Michter’s US☆1 Sour Mash – Toasted Barrel Finish (2022 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 and inductee to the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame®.

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.

Following the continued success of their Toasted Barrel Finished (TBF) whiskies, news that Michter’s very popular Toasted Barrel Finished US☆1 Sour Mash whiskey was making a return in 2022 was very welcome with many Michter’s (and Michter’s TBF) fans wasting no time in preparing for the return of something special. With a massive following, the standard Michter’s US☆1 Sour Mash Whiskey is already one of my favourite US whiskies and is also the first whiskey made in the United States to ever achieve the honour of being named “Whisky Of The Year” by The Whisky Exchange in the UK. Originally distilled from a mashbill that doesn’t legally qualify as either a bourbon nor a rye whiskey (the percentage of both corn and rye in the recipe are each below 51%), Sour Mash is the hidden gem in Michter’s US☆1 core range.

The process involved in making this whiskey follows the same painstaking steps as seen before with Michter’s taking fully mature barrels of US☆1 Sour Mash American whiskey, re-barrelling them into special custom toasted barrels, and then ageing the whiskey for an undisclosed period of time until the flavour profile has reached a point where Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson and her team deem it ready for bottling. The custom barrels used are assembled from no younger than 18-month air dried oak and toasted to a custom level without charring to best enhance the flavour profile of Sour Mash.

When describing the 2022 release, Andrea Wilson summarised the process as follows:
“The 2022 Toasted Sour Mash release takes the Sour Mash expression and enhances it by adding notes of smoked honey and gingersnap cookies accentuated by toasted oak, all while honoring the sweet and spicy balance of our US*1 Sour Mash.  Working on the Toasted series really brings forward the influence of the barrel and represents the dedication of the Michter’s team to continuously provide exceptional whiskey.”

This process of finding what works best for the particular style of whiskey, as opposed to making the whiskey fit an envisioned process, has become a hallmark of Michter’s whiskies and with the success of previous TBF releases I wonder if it will carry through with this second release and deliver what Michter’s set out to achieve. Let’s find out!

Vital Stats:

Name: Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey (Batch No: 22G2238)
Age: NAS
Proof: 86 Proof (43% ABV)
Type: American whiskey
Mashbill: Not disclosed
Producer: Michter’s Distillery LLC, KY
Website: https://michters.com/us1-toasted-barrel-finish-sour-mash/ 
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with lush red fruits, toasted oak tannins, coconut, hints of butterscotch, baking spices, barrel spices, faint nutty notes, vanilla, cacao, herbaceous touch. As you nose deeper fruit continue to build to a juicy fruit-esque note alongside increased herbaceous notes and cacao powder notes.

Palate: The palate opens viscous with warm toasted oak notes of toasted coconut, caramel, red and black fruits, and warming tannic spice before becoming chocolatey with baking spice notes, vanilla, honeyed nuts, and a touch of herbaceousness. As you continue to chew it remains sweet with the spice briefly picking up again before returning to vanilla, fruits, herbaceous notes, dark chocolate, and a lingering tannin-driven warmth.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering warmth, toasted oak spice, coconut, chocolate, and dried fruits leading into an aftertaste of herbaceous notes, cacao, dried fruits, and toasted oak tannins.

Overall 

This whiskey hits the palate running and is a feast for the senses with the impact from the toasted barrels adding a variety of robust and complex complimentary flavours to the existing Sour Mash profile. It’s sweet, spicy, savoury, and tart to various degrees with the palate going on a journey as heat, flavours, and toasted oak tannins wash across it, creating a deep complex and easy-to-drink whiskey packed full of flavours with a long flavourful finish and no burn. Despite the impact of the toasted oak being front and centre it remains carefully balanced against the base flavour profile. The oak never dominates the base flavours, instead, it runs concurrent with them, adding warm spice, rich caramels, sweet fruits, and tannic oak exactly where they are needed, leaving no bitter or harsh oak notes whatsoever. The rye element also shines through brightly adding that classic sweet herbaceous edge I’ve come to expect from Michter’s rye whiskies. Sipped side by side, the 2019 release gives chocolate milk notes and herbaceous rye notes with slightly fewer fruit notes, less tannic spice, and softer baking spices. In comparison, the 2022 release appears to have a touch more punch and flavour complexity to it overall with enough of the same flavours that if you liked or missed the 2019, you’ll love the 2022.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that Michter’s produce the best TBF whiskies on the market. Being the first distillery to ever produce a whiskey finished in a heavy toasted only second barrel, they are masters of their craft and each release is another testament to the skill and hard work of Andrea Wilson, Dan McKee, and their dedicated teams. It’s also great to see that Michter’s are continuing their innovations into TBF expressions and striving to attain perfection within the chosen whiskey style, balancing the influence of the toasted oak barrels with the already complex mature whiskey going in.

Try or Buy?

This release has a US MSRP of $100 per bottle. As such I would recommend you try it before you buy it, however, if this sounds like it would be something you may enjoy I would heavily consider picking it up at close to this MSRP. For Michter’s fans on this side of the pond, this bottle will hopefully fall under the €150 mark and will be a steal at that.

If you do get your hands on a bottle my advice would be to open it, rink a measure or two, and put the bottle back on the shelf for a period of 2-3 weeks. In my experience this gives the toasted oak character some time to interact with he air in the bottle and mellow out, giving you a very enjoyable whiskey.

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