Leopold and Tom - where do you guys purchase your barrels from (independent stave)? Are you still maturing in barrels less than 53 gallons?
I've never had a problem with the distillate a lot of micros put out. In fact, I think some semi-micros put out the best distillate on the market right now. The pot still distillate I've had from Willett, High West and Journeyman (Michigan) was phenomenal (High West's stuff had this great buttery popcorn taste), and I enjoyed FEW and Quincy Street's distillate, too. But when I say phenomenal, I really mean potential, because I never feel an urge to go to the store and purchase a bottle of distillate to sip on, and pretty much all of my bourbon friends share that feeling.
I know this has been addressed ad nauseam on the board, but I feel the disconnect is with the smaller barrels. IMO, the wood influence is too strong and most of the micro bottles I've had had a strong cedar(y) characteristic (taste kind of like a toothpick); the great vanilla and caramel flavors of bourbon are minimal or missing all together. Journeyman's Ravenswood Rye had less of the cedar characteristic and was pleasant, but it was still lingering in the background.
There is a huge emphasis on aging these days, but I don't think ultra aging is necessary. There are great Willet Family Estate releases that are 5 to 8 years old (8 years is supposed to be the honey spot). I understand that for a smaller producer 5 years is a long time - but I'm excited for the micros to get to the point where they are releasing bourbons > 5 years aged in traditional casks. It could turn the market on it's head.
These are just my thoughts as a consumer.