whiskey review

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.

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Review: Ragged Branch Wheated Bourbon

RaggedBranch_MainBottleWheated bourbon can be hit or miss for me. Sometimes it’s beautiful and complex.  Otherwise, wheated bourbon can be a bit sweet and simplistic.  In the case of Ragged Branch’s new wheated bourbon, it falls somewhere in-between.

A true farm-to-bottle venture, the Virginia-based farm distillery has distilled this whisky using grains grown on its land in a small copper pot still.  And unlike a lot of craft distilleries, Ragged Branch has matured this 4-year-old wheated bourbon in full size, 53-gallon barrels instead of smaller ones.

Seeing as the distillery, founded in 2014, is only producing about a barrel a day, quality seems to be top-of-mind.

Dave Pickerell serves as the distillery’s Master Distiller, but he more or less keeps them on course a few times a year as he also oversees or consults with several other brands.  Pickerell’s a busy guy.  I’m a fan of most of his work, so I was excited to try this expression.

Bottled at 90 proof, Ragged Branch wheated bourbon comes from a mash bill of 66% corn, 17% wheat, and 17% malted barley.  That’s a higher percentage of malt typically used in a bourbon.  What does that mean for flavor?  Let’s give it a taste.

The nose is pleasant, with a sweet corn and vanilla leading the way.  There’s a slightly “green” grain note, but it’s mostly masked by a bit of spiced caramel and cinnamon.  On the palate, loads of butterscotch and vanilla fade into a touch of spice, namely cinnamon sugar.  That youngish grain note is also present here, but doesn’t hinder the tasting experience one bit.  That big butterscotch note carries over into the medium length finish.

The small distillery should be proud of this release.  Though it’s not terribly complex, it makes up with a rich and inviting butterscotch-led flavor profile.  I find it nicely balanced – not too sweet, not too spicy.  It does have a slightly young character, but doesn’t taste harsh.  At the end of the day, Ragged Branch Distillery has crafted a nice sipping whiskey.  Not too shabby for $49.99.  7/10

Raggedbranch.com

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

Review: Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye

The latest Basil Hayden expression, Two by Two Rye, is not a rye whiskey. I can see where a consumer might get confused, thinking he or she is buying a rye whiskey. Simply deleting the word “rye” and naming this Basil Hayden’s Two by Two would have been a more direct approach.

What’s inside is interesting. It’s a blend of straight whiskies: 5-year-old rye, 7-year-old “high rye” , 13-year-old bourbon, and 7-year-old bourbon. The bourbon and rye whiskey blends aren’t new, but are delicious when made well. (See High West’s Bourye and Wild Turkey’s Forgiven.) In keeping with the Basil Hayden tradition, Two by Two Rye is bottled at 40% abv. This whiskey retails for $44.99.

The nose is nice, if a bit muted and a little young, featuring spiced caramel, slightly ‘green’ rye grain, and a touch of burnt sugar. There is more of the same on the palate. Hints of caramel and waxy vanilla meet some baking spice. That green note from the nose is here as well, but in a less upfront way. A bit of toasted cedar develops right before the spicy and slightly dry finish.

I’ve gotta say – this is the first Basil Hayden release that disappointed me. It came across as a bit thin and sort of boring. The thin part had to do with the whiskey’s low proof. That hasn’t hindered the brand’s other expressions, but here it keeps robustness on a very short lease. As for the boring part… the whiskey is not bad. It’s just… okay. There’s nothing exciting here. The aforementioned Forgiven and especially Bourye are big, spicy, and robust, which is what a bourbon and rye blend should be. As for Two by Two Rye, a better choice would be any other Basil Hayden expression. Go for the reliable Basil Hayden’s bourbon with its high rye mash bill, or even the fruitiness of Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye. 6/10

Basilhaydens.com

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