For the past few decades, an increasing number of bourbon and rye fans have been enjoying Indiana-style whiskeys (though they didn’t always know it), thanks to “private label” distillery MGP (formerly LDI). With American whiskeys at an all-time high in popularity, the company has released the first whiskey trumpeting the Lawrenceberg, Indiana MGP connection, in the form of Metze’s Select limited-edition Indiana Straight Bourbon whiskey.
The large facility–now officially MGP Ingredients, Inc–has been providing distilled and aged product to a wide range of brands and labels over the years, including one very famous “Iowa-style” rye that’s made the news lately for being less-than-forthcoming about where the rye is actually made.
So-called “sourced” (or non-distiller produced) whiskey is sourced for a reason: Large distilleries in Indiana and Kentucky have access to a significant amount of well-aged product and decades of experience (the distillery that eventually became MGP Ingredients started life in 1847). Sourcing in and of itself is not a bad thing, despite the slew of stories in the past couple of years “exposing” the trend. While many brands seem to have gone to great lengths to hide their non-Brooklyn, non-Colorado or non-Iowa origins, others, including High West, Dickel Rye, Bulleit Rye, Redemption, and, more recently, Whistlepig have made a point of pointing out their sourced juice. Some, like High West (and the new Whistlepig Old World series), blend their source whiskies into intriguing new combinations, or “finish” them by aging them for an additional period in innovative barrels. Other brands are essentially choosing a pre-existing grain mash bill and rebottling the aged MGP, perhaps adding a little local water to bring the whiskey to 80 proof.
What no one debates, however, is that MGP makes great whiskey. Even the brands receiving a drubbing for not readily revealing their sources get recognized for bottling solid spirit. With that in mind, MGP distiller Greg Metze took a page from the High West cookbook and married three distinct bourbons from their rickhouses. All three are “high ryes” (boasting an unusually high rye content in addition to the requisite minimum 51% corn to be labeled bourbon), bringing extra spice and dryness to the palate.
The limited-edition brand (6,000 hand-numbered bottles are being released) consists of three separate bourbons which were “dumped” (emptied after aging) in 2015: The “recipe” is: 38% of a 2006 bourbon with a 21% rye content; 3% of a 2006 bourbon with a 36% rye content; and 59% of a 2008 bourbon with a 21% rye content, all made by MGP. The three whiskeys (aged seven and nine years) are married, then allowed to rest for several weeks before being brought to proof and bottled. (in 2014, MGP did release an earlier expression of Metze’s Medley Indiana as a limited release at Lawrenceberg’s Whiskey City Festival. It was not available for retail).
It’s interesting to note that on the pre-sell materials for retailers and media, the bourbon blend for Metze’s Select is described as the “2015 Medley,” suggesting that additional limited-edition releases combining different mash bills, vintages and percentages are planned or scheduled for the future. This could make the label that much more fun for collectors, bartenders and aficionados.
On the nose, it is immediately pleasing and welcoming, with notes of chocolate, marzipan, vanilla, walnut and a light raw leather. On the palate it opens bright, yet slightly woody, with a significant spiciness in the mid-palate, but an incredibly smooth finish. There is a viscous lusciousness to the liquid throughout the mouth. The flavor profile is a bit muddied up front with pepper and spice dominating the front and mid-palates, with vegetal notes to be found along the sides of the tongue. But the long finish is eminently satisfying with chocolate, vanilla, dill, cigar and even a hint of tomato dancing through the end.
What’s particularly intriguing for bourbon fans is that many of the brands that MGP supplies aren’t using these rye-driven mash bills as stand-alones their bourbons, generally opting for lower rye contents (popular sourced rye whiskies from MGP tend to gravitate towards a 95% rye, 5% barley bill). And this combination is indeed distinctive. Also intriguing is snagging a bottle of MGP-“approved” whiskey, with distiller Metze’s name behind it (the bottling appears to have been done by Ohio-based Meier’s Distilled Products (which also bottles Hirsch Small Batch).
Fans of Diageo’s Orphan Barrel project would do well to consider Metze’s Select, as another example of a peek behind the curtain and an increasing acknowledgement that even big companies can make great small whiskeys.
Metze’s Select Limited Edition Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey has an ABV of 46.5% and an SRP of $75. Anchor Distilling Co., San Francisco, is handling sales and marketing. It is expected to be available sometime in September, 2015. Please drink responsibly.
FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author’s own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. The author received a 100 ml sample of Metze’s Select. Normally that’s enough. It wasn’t enough. Sigh.