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.
The second of two legacy brands inherited with the resurrection of the Michter’s brand, Bomberger’s Declaration is a limited release small batch Kentucky Straight bourbon. Released on an annual basis since 2015 it was created to commemorate Abraham Bomberger and his famous Bomberger’s Distillery, which later became the original Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown, PA. Originally Bomberger was a Pennsylvanian Dutchman who had ties to the Shenk Family and purchased the Shenk’s Distillery sometime in 1860. The Bomberger’s Distillery ran until Prohibition in 1919, after which it passed through many hands whilst producing some of the most legendary whiskies on the market.
As with the other legacy brand, Shenk’s Homestead, Bomberger’s Declaration gives Michter’s Master Distiller and their Master of Maturation the opportunity to innovate and craft truly unique whiskies that fall beyond Michter’s target flavour profile by using a variety of techniques such as special wood finishes, interesting mashbills, etc. For this release Andrea Wilson and her dedicated team hand-picked casks of Kentucky Straight bourbon (conforming to Michter’s quality standards of aging in naturally seasoned and air dried wood for at least 18 – 36 months) and blended these with stocks of Kentucky Straight bourbon that has been aged for a period of time in special charred Chinquapin Oak casks. One really attractive aspect of this bourbon is that it is bottled at 108 proof which is deep in the barrel-proof zone for Michter’s. This means that if you couldn’t get your hands on their KY-only barrel proof bourbon release you still get to try their bourbon at close to barrel proof.
Name: Bomberger’s Declaration (Batch#19G1234)
Proof: 108 Proof (54% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: Not disclosed
Producer: Michter’s Distillery, KY
Nose: The nose opens complex with deep syrupy caramel, faint toasted oak, white pepper, a touch of dried red fruit, baking spices, cacao, and old earthy charred oak
Palate: The palate opens viscous with a mix of deep maple syrup and luscious dark chocolate, followed by macerated cherries, a dash of peppery spice, earthy baking spices, and old charred oak all dancing across the tongue.
Finish: The finish opens with a faint flash of residual peppery spice from the palate before a warming Kentucky hug moves down the chest leaving an aftertaste of dark chocolate, maple syrup, tannic toasted oak, and red fruit.
Man this stuff is really good! For the second consecutive year Bomberger’s Declaration is strong in the running for my Bourbon of the Year and both times it has been an easy decision to add it to the list. It’s nuanced, well-balanced, and boasts old oak notes reminiscent of a bourbon that is aged into its late teens or early twenties – and all the better for it. Similar to last year there’s layer upon layer of thick complexity that reveals a range of classic bourbon notes as you roll each sip around your palate. The mouthfeel is thick, oily, and carries notes of deep caramel, a slight kick of a rye spice, and lots of old barrel flavours that work together to give a deep, complex, and robust sipping experience that tastes amazing all around. It’s like a flavour symphony is in your mouth and has no noticeably off-putting, unpleasant, or over-oaked notes, and also no alcohol burn. Instead you get a really accessible bourbon with the flavour intensity turned up to the nines, a warm Kentucky Hug, and a finish that lasts all day. In fact, it tastes almost like a very fancy dessert from a very fancy restaurant that you have no business being in but you’ve found an untouched one in the dumpster outside and nobody is there to judge you as you shovel it into your face in one go.
With last year’s Bomberger’s Declaration being the only bourbon that my wife has ever expressed a liking for my 2018 bottle took quite a hit. As a result I still haven’t told her that I have a bottle of 2019. In comparison to 2018, this year’s release has more oak spice and dark chocolate-heavy notes yet still carries the same robust flavour intensity and balance. With bottling batches being only 24 barrels in size at Michter’s, the influence of the Chinquapin oak barrels is quite pronounced and they’ve added a lot of cocoa/dark chocolate notes which are present in both the Shenk’s Homestead and Bomberger’s Declaration this year.
Despite a very busy year, this is yet another fantastic release from the dedicated team behind Michter’s Distillery and in my opinion showcases what an asset they have in Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson and her team. When allowed to innovate and produce something that falls outside of the classic Michter’s flavour profile, they have proven that anything is possible and that the results are more-than-likely going to be delicious.
Try or Buy?
In the US this year’s bottling has an MSRP of around $90, which considering the quality of the bourbon you get, makes this an easy buy for me if you can get it for less than $100. If, however, you find it for over $100 I have to recommend that you try it first. In Ireland this bottle will probably settle at the same price as last year and will set fans back a cool €130 which is a very decent price for what you’re getting but again try it first if you’re unsure it’s worth the spend.