Michter’s US☆1 Small Batch Bourbon – Toasted Barrel Finish (2021 Release) Review

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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.

As one of the very first distilleries to release whiskey finished in heavily-toasted barrels, Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish (TBF) whiskies have remained consistently popular with Michter’s fans around the world. Starting life as standard barrels of fully mature whiskey destined for Michter’s US☆1 core range, Michter’s then begin the painstaking process of individually dumping the selected barrels, re-barrelling them into their special custom heavy-toasted barrels without char, and then ageing the whiskey until such a time that the flavour profile has reached a point where Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson and her team deem it ready for bottling. Further to this, each release of TBF whiskey from Michter’s gets its own barrels produced to complement and maximise the potential for that exact style of whiskey, and once dumped also undergo a custom proprietary chill-filtration protocol to ensure the finished product has reached its full flavour potential.

As with all Michter’s products, demand for Michter’s TBF whiskies vastly outstrips supply. Unfortunately, these releases are not consistently available because they eat into potential inventory of the core US☆1 offerings so the news that this year would see the return of the TBF Bourbon following a 3-year gap was welcomed with open arms by fans of the previous 3 releases. Describing this year’s release, Michter’s Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson said, “This year’s release is exceptionally balanced and is the perfect complement for the fall and holiday season.” 

Today I’ll be tasting this 4th release of Michter’s TBF Bourbon. This bourbon was finished in barrels made from oak that was air dried for 18 months before being toasted to Michter’s precise specifications. For comparison’s sake I’ll also be putting it against a standard bottling of Michter’s US☆1 Small Batch bourbon also from 2018 and although I missed the 2014 release I did manage to get my hands on a bottle in 2015 and again in 2018 so I’ll also be tasting those also.

Vital Stats:

Name: Michter’s US☆1 Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon (Batch No: 21G2031)
Age: NAS
Proof: 91.4 Proof (45.7% ABV)
Type: Straight bourbon whiskey finished in toasted barrels
Mashbill: Not disclosed
Not disclosed
Producer: 
Michter’s Distillery LLC, KY
Website: https://michters.com/us1-toasted-barrel-finish-bourbon/
Glassware: 
Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with a bouquet of toasted oak, soft red fruit, dark brown sugar, baking spices, chocolate and charred oak and cloves.

Palate: The palate opens sweet with brown sugar syrup drizzled over red fruits, before big, toasted oak, earthy baking spices, and faintly herbaceous dark chocolate emerge, ending in a wave of warming tannic spice that washes over the palate. This fades to thick fruit notes, more dark chocolate, faint barrel spices, roasted pecans, and faint barrel smoke.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering spice and toasted tannins before fading to earthy spice, roasted pecans, caramel, and leading into an aftertaste of concentrated oak tannins, herbaceous dark chocolate, and a touch of barrel smoke.

Overall 

What a great example of a well-executed toasted barrel finished bourbon! Smelling it, tasting, and savouring in the aftertaste it tastes like you’re eating a big pecan pie that’s dusted with peppery baking spices and served with a side of warm strawberries drizzled in chocolate sauce – delicious! I once toasted my own virgin Irish oak staves in my oven over a low heat and the resulting tannins oozing out of the wood left my kitchen smelling of warm oak tannins for hours afterwards. I’ll never forget that smell and experiencing this bourbon brings me right back to that day – albeit less intense in this instance, and far more enjoyable than having to explain to my wife why our house smelled like a warm wood fire! Despite TBFs being a dime a dozen these days, tasting Michter’s classic rendition of a TBF bourbon really puts the lower quality of other releases into clear perspective. These guys were some of the first to do a TBF and it’s great to taste that they haven’t lost their edge in the slightest. Compared to the standard 2018 US 1 Small Batch bourbon I was surprised to taste that the profile was quite consistent between the two but with one key difference – the toasted oak influence. Whereas the standard Small Batch is a touch grain-forward, the TBF bourbon exudes those toasted oak and baking spice notes from every drop. Compared to the 2018 and 2015 releases the 2021 has less red fruit intensity but more overall complexity with the baking spices notes adding a nice warm kick to the flavour profile and improving the overall enjoyment. The result is a bourbon I prefer over its predecessors and was definitely not what I was expecting to happen given the quality of the previous releases!

Like I said earlier, Michter’s are old pros at crafting the perfect TBF whiskies. By combining the knowledge of their Distillation and Maturation teams, the success that Michter’s have had with their TBF whiskies is unrivalled in my opinion and puts them at the very top of the leader board. With their exacting attention to the minute details of production and the processes involved in producing these whiskies they have demonstrated that the labour intensity involved in finishing these whiskies is worth it every time. Hopefully as they continue to innovate using TBF we might see a 10-year-old release some day, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Try or Buy?

For the 2021 release we’ve seen the MSRP go from $60 (2018) to around $100. This increase in price is unfortunate as it will place this out of reach for many drinkers but is no doubt thanks to the ongoing US tariff war with the EU that has left so many distilleries with no other option but to recoup the massive expense through price increases. As this has hit the threshold for a buy recommendation I have to recommend you try this before you buy it. If, however, you’re already a fan off Michter’s TBF whiskies rest assured this is another great addition to the lineup!

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