“I guess you wonder where I’ve been
I searched to find a love within.
I came back to let you know.
Got a thing for you and I can’t let go.”
– Bobby Caldwell, “What You Won’t Do For Love”
New year, new me!
Kind of… To kick off the new year I am picking a favorite out of my collection to rate for you. Why something old, and not one of these hot new labels dropping every month? I suspect that a good many of you are like me: fatigued by chasing new things, and you probably have more in your collection than you will ever be able to drink in your lifetime.
I am definitely one of those folks and, as I go from new bottle to new bottle, I hear the half open bottles sitting in my collection. They call out to me. They were so good. Why do I keep chasing some new thrill when I know that a guaranteed banger is right there? Perhaps I’m scared too much time has gone by.
Perhaps the bottle I love in my mind is not as good as I remembered. Maybe the whiskey has changed.
Maybe I have changed.
It’s a hard truth we face in our lives; the idea that maybe we’ve outgrown certain flavor profiles, hobbies, friends, patterns, habits… yes I’ve taken this beyond whiskey. I still think it’s a parallel that applies here.
I constantly remind people – as Taylor reminds me – that I am not a whiskey expert. At Malt, we reserve that designation for those that actually create the whiskey; the true “grain-to-glass” hero that does it day in and day out. For the most part, we are just loud idiots with keyboards and smartphones.
Still, when people stumble across my Instagram page or find out about my hobby, I get questions. These are probably the same questions that you get as a whiskey connoisseur.
Q: “Is X good?”
A: It’s all relative. Only you can determine if something is good. We all have different tastes and preferences.
Q: “Is X worth it?”
A: More than likely; most American whiskey is very good nowadays, but price is relative to everyone. Also never buy anything on the “secondary market.”
Q: “Is X worth hunting?”
I actually have no stock answer here, because this one definitely depends on what you’re talking about. I do believe that there are some whiskies that are worth hunting out there. Now when I say “hunt” for a bottle of whiskey, I don’t mean that you should pay ridiculous secondary prices, but rather that it’s worth asking your local store when they might get a bottle. After all, there is no harm in asking… unless you’re asking for the same thing week after week. Then it might be time to take a hint.
Now, as I look at my collection I wonder about the hunt. There are many bottles that I hunted for. Ones that I thought I must have, and I remember what it was like tasting them. Some were great. Some were letdowns. Others were revelations and made me sit up in mychair.
One of those for me has always been Michter’s Toasted Barrel Rye.
Frank and Taylor have both done reviews on Michter’s various expressions. Franks favorite thus far seems to have been their toasted bourbon, and here I am with a toasted rye. My toasted rye. Perhaps the whiskey that opened my eyes to the magic of secondary barrels.
In the previously mentioned articles, you can find out more about the amazing team that has been put together by Michter’s owner Joe Magliocco. Anyone who has met Joe can speak to his passion, professionalism, and magnetism. It’s no wonder he has built such a standout team of Master Distiller Dan McKee, Master of Maturation & Bourbon Hall of Famer Andrea Wilson, Distiller Matt Bell, and Master Distiller Emerita Pam Heilmann.
I have gone through two bottles of this expression, but I have always kept the first bottle I fell in love with half empty. In this new year I have made a commitment to revisit whiskies that were those revelations during my whiskey journey. Do I expect to always fall back in love? No. In fact I suspect that while I do this exercise throughout the year, I will find some that have changed… or perhaps that I have changed.
In other words, it could be me, not them. Am I setting up for a breakup here, or a rom com like reunion? Let’s find out.
Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength Rye – Review
2017 Edition. Barrel no. 17C536. 108.8 proof (54.4% ABV). SRP of $85.
Color: Reddish brown.
On the nose: Butterscotch. Werther’s candy comes to mind with a finish of dry oak. As I think back to my first time with this whiskey, I cannot recall what my nosing notes were on this one. If I had to do this one blind, I would also guess it to be a very well-aged bourbon. Nothing on this nose screams rye to me. So, the question is will it give me something unique on the way down or is it just a rye masquerading as a wannabe bourbon?
In the mouth: A marshmallow wave takes over your palate, giving way to rye spice that rises as the background scenery changes from that cloudy marshmallow to a holiday nuttiness. It’s been a few years, but we are picking up where we left off, even if our memories are fuzzier than we would like. While the marshmallow has faded the tasting notes of black pepper, cardamom, chestnut and dry oak sing top-notch rye.
All these years later, the marshmallow I fell in love with is not as pronounced, but this one still brings all the memories of that first pour back. It’s been so many years and I would hunt this one all over again. When people ask, I would never hesitate to say that this is a must-have. Now the bigger question is if I should drink the rest of this or save it for another visit years from now?