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2024 Michter's Barrel Strength Rye Review - How Low Barrel Entry Proof & 18 Month Air Seasoning Come Together to Craft Highly Sippable Whiskey


2024 Michter's Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Low barrel entry proof, once commonplace in the earliest stages of American whiskey, is all but completely foregone in an era where maximizing profits and efficiency trump quality. Enter Michter's distillery, at 103 proof, to be exact. Modern regulations, first introduced in 1962, mandated that straight whiskeys not be entered into the barrel above 125 proof. This was an increase from the post-prohibition era, which had a rule that read barrel entry proof was to be "not more than 110 and not less than 80 proof."


Michter's Shively Distillery Spirit Safe AKA Tail Box
Michter's spirit safe also known as a tail box

Despite 125 becoming the near-de facto standard across the industry due to this being the most cost-effective aging method, Michter's chooses to enter at 103 proof. This ultimately does give some credence to their bottle labeling, which reads, "Distilled in small batches according to the Michter's pre-Revolutionary War quality standards dating back to 1753." More than just marketing, this is a motion for quality, as there is no denying it is a costly business decision that the brand has ultimately stuck to since Joe Magliocco rekindled distillation under the old distillery name in 2003. Lower barrel entry proof means more water at the start of the aging process. Water interacts differently with wood than whiskey does, so for that reason alone, you are going to get a different final flavor. On a recent tour of Michter's Shively distillery, Katherine O'Nan, Director of Forecasting, Planning & Blending, mentioned the neat tidbit that in order to get to Michter's typical bottling proof (not the case for the whiskey under review today), water must be added. Instead of watering down those oak-infused molecules with a larger volume of flavorless water, more of the original aged whiskey remains undiluted thanks to the lower final proof of the aged spirit.


Michter's Shively distillery whiskey aging warehouse
Barrels aging in the Shively distillery warehouse

When Michter's specs out their barrels at the cooperage, they ask for the wood to be open-air seasoned for a minimum of 18 months. Open-air seasoning is what coopers will do with their oak before it gets shaped into staves for barrel making. In its simplest form, it is just leaving the wood out on racks with space in between each board so that it is exposed to air on all sides. This wood is left out in the elements to, in essence, partially decay. This decaying process helps to strip out the harsher tannins you've likely tasted if you've ever tasted some rushed, young, crap whiskey. Michter's doesn't want you to have that experience. While the industry 'standard' (I'll use that loosely, as there's nobody defining this presently) is 12 months, Michter's again opts for a slightly more expensive production method, all in the name of quality. There's been plenty of science backing up that decision in this space, but very few distilleries will take the punch to the bottom line for that incremental whiskey win. Michter's has also chosen to go as long as 3 years (that's 36 months for those who suck at math) for some of their special releases, like Bomberger's.


You will find no shortage of Michter's reviews on my website. They produce consistently great whiskey, perhaps due to the factors above, or because of their filtration process we didn't fully get into, or quite possibly just because they have some of the best and brightest people making good whiskey decisions. Decisions that aren't necessarily driven by the desire for dollars but by a commitment to producing a quality product. I'm not saying every single barrel or bottling is a home run; I've found plenty of middle-of-the-road whiskey in a bottle bearing the Michter's name, but when the recipe is good, you've got a pretty darn good shot at dependable success. With a brand new release of Michter's barrel strength rye upon us for the first time since 2022, I'm excited to see how this stacks up. Where might this one land on the rating scale? Let's dive in and find out!


 

Company on Label: Michter's Distillery 

Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed (minimum 51% rye)

Proof: 111°

Age: NAS

Further identification: Barrel No 24B0809 is listed on the label wrapped around the front of the neck of the bottle; there is a "bottled by Michter's Distillery" distinction listed on the back label, though I'm certain they distill and aged it all themselves after sampling some straight from the barrel last week


 

Nose: Bright sweet tart candy instantly jumps into the mind upon lifting the glass to the nose. Deeper inhales produce graham cracker, sweet raisin, fig, and apricot undertones before a big splash of lemon hard candy greets the senses. The lemon theme pervades the mind as parallels to a sweet hot toddy begin to cause a comfort to creep across the shoulders. Bold woodshop aromas make oak a prominent piece of this glass. Returning from a few sips, I find vanilla has begun to dominate a silky, refined, creamy nose-feel. The well-rested glass offers a touch of super-sweet maple syrup. Once the glencairn is relinquished of its whiskey, I smell dark molasses, brown sugar, and graham cracker in undulant waves.


Palate: Upon first letting the liquid beyond the lips, one finds a wave of fruit: dark, sticky, juicy, tannic fruit. Macerated black raspberry, luxardo cherry, fig, and plum all come across syrupy on the tongue. Further sips dance back into candyland, presenting a sweet, genteel whiskey with notes of dark salted caramel, plum, and red currant. The mouthfeel is undoubtedly treacly and saccharine with a long lingering viscous coating all across the top of the tongue. There's notably little spice, making this a clear bourbon drinker's rye. My last sip offers flashes of nilla wafers, blackberry tea, and soft cinnamon. The finish is unending, sticky, and unbelievably honeyed. A kiss of hibiscus and grenadine give me something to remember this by.


TL;DR: Delicate and undeniably sweet whiskey - this is a bourbon drinkers rye


 

Rating: 3.5/5



While this isn't a release that is going to be topping my charts, it's still an undeniably delicious bottle I'm glad to have on my shelf. I much preferred the 2023 release of their 10 year rye that I also reviewed, which was ultimately used as a quality marker for how I arrived at the score above. For reference the 10 year rye earned a 4.5/5 when you factor in the "Keep Amongst the Whiskey" distinction, which I've also included here. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own, and are in no way influenced by any of the wonderful friends I have made in the whiskey industry through the years. Let me know down in the comments if you'll be hunting this one down!


Michter's 2024 Barrel Strength Rye Review

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