Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, according to our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that clicking the purchase link in this review, our site receives a small referral payment that helps support, but does not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Michter’s is fun for me. My very first training in the bar industry at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon was for Michter Distillery, and it was a banger. The current Master Distiller, now Emeritus Master Distiller, Pam Heilmann herself, came over to talk to us, which was always a big deal. She had an interesting story, was very informative without being boring or repetitive, and was an excellent educator.
It also meant a lot to see a woman in this high position, being a very young woman getting into whiskey.
Michter’s has a long and interesting history on its own. The business started in 1753 as Shenk’s (allegedly supplying whiskey to George Washington and the troops during the Revolution), then became Bomberger’s in the mid-19th century. After reopening after prohibition, the name changed to Michter. Meanwhile, this distillery, located in Pennsylvania, made whiskey the Pennsylvania way, that is, rye whiskey.
It wasn’t until it reopened in the 90s, after a bankruptcy that kept the distillery closed for several years, that we had today’s Michter’s. The new owners moved their business to Kentucky and started making whiskey in the style of Kentucky – bourbon. Obviously since this is a review of a rye whiskey Michter’s have continued to make rye whiskeys even though they are no longer the extremely high rye mash bills they used to be previously.
Michter’s also releases a Legacy series of “Bomberger’s Declaration” and “Shenk’s Homestead” to honor its past.
Michter’s heritage is rich, but its future seems to be even greater. Since the last reopening, Michter’s has become very popular very quickly and demand has of course skyrocketed. The offer wasn’t even able to come close to it, leading to some very real consequences and significant shortages. Their response was not to produce lesser quality whiskey in new expressions, nor to reduce the quality of existing ones – which would have been a surefire way to reduce demand, in my opinion.
Instead, they chose to increase their production. They added six large fermenters, extended the main distillery hours to operate 24/7, and added new and improved bottling equipment. However, we are years away from the true result of these additions and we will have to settle for less in the meantime.
All of this makes Michter’s 10 Year Rye even more of a treat.
The shortage is not limited to that of Michter. The world is experiencing a rye shortage that will only get worse. Quite simply: rye was not popular. People didn’t know how good it was, and distillers created quantities to suit demand. And with spirits like gin or vodka that don’t age (usually), this can easily be rectified. But with whisky, the time lag between distillation and commercialization is a matter of years.
We are already seeing younger versions hitting the market, and this will continue, in addition to seeing less rye whisky. We will also see new, more experimental rye whiskeys – which I think is only a good thing, in an industry built on creativity and innovation. And another hopeful caveat to that: in about a decade we’re going to see some really, really good aged rye coming out.
In the meantime, this 10-year-old rye from Michter’s is to be savored.
Tasting notes: Michter’s Rye 10 years old 2023
Vital Stats: 92.8 proof, 46.4% ABV, at least 10 years old, single cask, limited release, 750ml, MSRP $200
Appearance: Bright reddish-orange, numerous quick and regular legs. Usually translucent.
Nose: An initial musk turns savory, with a whisper of blanched almond, then a hit of white pepper at the end, all set on a base with the crisp warmth of freshly baked whole wheat bread.
Palace: A touch of traditional rye grass immediately appears, but with a soft rather than harsh vegetal quality. It then deepens into toasted, almost burnt nuts. Very hot and spicy rye grains stand out in the aftertaste, with a finish considerably brightened by the vanilla sweetness. Long finish.