This dram is the black truffle of unicorns: it’s a rare treat most people don’t even know enough about to go hunting for–and if they did, they likely wouldn’t know what they had if they found it. Toasted barrels and the higher ABV do amazing things to the already-great Michter’s US-1 Rye (though they apparently also chill filter this one differently than the US-1).
The nose opens with the smell of artisanal C4 and vintage dynamite in the metal tin and hinge clasp, while both are cellard with the greatest European treasures during a world war. It’s as if Alfred Nobel, after deciding to create the Peace Prize, built a smokehouse out of corrugated metal right next to his cedar sauna. But focusing too much on that aspect of the nose would neglect the nose’s many other dimensions: there’s also fine mahogany furniture here, topped with an amazing bowl of ramen created by a fusion Ethiopian chef. Trust me: nose it, and you’ll get that right away.
The mouth features tea that’s deeply disgruntled with its existential throw (it wanted to be coffee). The tannins are intense, and they bring with them orange flavors from deep down in the grain of the wood. There’s also zest of orange, beading up with oil, but no pith. It’s very assertive and mischievous, with notes of syrup crafted from handpicked elderberries, edible flowers, Eldridge Cleaver, and Eddie Haskell (don’t ask how they got those guys into the syrup: let’s just say it was a helluva party). Finally, we got clear notes of a fruit smoothie whose ingredients include a Victorian wardrobe filled with the extensive doll clothing collection of my eccentric uncle Basil (that one’s easier to explain: Uncle Basil just donated the wardrobe, doll clothes and all, and the smoothie folks had a huge blender).
The finish begins with an attempt to unfold the origami crane that one’s tongue became as a result of the mouth. At that moment, it really seems that this whiskey would resist cocktailification by simply and stubbornly separating itself out, as if it were a petulant genie who refused to grant wishes. But you quickly realize that it’s just so powerful and tannic and deep that it’s just momentarily difficult to imagine it playing well with what would necessarily be lesser ingredients. The finish is extraordinarily long and lovely. “Remarkable” is simultaneously on point and too tame a descriptor for this whiskey.
On the scale of unicorn-like creatures–
The Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye is the mermaid–Despite their association with sirens from Greek mythology and the obvious likelihood that a man would end up underwater with one, sailors (and others) never stopped looking for them. In fact, claims of mermaid sightings have continued into the 21st century. But unlike with mermaid sightings, a bottle of the Toasted Barrel Finish Rye is not likely to have actually been a manatee–or even a dugong.
–Our thanks to Michter’s for the sample!