With strong ties to a distilling legacy that spans over 250 years, the Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, KY, has been producing a comprehensive range of award-winning American whiskies since the brand was resurrected by Company President Joseph Magliocco in the 1990’s. Now distilling in their own facility since August of 2015, the Michter’s brand has seen a quick return to global recognition for the quality of both their own and their sourced whiskies under Master Distiller Dan McKee, Master Distiller Emeritus Pam Heilmann – the first woman to serve as a Master Distiller at a Kentucky Distiller’s Association distillery since prohibition, and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson – the first woman to ever serve as Chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association. The Michter’s core range of whiskies, which are bottled under their popular US☆1 line, consists of their small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon, their single-barrel Kentucky Straight Rye, their small batch Unblended American Whiskey, their small batch Original Sour Mash American Whiskey, and several limited edition variations of these. Their age –stated whiskies, which are bottled under their 10 year old, 20 year old, and 25 year old labels consist of straight Kentucky bourbon and rye whiskey which come from sourced stocks and are released on a ‘when-ready’ basis to eager fans.
One of the first whiskies released by Michter’s under phase 1 of resurrecting the brand in Kentucky, Michter’s 10 year old bourbon is a single barrel offering featuring sourced product from an unknown KY distillery. Originally released to show bourbon drinkers of all levels that Michter’s mean business, the consistent annual release a 10+ year old Kentucky straight bourbon has proven widely popular and very sought after. Where exactly the whiskey comes from has long been a topic of speculation and there was even talk of early releases containing Stitzel Weller bourbon and 18+ year old bourbon. Michter’s response to these rumours has always been that although NDAs prevent them from revealing their sources, the 10 year old age statement is simply the youngest whiskey they would bottle as opposed to an exact age statement.
Today I’ll be taking a look at the 2019 release of Michter’s 10 year old bourbon that hit the US market somewhere around the end of May. This year’s release is the second time I get to try a bottling of Michter’s 10 year old bourbon which has been produced under the watchful eye of Master Distiller (Emeritus) Pam Heilmann, and since Pam’s announcement of her retirement into the role of Master Distiller Emeritus in April of this year, it is her final release of this product – and I’m really looking forward to it.
Name: Michter’s 10 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Age: 10 years old minimum (rumoured to be just shy of 14 years old this year)
Proof: 94.4 proof (47.2% ABV)
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey
Mashbill: Undisclosed (At least 51% corn)
Producer: Michter’s Distillery, Louisville, KY (Sourced from undisclosed distillery)
Nose: The nose opens sweet and slightly fruity with fresh black cherries, followed by deep caramel, faint vanilla, earthy nuts, citrus peel, baking spices, and charred oak.
Palate: The palate opens viscous and subdued at first before notes of dark cherries ooze out, followed by a kick of earthy rye and warm baking spices that wash over the palate and fading to more dark stone fruit, citrus peel, and faintly smoky lingering oak spice.
Finish: The finish opens with the same oak spice from the palate before giving deep caramel, a touch of dark chocolate, earthy nuts, and leaving a long aftertaste of charred oak and earthy rye spice.
This is another great-tasting release that’s on par with the quality fans of Michter’s have come to expect. It’s complex, has great depth of flavour, and very well balanced with bold classic bourbon flavours and a good kick of spice. If I had to describe the bourbon from this particular barrel in two words I would say cherry bomb – but in a good way so let me explain.
Something I’ve heard used a lot, and have also been guilty of doing, is a particular bourbon or rye whiskey being described as a caramel or butterscotch bomb. This usually means that the dominant note coming through overall is either caramel or butterscotch. This bourbon, however, is the first time I’ve come across what I would describe as a cherry bomb. The dominant note from nose to finish is the smell and taste of fresh black cherries, similar to when you pick one up, crush it in your hand, and the juice gets everywhere. In true Michter’s style, however, this focal cherry note is balanced out with supporting notes including deep caramel, earthy rye, warm baking spices, charred oak, and slight citrus peel. These all add a combination of balance and further complexity as they’re draped over the central dark cherry note and result in, what is in my opinion, a truly classic bourbon that is great for both sipping neat or for mixing into classic bourbon-based cocktail.
Something else I found interesting about this barrel is that it has a very decent heft of spice throughout. Traditionally Michter’s whiskies are very well-polished and don’t have any fiery burn as you sip them- to maximise their enjoyment. Michter’s 10 year old bourbon, however, has always toed this line with what I assume is a high-rye bourbon, giving drinkers a sharp enough spice bite to feel it but not enough to burn, instead prickling the tongue as it passes. There’s also none of the toasted oak notes I usually get with Michter’s from this particular barrel, with charred oak and warm baking spices present instead.
This a workhorse pour, you don’t have to spend hours pulling it apart note by note, you can easily enjoy it for what it is and it will deliver a delicious experience regardless of how you enjoy it.
In April 2019 it was announced that Michter’s Master Distiller Pam Heilmann would pass her title of Master Distiller to the very talented distiller Dan McKee and assume the role of Master Distiller Emeritus. Up to that point, Dan had been a Michter’s distiller under Pam (since Pam had brought him with her from Beam) and has several years of making Michter’s whiskies under his belt aswell as heavy involvement with Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery. As a further effect of this news, any future releases under either the 10 year old bourbon or 10 year old rye labels will have to meet Dan’s approval and I for one am very excited to see what subtle nuances he’ll bring to future releases.
Try or Buy?
This bottle has hit the US market with an RRP of $130 and so will no doubt cost in and around the same price as the previous year’s release when it graces shelves on this side of the pond (€150+) . Although this price may seem a bit steep, for those who can read between the lines this is usually a good indicator of an older bourbon – which costs more to produce because of less barrel yield and more taxes for longer ageing. In fact, there’s rumours going around that this year’s bourbon was just shy of 14 years old, which if true would mean there’s great value for money in terms of age and quality in this bourbon. At this price we’ve passed the threshold of what I would recommend you spend without trying it first, however, if you’re going solely on an opinion alone I think this is a great bourbon at the RRP.