With strong ties to a distilling legacy spanning 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 facilities 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. In recent years Michter’s have also released two innovative satellite brands – Shenk’s Homestead Sour Mash Whiskey, and Bomberger’s Declaration Kentucky Straight Bourbon – which honour the heritage of the Michter’s brand.
Shenk’s Homestead Sour Mash whiskey is one of two legacy brands produced by the Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, KY, which honours the legacy and history of both the brand and original Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown, PA. With records indicating that distillation had been taking place at a distillery (which would eventually become known as Michter’s) in Schaefferstown by Swiss Mennonite farmers John and Michael Shenk around the year 1753, Shenk’s has thus been named in their honour and is a small batch American whiskey made using the traditional sour mash technique.
This brand is an exciting addition to the Michter’s Distillery portfolio for Michter’s fans as it allows Michter’s Master of Maturation, Andrea Wilson, Master Distiller, Dan McKee and their dedicated team an opportunity to innovate and produce something truly unique that is beyond what Michter’s target flavour profile for their brand would be. This is achieved through the use of a variety of techniques such as special wood finishes, interesting mashbills, etc. This 2019 bottling of Shenk’s includes a portion of the stocks were aged in Chinquapin Oak barrels before being blended into the final whiskey. Another interesting fact about this particular whiskey is that the dominant grain in the mashbill is neither corn nor rye (similar to Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash but a different whiskey) hence it cannot be classified as either a rye or a bourbon whiskey.
Name: Shenk’s Homestead (Batch 19G1139)
Age: Non Age Stated
Proof: 91.2 Proof (45.6% ABV)
Type: Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey
Mashbill: Not disclosed – assumed mixed mashbill of corn, rye and malted barley
Producer: Michter’s Distillery, KY
Nose: The nose opens with notes of barrel char and burnt caramel, followed by leather, cacao, a faint touch of red fruit, and faint orange peel oils.
Palate: The palate opens with an explosion of thick dark chocolate and maple syrup that is followed by notes of sweet toasted oak, earthy baking spices, orange oils, and charred oak as you continue to chew.
Finish: The finish carries on from the palate opening with notes of bitter dark chocolate, toasted oak spice, drying oak tannins, and leaves an herbaceous aftertaste of charred oak and orange oil.
Michter’s have a strong reputation across the board for releasing whiskies that are easy to drink and packed full of deep and robust flavours. This is typically achieved through a combination of custom toasted barrels, a 103 barrel-entry proof, small batches consisting of just 24 barrels, custom production methods and filtration protocols, custom grain recipes, and a proprietary yeast strain. This year’s release of Shenk’s Homestead is no exception to these standards and although it falls just outside the Michter’s target flavour profile, I for one am delighted that they decided instead to bottle this whiskey under the Shenk’s Homestead label. As previously stated, Shenk’s again doesn’t qualify as either a bourbon or a rye whiskey but Michter’s have turned this to its advantage by avoiding the shortcomings of both bourbon and rye and instead creating something truly special in the middle.
Shenk’s is also a vintage-dated product and every year Michter’s team use it to showcase some of the most interesting whiskies that have come from their various innovative experiments ageing in their rack houses. As part of this one key component they have focussed on in the past two years has been the addition of stocks aged in unconventional oak casks. For example, this year’s release contains stocks aged in Chinquapin oak casks, whereas last year’s release contained stocks aged in French oak casks. To date I have only tried the 2018 and now the 2019 releases but sipping them side by side it’s very clear what influence these unusual casks have had on the finished product. The addition of whiskey aged in Chinquapin has resulted in a much darker and brawnier Shenk’s with incredible depth and balance of flavour throughout. Whilst sipping this it’s one thing for me to describe the notes that I get from this whiskey but to taste it is an experience in itself that I’m not sure I can accurately put into words. It’s syrupy without being too sweet, spicy without burn, and perfectly balanced between its sweet toasted-oak notes and its dark earthy mineral notes. Tasting this whiskey next to Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finished Sour Mash Shenk’s is again a completely different beast and I’m putting this down to the Chinquapin casks and Michter’s unique approach to crafting each individual whiskey expression.
The very talented team at Michter’s have struck gold with this year’s release and I love that Shenk’s and Bombergers allow Michter’s fans to taste something innovative and delicious that is a step removed from the target Michter’s flavour profile but not so much that the quality or flavour suffers. In fact, this year’s release, despite being completely different to the 2018 vintage (which was one of my favourite whiskies of 2018), has risen quickly in my rankings for favourite whiskey of the year 2019 – it’s delicious, complex, and very easy to drink and enjoy.
Try or Buy?
With a suggested retail price of around $80 this whiskey sits in the upper price range for a whiskey that I would instantly advise you to buy if you find them at retail. That being said this year’s Shenks is so good that I would strongly recommend anyone who can get it for less than $100 to buy with confidence. If, however, you find this at over the $100 threshold and are sitting on the fence I’d recommend you try it first.