Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Michter’s is a fun one for me. My very first education in the bar industry at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon, was for Michter’s Distillery, and it was a banger. We had the current Master Distiller, now Master Distiller Emerita, Pam Heilmann herself, come to talk to us, which was always a big deal. She had an interesting story, was very informative without being dull or rehearsed, and a great educator.
It also meant a lot to see a woman in this top position, being a very young woman just getting into whiskey.
Michter’s has a long and interesting history all on its own. It started in 1753 as Shenk’s (allegedly providing whiskey for George Washington and troops during the Revolution), then became Bomberger’s in the mid-nineteenth century. After re-opening post-prohibition, the name became Michter’s. All the while this distillery, located in Pennsylvania, was making whiskey in the Pennsylvania style – that is to say, rye whiskey.
It wasn’t until the most recent re-open in the 90’s after bankruptcy had kept the distillery closed for several years that we got the Michter’s of today. The new owners moved operations to Kentucky, and started making whiskey in the style of Kentucky – bourbon. Obviously, since this is a review for a rye whiskey, Michter’s has continued to make rye whiskeys, though they aren’t the supremely high rye mash bills they used to be.
Michter’s also releases a Legacy series of “Bomberger’s Declaration” and “Shenk’s Homestead” to honor its past.
The legacy of Michter’s is rich one, but its future seems to be even bigger. Since the latest reopen, Michter’s got popular very quickly, and demand of course skyrocketed. Supply hasn’t been able to even come close, leading to very real and substantial shortages. Their response has not been to output lesser quality whiskey under new expressions, or reduce the quality of any of their existing ones – which would have been a surefire way to reduce demand, in my opinion.
Instead they have opted to expand production. They’ve added six large fermenters, extended hours on the main distillery so as to run 24/7, and added new and improved bottling equipment. However, we’re years from the true output of these additions, and will have to make do with less in the meantime.
All of this makes Michter’s 10 year rye even more of a treat.
The shortage goes beyond just Michter’s. The world is seeing a rye shortage that will only get worse. Quite simply: rye didn’t used to be popular. People didn’t know how good it was, and distillers created amounts to match demand. And with spirits like gin or vodka that don’t age (generally), that can easily be rectified. But with whiskey, the offset between distilling and releasing is a matter of years.
Already we’re seeing younger releases coming to market, and that will continue, in addition to just seeing less rye whiskey altogether. We’re also going to see new and more experimental rye whiskies – which I think is only a good thing, in an industry built upon creativity and innovation. And another hopeful caveat to that – a decade or so down the line, we’re going to be seeing some really, really good aged ryes coming out.
In the meantime, this Michter’s 10 Year Rye is one to savor.
Tasting Notes: Michter’s 10 Year Rye 2023
Vital Stats: 92.8 proof, 46.4% ABV, aged minimum 10 years, single barrel, limited release, 750mL, SRP $200
Appearance: Bright reddish orange, many quick, even legs. Mostly translucent.
Nose: An initial musk turns to savory, with a whisper of blanched almond and then a white pepper kick at the end, all set upon a foundation with the bright warmth of freshly-baked whole wheat bread.
Palate: A touch of traditional rye grassiness pops up immediately, though with a soft rather than harsh vegetal quality. It then deepens into toasted, almost burnt, nuts. Very hot and spicy rye grain comes through at the back palate, with the finish lightening up considerably with vanilla sweetness. Long finish.