As we are on the brink of a new year, ‘best of’ lists are popping up everywhere online. Even more so, people seem to enjoy classifying activities as ‘the last X of 2019’. Please forgive me as I join the ever-growing legion of ‘lasters’. In my case, however, my ‘last’ is also a ‘first’. As a final blog post for 2019, I would like to share my first review of a Michter’s expression. It’s a fine whiskey: the US*1 Limited Edition Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash.
The Michter’s Brand
If you have never heard of Michter’s before, now is the time to sit straight and pay attention! The brand has been around since 1753, as it can be traced back to the founding of the first American whiskey company. It went through multiple shut-downs, re-openings, and even multiple owners and even a name-change before it shut down in 1989/1990. A couple of years later, two entrepreneurs, Joseph Magliocco and his mentor, Richard Newman, were able to buy the rights to the Michter’s brand, and opened up two distilleries in Kentucky. The first ‘reborn’ Michter’s products hit the shelves in 2004.
If you want to do some further reading, check out Ken Gargett’s article “Michter’s Kentucky Bourbon (Plus The Difference Between Whiskey, Whisky, And Bourbon)” here. To save you some time, I’ll quote one of the most interesting paragraphs from the article: “[The aim of the distillery] is to make small–batch or single–barrel products. “Small batch” has no legal specifications in the United States, hence a product can be “stretched” to umpteen thousand cases and still claim to be “small batch.” Despite that, Michter’s has restricted itself to a maximum of 20 barrels for any of its small-batch products.” (Gargett, “Michter’s Kentucky Bourbon”, quillandpad.com)
The “US*1” Range
With the “US*1” range, Michter’s honours its own heritage and legacy. The 4 expressions (Kentucky Straight Rye, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, American Whiskey, and the Sour Mash) in this range can be seen as the true ‘heart’ of the distillery as they consist of “some of the finest single barrel and truly small batch whiskeys available” (michters.com). The sample that I received from brand ambassador Sandra Winters is a limited edition of the Sour Mash, as it is made by taking the aforementioned spirit, and subjecting it to a second maturation on a custom made barrel. The distillery’s website informs us that this specific barrel is made from 18-month air-dried wood, which is then toasted instead of charred. Before it was even release to the public, Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson experimented with different levels of toasting. The result of their experiment is a truly unique whiskey, and proudly bears the ‘Master’s Batch‘ label.
Speaking of labels, the design of a Michter’s bottle always makes me think that I am holding one of those bottles that you stumble upon in the back of a shop: “Oh, I completely forgot that we still had one. Yeah that’s a true gem, you should take it home with you!” It does have an ‘old–timey‘ vibe to it, as if the labels are still hand-made. My buddy Eddie, who designs labels for a living, can probably tell me all about the ‘classic American design’. I should give him a call and ask. Eddie, if you are reading this, you can expect a call!
The Tasting Notes
From the start, I noticed the lovely dark copper colour in my Glencairn glass. Now, I know that colour actually doesn’t tell you anything about the quality or flavours of the whiskey, but it’s nice to acknowledge the visual aspect of it all once in a while.
The scent of the liquid can best be described as ‘warm‘, ‘cosy‘, and even ‘caring‘. There are no sharp edges here, as there is only a hint of alcohol in the far back of the glass. I picked up hints of light honey and vanilla, followed by some influences of oak and even a little bit of carrot juice. That’s a first! After a while, I also picked up a distant chocolate scent. A pleasant scent, to summarize.
At 43% ABV, the flavours of the Toasted Barrel Sour Mash are mellow, and eager to please. There’s vanilla, a bit of orange, watered-down honey, and again the same hints of carrot. There is barely an aftertaste, there is barely any burn. This is a whiskey that you can drink at any point of the day (provided it’s considered ‘the right time for a dram’), and plenty of people would probably put this expression down as a ‘fine‘ whiskey: it’s not trying to surprise you with multiple layers or a daring complexity. It doesn’t have an edge. It’s simply a very decent whiskey. And there’s a market for that as well.
Coincidental Food Pairing
As I was reviewing this expression, I remembered that I had some leftovers of last night’s dinner: some roast chicken & apple, with a chili-flake caramel glazing and sweet potato & carrot mash (modified beer can chicken recipe, my partner is a goddess in the kitchen). And I wondered, would these fit? There’s somewhat of a carrot flavour in the whiskey, so it might go well with the food. A couple of minutes later, I was enjoying a comfort food and comfort whiskey combo. Sometimes, you don’t need anything fancy. Sometimes, the combination of roast chicken, sweet potato, carrot, caramel, and Michter’s is all you need. Please and thank you.