Whisky and Words Number 107: Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye vs. Bulleit 95 Rye

A true small-batch, single-barrel release

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.

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Whisky and Words Number 78: Bulleit 95 Rye

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.

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