“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
Allow me to say upfront that the 10 year old expressions from Michter’s have typically been some of my favorites from the brand. Sure, I tend to thoroughly enjoy what they accomplish at a lower proof and so limited expressions like their Toasted Finish Sour Mash have certainly earned a place in my heart.
However, while many people tend to focus on their finished products or indeed their barrel strength offerings, I’ve always been one for their beguiling 10-year age stated expressions. Michter’s 10 Year bourbon in particular was always one I felt was misprized in the wider American whiskey landscape, and so I was among those saddened to hear that it wouldn’t be seeing a release in 2022. Fortunately for us whiskey enthusiasts we didn’t have to go without its rye-based brother this year, and so I’m happy to be reviewing the 2022 Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Rye today.
As the sole 10-year expression to be released from Michter’s this year, my hopes are high that it will be a standout, particularly when compared with previous iterations. While, as aforementioned, I’ve long enjoyed Michter’s 10 year rye, I still hold out hope annually that it will ascend to the heights achieved by the brand’s 2016 version.
To their credit, Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson (both of whom moved into their current positions in 2016) have taken great strides in their stewardship of this sourced expression and – for my palate – each of the past three years have represented a marked improvement in its quality. The question to ask now is: will 2022’s Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Rye proceed along that upward trajectory?
Before trying this year’s expression, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Andrea Wilson – both in Shively, Kentucky at their production facility and over the phone – to learn more about this release. A condensed version of our conversation, edited for clarity, follows:
Malt: What is the process like for selecting the liquid that ends up going into the Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Rye?
Andrea: What we do is we take a look at the stock that are over 10 years old and we sample them, and then we narrow that down to a group that we send to our tasting panel, which includes Master Distiller Dan McKee. Then, we evaluate the samples together and we select those that we believe are of the highest quality for the potential for release. Then, ultimately, it is the decision of the master distiller on what to release and we were very excited about the release that was chosen this year. I think it’s exceptional and I’m very excited to talk about it!
Malt: You mentioned to me in Shively that for the tasting panel there’s an annual test. What is that process like?
Andrea: On an annual basis, we have over 25 people trained to taste and smell whiskey and we go through an annual qualification process where each individual has to meet the requirements, because as an individual your body changes over time. You may have outside factors which can impact your ability to be on the tasting panel. So, it’s important to us to get a consistent repeatable outcome from the individuals who are on the tasting panel in terms of their ability to taste and smell whiskey.
We’re looking not only at the aromatic of the spirit, the taste profile of the spirit, the dynamic nature of the spirit, the texture of the whiskey, or the color of the whiskey, but we’re also examining how that whiskey changes as it sits in your glass. We’re trying to make a really brilliant American whiskey experience for someone who is going to purchase a bottle of Michter’s products and we want to ensure that their tasting experience is going to carry through even if they end up sitting with that spirit for an hour or more while they enjoy it.
So those are the key markers we’re looking at when we’re examining a spirit and we’re qualifying individuals to be able to deduce and identify whether there are off notes, or notes of particular interest, or to be able to pick out things that are similar in nature. There are many different steps, but those are just a few of them. It’s not something we take lightly.
Malt: There are rumors, of course, that there is whiskey older than 10 years in this expression. Care to comment?
Andrea: [laughs] We don’t publicize what those ages are, but I will tell you that it is over 10, and I think it’s part of the joy of the experience to be honest. You know it’s fun to have people dial into their palate and kind of talk about what they’re experiencing and what they think it represents and I think that’s a very interesting conversation to engage around the drinking of a pour.
Malt: I know that for Michter’s you have a proprietary filtration process that is unique for each expression. Can you talk about what sets the process for filtering Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Rye apart from, say, your standard rye?
Andrea: The thing to say is that it’s not filtered the same as our standard rye. It has a custom profile that has been defined specifically for this release of Michter’s 10 Year Rye. So, just because we did a release of Michter’s 10 previously does not mean that the protocol stays the same year after year. We still have to examine the barrels that we selected for this release because they may change in age or they may have different attributes associated with them.
All of this has to be considered when the chill filtration process is selected for the newest release. And so this year’s release has a custom protocol associated with it. As you are aware the protocol includes many different variables… I’m not going to go into all of those. However, changing any variable can change the outcome for us, and what we’re really trying to do is bring forward all of that whiskey’s best characteristics that took years to develop in the barrel. I think the customization of the chill filtration process does a really beautiful job for this 10 year rye.
Malt: When selecting barrels, is there a particular flavor profile the tasting panel is looking for? Is the aim for this product’s profile to be uniform year over year?
Andrea: Great question; what I would say is that with Michter’s we have a house style. We want it to be rich, flavorful, easy drinking, warm, but with no burn, and have a great texture experience. We also want it to be dynamic from front to back of palate. Those things are important in terms of what consumers expect when they experience Michter’s products.
When we look at the 10 year rye, I will say in general there have been characteristics that have been called out because we use a Kentucky style rye recipe, meaning we’re going to stay closer to 51% rye grain in the recipe and then we’re going to add corn and malted barley to help balance the spicy nature of the rye grain. So, you get this beautiful harmony between the baking spice that comes from the rye but you also get this envelope of florals and caramel and citrus that all kind of comes together in this beautiful marriage that creates this exceptional drinking experience. That is what we’re looking for. Now each release will have its nuances of character difference, this particular release has that once again, but it also has the beauty that consumers that enjoy our 10 year rye have come to expect.”
Malt: Following up on that: what can you say about this year’s expression compared to years past?
Andrea: I feel quite strongly about this release because what I think is beautiful about it is it has this beautiful floral and blossom honey nose and this beautiful citrus that comes in and also this chocolate note. What’s really interesting is when I start tasting this it comes into my palate a little bit sweet and as it moves across my palate it transitions into some of the fruit character; I even get a bit of raisin with spice that reminds me of a holiday fruit pie.
At the back of my palate and into the finish it kind of goes into this little milk chocolate trail and I just adore it for that reason. I think it is so decadent that I’m just completely enchanted by it and then at the very end you get a little bit of citrus coming in with that chocolate which is a nice little touch on the finish and I think it’s very beautiful. A little bit different than previous releases where we had maybe a stronger fruit-and-spice coming together on the finish. But I think this one having that milk chocolate trail on the end is just exceptional.
Thanks to Andrea once again for generously sharing her time and insights.
Returning to the question at hand: will the 2022 Michter’s 10 Year Rye display a significant improvement over its more recent forebears? After all, Michter’s President Joseph J. Magliocco said of this particular expression, “It may be the only release we do of a 10 Year whiskey this year, but it’s a really special one.” Michter’s team has of late given me little reason to doubt their deployment of superlatives, due to the extensive consideration they show not just in the whiskey they produce, but also in the production methods that give birth to said whiskey. Utilizing Andrea Wilson’s expertise in selecting barrels alongside the virtuosity of Dan McKee and the Michter’s tasting panel in selecting spirits has resulted in more praise than pessimism lately here on Malt, and so I’m eager to see where this “special” release places among the portfolio.
As for the specifics of this release: this is a single barrel 10 year product with an undisclosed mash bill which clocks in at 92.8 proof (46.4% ABV) and carries a steep suggested retail price of $185 per 750ml bottle. I was fortunate to purchase a bottle of this expression just south of that suggested retail price, though I’ll be using $185 as the benchmark for my scoring under Malt’s price-sensitive rubric.
I was then doubly fortunate to receive a sample of this expression from Malt’s Editor in Chief Taylor Cope, whose impressions can be found after my own below. To be clear, Taylor and I will be sharing notes from the same exact barrel (Barrel 22E1692) so any deviation in our impressions can solely be chalked up to personal preference. Hopefully two-for-the-price-of-one serves you twice over, dear reader, now let us commence with the review!
[Editor’s note: this bottle was provided to me free of charge by Michter’s. Per Malt’s editorial policy, we’re going to do our best to ensure that this gift does not influence our notes or scores]
Michter’s 10 Year Old Single Barrel Rye 2022 – Frank’s Review
Color: Gold with an orange hue.
On the nose: Sweet oak, singed mint, and vanilla aromas possess the senses at first before the oak in particular becomes more prominent over time. With a few swirls there are notes of dark honey and strawberry hard candy unlocked along with a faint touch of anise and leather plus a verdant aspect of dewy grass that joins the fray. Finally there’s a bit of chewing gum to go with a developing floral aspect that lightens the aromatic profile and rounds out a rather pleasant nosing experience.
In the mouth: It enters the palate like a mint candy and carries with it an almost “dusty” sweet oak flavor to go with a splash of vanilla, all to be expected from the nose. Where things take an unpredictable tack is on the second sip, where a bit of honeyed tea gives way to anise and milk chocolate in a pleasant turn. Now, being heartily enjoyed, I’m able to pick up a touch of tart cherry and flaky pastry crust that join the overarching flavors of mint candy and milk chocolate. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and, overall, each sip seems both restrained and refined. It displays a deftness in balance, but it’s held in check by my desire to see those flavors all turned up a notch.
What I’m left with is a rather enjoyable whiskey that benefits from a lovely balance of flavors that treads faithfully on the well-worn path of Kentucky style ryes. What I’m left wishing for, however, is a touch more oomph to make this pour more memorable and warrant the slight increase in price this expression has seen over last year’s release. Between the sweet turn this takes at midpalate and the warming sensation on the top and back of my mouth as the finish takes hold, there’s a lot to like about this expression which – despite its low ABV – punches above its proof.
Returning at last to my question of how this compares to other recent releases: I’d have to say the 2022 Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Rye succeeds in being more well rounded, but falls short of being exceptional in any one category. That fact, when considered along with its steep asking price, will keep it a notch below “Great” for me on the Malt scale.
Michter’s 10 Year Old Single Barrel Rye 2022 – Taylor’s Review
Color: Medium golden orange.
On the nose: The first impression is of a harmonious marriage of quintessential rye notes with an amply sweet oakiness. I get freshly cut grass, lime, and a moist loaf of rye bread meeting with a creamy dollop of vanilla. There’s the piquant scent of ginger in here as well, combined with a tickling texture in the nose that makes me think of a glass of ginger ale. Some more subdued spicy elements of paprika and lemongrass flit around the periphery, but I keep coming back to that initial balance of rye and oak. With time, dried floral scents of potpourri add another layer of aromatic texture.
In the mouth: Very lean to start, this sneaks past the lips with only the wispiest of flavors. That all changes in the middle of the mouth, where there’s the tartness of underripe stone fruit married to a tannic woodiness. The whiskey hits its stride most fully as it reaches the crest of the tongue, where the purity of the grain again meets with the sweetness of the oak in a dance of steely rye and smooth, creamy vanilla that is the highlight of the experience. Into the finish, there’s a lingering metallic aspect that I associate with rye grain, as well as a textural heat that is firmly lodged near the back of the tongue, but otherwise this fades away somewhat more quickly than I would like.
The good parts of this are very good, indeed. To name but a few prominent ones: the nose is a delight to sniff away at endlessly, and that moment of perfect harmony in the middle of the mouth is a great encapsulation of the best of what rye whiskey does best. Toward the front and the back of the palate, however, I am left wanting more. From a scoring perspective, I am trying to balance an overall pleasurable experience with a price tag that had my expectations closer to perfection. With pluses for the positive offset by deductions on account of value for money, I am left feeling like this is in the middle of our range.
Frank’s Final Thoughts:
I’d like to thank Andrea Wilson and members of Michter’s production team for taking the time to show me around their Shively facility and answer questions for this review. As you can see above, Taylor and I are largely aligned in our impressions: this is a tasty rye with a lot to like, save the price. As such I would personally recommend trying this before buying it, though I think anyone inclined to do the latter will not be dissuaded by the former.