two years younger, this Heavy Char Rye Whiskey is darker, heavier, spicier, and more oak driven. It’s also about $100 more expensive, priced at $149.99. I really dug my initial casual pour. However, I didn’t find the whiskey as complex as expected when tasted under scrutiny. While I found the heavy char experiment interesting, the resulting whiskey didn’t quite captivate me. The nose was great, but the palate seemed to be missing a bit of vibrancy that would have made all the difference in the world.

As it stands, Parker’s Heritage Collection Heavy Char Rye Whiskey is an interesting, enjoyable whiskey, but is it worth $150? I’d rather grab a pour of the very balanced Pikesville Rye. 7.5/10

Heavenhilldistillery.com

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

Review: Michter’s 10-Year-Old Rye Whiskey (2019)

Photo courtesy of Blaine Strawn

This 2019 bottling of Michter’s 10-year-old rye whiskey marks the first release by the distillery’s new Master Distiller Dan McKee. The rye whiskey is one of Michter’s most anticipated bottlings, which generally gets released once a year. It certainly holds a place as one of my favorite rye whiskies.

Bottled at 46.4% ABV, or 92.8 proof, my sample bottle comes from barrel 19F965. Michter’s doesn’t disclose their mash bills, but press materials mention “a good amount of corn and malted barley” in addition to rye, which is at least 51%.

The nose includes rich aromas of maple syrup and buttered rye toast as well as a hearty dose of baking spices. On entry, the whiskey appears a little soft on spice. Instead, sweet brown sugar and vanilla coat the palate, allowing those rye notes and baking spices found on the nose to slowly blossom. In terms of spice, think pumpkin pie spice instead of an over-the-top cinnamon candy. Some candied pecan and burnt orange peel notes peak through as well. Heading into the finish, slightly astringent oak grips the palate. Not surprisingly, the medium length finish is sweet, citrusy, and a bit dry.

Michter’s 10-year-old rye never disappoints. The low barrel entry proof helps create a rich spirit, and this whiskey certainly tastes older than its age. In my opinion, it is these two traits that help Michter’s stand out. The suggested retail pricing is $160 for this whiskey, and I think it delivers big yet refined flavors for the asking price. Highly recommended. 9/10

Michters.com

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.