Michter’s 2022 US*1 Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey is a great whiskey. Always has been and, hopefully, always will be when Michter’s own maturate from its Louisville plant is bottled in the future. This release, just like the 2021 and the 2018 releases I’ve kept myself from finishing, says “Bottled by Michter’s Distillery,” on the label. So, the whiskey’s source remains a mystery.
The success of New Riff’s 5-year Malted Rye release in 2021 gave its team an idea: Finish this vibrant whiskey in 12, custom-made 53-gallon oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks for a year, then vat the whiskey from each for another six months. The result is a bright and busy whiskey whose all-rye mashbill gives it loads of grain character made even more delicious by those secondary cask influences.
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Broken Barrel’s 95 proof straight bourbon continues the trend set by their 88 proof California Oak expression in that it has a nice blend of unexpected flavors in concert with classic bourbon notes. Where it deviates from the trend, however, is that unlike its lower proof sibling these flavors fail to harmonize.
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Broken Barrel California Oak isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel with their lowest proof offering, but it is making a strong case that young whiskey can be elevated with the addition of staves. By utilizing what the company describes as a unique “oak bill,” Broken Barrel’s California Oak is able to avoid some of the pitfalls of bourbon that’s too youthful (namely, an outsized grain presence and rough-around-the-edges mouthfeel) and offer an enjoyable tasting experience.
I was immediately struck by how fruit-forward this bourbon is, as the raspberry and plum notes are prominent despite it being a relatively young whiskey. Caramelized sugar and a strong black pepper influence makes for a medley of alluring aromas that slightly outperform the palate, but it tastes good too! Led by butterscotch before the fruit and spice develop in the mouth, this is a really well-rounded bourbon for its age.
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This bottle immediately comes with so many expectations that it’s hard to judge it fairly. Tasted blind, this is an excellent bourbon that balances the strong Kentucky and Indiana bourbon profiles while deftly relegating the overly distinct Tennessee whiskey notes to a supporting role. In a blend of whiskeys as old as 17 years, this could easily have been over-oaked, yet it isn’t. It is warm, orange zest-forward (note: not orange vitamins), with bright red fruit evolving into a maple old fashioned without being too sweet.