Michter’s US*1 Bourbon
Review: Michter’s US *1 Bourbon 84/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 27, 2015
The Michter’s brand can trace its heritage to the Pennsylvania’s historic Bomberger’s Distillery, which in 1980 was declared a National Historic Landmark and is thought to have been up until the time of its closing, one of the oldest distilleries in the United States. In fact, the still house, the warehouse, and the jug house all date back to the 1840s.
The Mitcher’s brand was first distilled at the Bomberger facility in 1951 when it was owned by Louis Forman. Forman and his Master Distiller, Charles Everett Beam, apparently created the original whiskey that was named Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey. The name was apparently a play on the names of Forman’s sons Michael and Peter. Over time the Bomberger distillery became associated with the Michter’s Whiskey and became known as the Michter’s Distillery. It was unfortunately closed in 1989 due to bankrupcy.
Since 2004, the Michter’s brand has been produced in Bardstown, Kentucky by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers with the brand currently owned by Chatham Imports, Inc. The company has apparently built a new Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky and has begun to produce their own spirit. This new production has not yet made its way into Michter’s US *1 Bourbon.
According to the Michter’s Whiskey website:
Michter’s US*1 Bourbon is made from a carefully selected mashbill that features the highest quality American corn. It is then matured to the peak of perfection, with barrels often aging in excess of eight years. Truly “small batch,” each batch of our US*1 Bourbon is typically composed of no more than two dozen barrels, leaving no margin for “blending out” imperfection and thus necessitating excellence from every barrel. Reflecting the spirit of the Bluegrass State, Michter’s US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is nuanced, mellow, and earthy.
The whiskey is bottled at varying proofs usually just over 45 % alcohol by volume.
In the Bottle 4/5
The Michter’s US *1 Bourbon is housed in the medium tall whisky bottle shown to the left. It seems to be a fashion these days for bourbon bottles to have labels which are designed to look old fashioned which is supposed to give an impression of a hand crafted spirit. I guess I am a curmudgeon because for the most part I dislike these labels and would like to see a more modern approach taken. I think in my mind I get the subliminal impression that who ever designed the label couldn’t be bothered to do something that looks fresh. I am probably wrong about the labels as almost everyone else I know loves them.
I do like that the whiskey is topped with a nice cork, and that the neck has a ring label which identifies the exact batch the whiskey comes from.
In the Glass 8.5/10
The Bourbon is a golden caramel coloured whiskey with a hue which has just started to move from copper to bronze. When I poured a small sample into my glencairn glass and gave it the customary tilt and swirl, I witnessed a very stubborn crown at the top of the oily sheen which only grudgingly released a few fat droplets which ambled back into the whiskey.
The immediate nose is assertive with alcohol (from the high bottling proof), as well as spicy oak and sap, grassy tobacco and sweet butterscotch all reaching up and grabbing at me. There is a lot of fruit including both orange and banana peel, some yellow apple and even a few apricot brandy-like aromas. As I let the glass breathe the alcohol push subsides (a little) and I also notice a building spiciness as both wood spices and baking spices (in particular cloves cinnamon) reach into the breezes. Vanilla, some nutty almond, and some honeycomb round out the aroma which is pleasant, although aggressive.
In the Mouth 51/60
There are flavours of dry grassy tobacco, spicy oak sap, and some zesty orange peel which along with the higher alcohol content gives the spirit an aggressive quality which makes me sip cautiously. As I sip, I am reminded of Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon which has a similar winding grassy quality and a similar dry bitterness. Fortunately, Michter’s also carries a sweet flavour of honeyed butterscotch alongside this dry bitterness. As I sip, I taste can also taste some raisin-like flavours, and a pungent leathery spiciness. Further sips reveal some honeycomb, toffee and corn and maybe a few traces of bittersweet chocolate which all seem to have been joined in after the glass had been allowed to breathe.
The flavours are enjoyable, however the whiskey as a whole is quite demanding. As I sip I keep wondering whether the reward is worth the effort as I really wish for more chocolate caramel flavours which are teased at, but which never materialize. When I add an ice-cube, I find the spirit more approachable however the diminished sweetness which comes with ice has also diminished the balance of flavours, and I begin to taste more bitterness than I would prefer.
In The Throat 12.5/15
The exit is dry and spicy although there certainly are also a few sweeter flavours of butterscotch and honeycomb which linger along with the spice. Unfortunately the party is crashed by an odd metallic bitterness in the aftertaste which keeps the score in check.
The Afterburn 8/10
As I sampled the Michter’s US *1 Bourbon I kept thinking to myself, ‘I should like this more’ and this feeling has persisted all the way to the end. The spirit has obvious character and complexity, yet it seemed to me that something was just a little off kilter in each part of the review process. After giving it some thought, I have decided that the strength of this bourbon is just out of sync with the flavour. Although I like over-strength whiskeys, I believe that the flavour of the spirit should scale evenly with the alcohol. As the alcohol strength increases, so should the concentration of rich flavour. With respect to Michter’s, I find the flavour lags behind just a little such that the flavour reward does not match the effort required to enjoy it. I like Michter’s US *1 Bourbon; but I will be inclined to mix cocktails rather than enjoying it neat or over ice.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
The recipe I am presenting here is based upon a whiskey cocktail I found in Leo Engels 1878 book, American and Other Drinks. In his book, Leo simply calls the recipe a Whiskey Cocktail, and I suspect it is close to the original version of what we today call, the Old Fashioned Cocktail.
His recipe uses lemon peel instead of orange, and asks us to shake and strain the ingredients rather than serving over ice. The only change I will make to Engels’ recipe is to add back that ice.
1878 Whiskey Cocktail Over Ice
Wine Glass of Michter’s US *1 Bourbon (say 2 oz)
2 to 3 dashes of Bitters (Angostura or Fees Cocktail bitters)
3 dashes of plain syrup
Fill a metal shaker 1/3 full of ice
Add 2 dashes of bitters and 3 dashes of sugar syrup
Shake and strain into a suitable glass
Add ice and a strip of lemon peel
Note: If you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)