Full disclosure: I can find Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye locally, but I did not buy it for this review. I received a sample bottle of this and two other whiskies for a group tasting event. (Hence not much in the way of photography today.) If I had purchased, it would have set me back about $49 locally, which is a lot for an American whisky with no specific age statement.
Michter‘s is interesting for being a small distiller specializing in small batch whiskies and, in this case, single barrel releases. Yes, this is a single-barrel rye. Of its provenance, the Michter’s web site does not tell us any more than we’d know from the branding as a Straight Rye: aged at least 2 years in charred, new American oak barrels, at least 51% rye in the mash, no colors or flavoring agents added, and all the whiskey in the bottle distilled in same state. It would be interesting to know the actual ratio of rye in the mash bill. I emailed, let’s see what we hear back. But we do know they distill their own spirit (unlike many ’boutique’ rye whiskies that use spirit from MGP). Michter’s distillery is in Louisville, KY.
This was another gift (thank you Josh)! This is an interesting whisky to cover because the name is so long and it all tells a story. Located in the far northeast of the U.S. in Vermont, Whistle Pig is a fairly new entrant (established 2015) in the field, and is a rye whisky specialist. They produce various expressions and have a good reputation. This expression is a Canadian Rye whiskey. The interesting story starts there: Canada has no specific rules about rye whiskey. How much rye you get depends on the producer’s taste. The WP team started as rye aficionados, so we can assume a healthy serving of rye in the mash bill (which they do not post).
As I covered in the review of their bourbon, Stein distillery (website) is a small, craft distiller in Joseph, Oregon. This is not the damp and mossy Oregon where I live; Joseph is located in the high plains, with sunny, hot summers and cold winters. They’ve been around for 12 years now and I found the straight Bourbon quite good.
According to the hand-written notation on the label, my rye is bottle 8 from barrel 560—that’s a tell on the scale of the Stein operation. They are small. And they are local. You can read about how they source their grain from Eastern Oregon farmers in a profile about the family-built and family-run operation here. Their website is spare—you can see photos of their spirits and a short writeup on their whiskies here. But they provide no info on the mash bill or any other production details. Stein calls this spirit ‘straight rye,’ but that just means it is not blended with any other spirits and it is aged at least 2 years.
Glen Garioch (pronounced ‘glen geery’) is an interesting place. The distillery is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1797 with just a couple short periods of closure, in 1968 and 1995. The distillery has been part of Morrison Bowmore Distillers (Auchentoshan and Bowmore) since 1970. Morrison Bowmore was acquired by Suntory in 1994. There are some great details about the distillery on Morrison Bowmore’s site. There is a lauter for the mash tun and they use stainless steel washbacks. They have three sizeable stills, of which two are presently used, according to various sources. Their production is small, at about 1M liters per year. That’s one-third the size of Glenfarclas, for example. On the Glen Garioch web site, they state they produce without chill filtration, and play up the small batch aspect of the spirits. Their 3-minute video gives some views of the well-tended distillery.
Glen Garioch have a 12-year (which is on my radar), but this review is for the Founder’s Reserve, a low-priced NAS offering ($47 here in Oregon). That’s even less than Talisker’s Storm or Highland Park’s Magnus.
Today’s entry is going to be a benchmark for some craft whiskies to come. In the U.S., we’ve see billboard ads for Bulleit products fairly regularly over the last 10 years. This is a brand with some history (mid-1800s), though it was dormant for 120 years. The brand was reflated in the late 1980s, then sold to Seagrams, which was gobbled up by Diageo.
Diageo’s Bulleit bourbon is centered in two plants, the larger being almost 7 M litres per year. That dwarfs most Scottish distilleries. But that’s not all. This 95 Rye spirit is distilled at another facility, MGP Indiana, a contract distiller. This is a typical arrangement for American whiskies. Whereas in Scotland they have contracted out much of the maltings, cooperage and some bottling and warehouses, in the US, it’s more common that the distillation is contracted out en toto. So what’s a brand in that case? Some ‘producers’ do their own finishing: cask and aging. Others buy the stuff finished and just supply the marketing. Mostly, that’s fluff and sometimes gets them into legal trouble.