Rye Tasting III: Michter’s

(part of a series of posts on a recent panel tasting of 18 American rye whiskies that starts here. For more information on rye whiskey and additional tasting notes, pick up the January/February 2007 issue of Imbibe magazine.)

If Old Overholt traces its roots back to the early 19th century, Michter’s goes back even further. The original distillery was founded near Amish country in Pennsylvania in 1753; after managing to survive a revolution, the Whiskey Rebellion and a civil war, Michter’s temporarily met its match when the joyless biddies of the W.C.T.U. had it — and most every other distillery in the country — shuttered during Prohibition. The Michter’s distillery sprang up once more after World War II, but only lasted 40-odd years before closing permanently in 1988.

As with almost all ryes nowadays, Michter’s is made in Kentucky (by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers), in painfully small batches, but if you do a little footwork you can turn up a bottle or two. In addition to a 10-year-old bourbon and an unblended American whiskey (aged in used bourbon barrels), Michter’s offers two types of rye: the US1 Straight Rye, a single-barrel whiskey aged 4+ years and bottled at 84.8 proof; and a 10-year-old Straight Rye, also single barrel and bottled at 92.8 proof.

Michter’s US1 Straight Rye Whiskey

The US1 has earned a reputation as an excellent mixing whiskey that also isn’t too shabby on its own.

It has a nose that is good and spicy, but not too aggressive, with little hints of cherry and tobacco. Tasted neat, the spice is quickly followed by a subdued dryness with a mild fruitiness, and without a great deal of complexity. The finish is short, smooth and sweet, with the cherry notes following through to the end.

Verdict: Overall this was an enjoyable whiskey, but not a standout. One panelist noted that there was “not much complexity to it; it has a very simple, dry flavor,” but others found the cherry notes on the nose and the palate appealing.

Michter’s 10-Year-Old Straight Rye

The 10-year-old has earned a lot of raves in recent years, being given the highest recommendation by Wine Enthusiast in 2005, and chosen as the top pick by the Los Angeles Times rye tasting panel that same year.

This rye was striking, even before we started sniffing it. Panelists noted its engaging amber color in the glass, and on the nose it showed its age and its proof with a rich, sweet aroma with a little pear and a little graininess — “It’s got a great, sweet nose, and the color is exquisite,” one panelist noted.

At nearly 93 proof, the whiskey had a little heat and an earthy spiciness that was really engaging, but not over the top, and a lush, full body that made the sipping very enjoyable. The spiciness was followed by a slightly sweet middle touched with banana and oatmeal, and a long, smooth finish that was very engaging.

Verdict: A very good whiskey, with rye’s distinctive spiciness but with a pleasant, fruity sweetness in place of the sour notes found in other ryes. While the Michter’s 10-year-old didn’t place on any panelist’s top-3 list, it was a top-tier whiskey at this tasting.

Next: Van Winkle, Hirsch & Pikesville Supreme

7 Responses to Rye Tasting III: Michter’s

  1. JerseyRED says:

    Paul,

    The timing of your Rye-palooza couldn’t have been any better! After trying as many different gins as I could get my hands on I was ready to move on and decided that rye would be the next logical choice. With your current rye tasting and the discussions over at eGullet I have a wealth of free knowledge and opinion to pour over.
    Looking forward to reading the article in Imbibe… when it arrives.

    Rich

  2. NRJarrett says:

    Interestingly enough, I was informed by someone well-placed in the Michter’s promotion distillation chain while talking over an industry event, who informed me that Michter’s will offer a higher age declaration and that, in the meanwhile, they are selling, as ten-year rye, for reasons of PR and branding, whiskeys quite a bit older than 10 year. In fact, the gentleman told me that the average age of Michter’s 10 is actually, on average 16-17 year at this point, until they unveil the new declaration. Not sure how much I rely on that, but figured I’d throw it out there. Some possibilty what with various sales figures, and the popularity of the higher age declaration offerings. Buy and compare after the announcement, no?

    N.

  3. garv says:

    I’m greatly enjoying each installment of Rye-a-palooza. Before I married my lovely wife, my drink of choice was Jack Daniels (due mainly to legends concerning Sinatra and Gleason). Being that I married a girl of 100% Irish blood, she introduced me to the “water of life” from her homeland, and I came to the conclusion that I’d been drinking slop.

    Now my “usual” is Bushmills, but when I want to mix it up, I usually choose a rye. I find bourbon is too sweet for my taste these days (with the exception of Bulleit), and rye has the taste, character, and burn I crave.

    Michter’s US1 had been my favorite (within my price range), but just this weekend I came across a bottle of 6 year old Sazerac. I think I can say that the Sazerac Rye has just become my favorite American whiskey. I look forward to your future tastings.

    Cheers,
    garv

  4. [...] appreciate it and Bullet really drinks quite well. If you want to try something a few steps up try Michter’s Rye… so tasty… so sweet… you may not want to leave this one on the bar, it just screams, “I [...]

  5. [...] Cocktail Chronicles Review:“Michter’s US1 Straight Rye Whiskey        The US1 has earned a reputation as an excellent mixing whiskey that also isn’t too shabby on its own.It has a nose that is good and spicy, but not too aggressive, with little hints of cherry and tobacco. Tasted neat, the spice is quickly followed by a subdued dryness with a mild fruitiness, and without a great deal of complexity. The finish is short, smooth and sweet, with the cherry notes following through to the end.     Verdict: Overall this was an enjoyable whiskey, but not a standout. One panelist noted that there was “not much complexity to it; it has a very simple, dry flavor,” but others found the cherry notes on the nose and the palate appealing. [...]

  6. [...] Cocktail Chronicles Review:“Michter’s US1 Straight Rye Whiskey        The US1 has earned a reputation as an excellent mixing whiskey that also isn’t too shabby on its own.It has a nose that is good and spicy, but not too aggressive, with little hints of cherry and tobacco. Tasted neat, the spice is quickly followed by a subdued dryness with a mild fruitiness, and without a great deal of complexity. The finish is short, smooth and sweet, with the cherry notes following through to the end.     Verdict: Overall this was an enjoyable whiskey, but not a standout. One panelist noted that there was “not much complexity to it; it has a very simple, dry flavor,” but others found the cherry notes on the nose and the palate appealing. [...]

  7. [...] my mind (and anticipatory tastes) kept running to the shelves of borboun and rye. I order a Mitcher’s Rye Manhattan straight-up, which they serve to you with a dried cherry as the garnish. (I would have ordered a [...]

Leave a reply