Bomberger’s Declaration Review (2020 Release)

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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 year’s 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 over 3 years) and once again blended these with Kentucky Straight bourbon that had been aged for a period of time in custom 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 all those years ago you still get to try their bourbon at close to barrel proof.

Vital Stats:

Name: Bomberger’s Declaration (Batch#20G1526)
Age: NAS
Proof: 108 Proof (54% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: Not disclosed
Producer: Michter’s Distillery, KY
Website:  https://michters.com/bombergers-declaration/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens complex and faintly sweet with strawberries before robust maple syrup, dried stone fruit, and bitter charred oak notes emerge alongside a touch of cinnamon, dried cacao, and a touch of black pepper rye. The longer you nose it the more bitter charred oak notes like cacao and cloves emerges alongside a touch of ethanol.

Palate: The palate is semi-viscous, opening with deep brown sugar caramel, before oak-driven notes of earthy baking spices, and dark chocolate emerge. These are followed by a wave of peppery rye spice which fades to notes of maple syrup, faint dried stone fruit, cinnamon, tannic oak, barrel spices, and a touch of char bitterness.

Finish: The finish opens with a second burst of warm spice which warms the throat before fading towards notes of maple syrup, dried fruit, barrel spices, and a fruity faintly tannic char aftertaste.

Overall

Another year, another fantastic release of Bomberger’s Declaration. This year’s release continues the proud tradition established by previous releases and is built on deep multi-layered flavours, a solid backbone of oak, a great proof, and a very well balanced and robust sipping experience. This whiskey carries all the hallmarks of a classic bourbon with deep caramel notes bordering on maple syrup, sweet fruit notes, peppery grain notes, and strong barrel influence at a proof that’s prickly on the tongue without being very tannic or ethanol burning your mouth with a too high proof. It’s difficult to fault a bourbon that brings everything you could ask for to the table except a second bottle!

This year’s release also sees a return of the Chinquapin (Quercus muehlenbergii) oak barrels that were used in the maturation of the 2018, and 2019 releases of Bomberger’s, however, this year the Michter’s team have increased the proportion of the bourbon that spent time in Chinquapin oak. Michter’s Master of Maturation has long held that using this special type of oak cooperage not only elevates the unique attributes of this bourbon, but also helps extract more fruitiness from the spirit while adding a touch more tannin, and imparts an incredibly rich profile. Personally I have to agree because apart from its very rich and robust flavours, this year’s release also has increased strawberry and cherry fruit notes which become more noticeable as you reach your 3rd or 4th sip and really help to add a touch of sweetness to keep those barrel and spice notes in check across the board.

As an annual vintaged release, Bomberger’s Declaration has become one of the few limited-edition whiskies that I will actively seek out and for the past 3 years I have been lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle. As with previous years, the 2020 release is packed thick with great flavours, but when drank side by side with 2018 and 2019, the added depth of flavour coming from the inclusion of more Chinquapin oak-aged stocks really becomes apparent. Whereas both the 2018 and 2019 have varying degrees of toasted oak, grains, and chocolate milk notes, the 2020 has plumbed these notes for further depth and reached deep maple syrup, peppery rye, and dark chocolate. I remember being highly complimentary of both the 2018 and 2019 (more so the 2018), but it seems that this year the Michter’s team have reached new levels and have created a bourbon that outperforms both these previous releases.

Try or Buy?

This whiskey carries an MRSP of $90 and if you can get it for even close to that you have landed yourself a fantastic bourbon at a wonderful proof and a great price! Buy buy buy!

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