Whiskey Review: Michter’s Original Small Batch Sour Mash Whiskey

I am a big fan of Michter’s Straight Bourbon. It’s versatile, tastes great, and is priced well. All of which made me wonder — if their standard edition is that good, is it possible that their specialty releases might actually be better? In the name of science, the other day I grabbed a bottle of their sour mash whiskey and made some cocktails to find out. 



The Michter’s we know and see on shelves today only came about in 2004, when Chatham Imports bought a dilapidated old distillery on Michter’s Road in Pennsylvania called Bomberger’s Distillery. That distillery was able to trace its roots to 1753, when the Shenk family started making rye on the future distillery grounds — but the whiskey that was now being produced under the Michter’s name actually came from a contract distillery in Kentucky before being bottled and re-branded.

Starting in 2015, Michter’s shifted production to a brand new facility they opened in Shivley, complete with their own pot stills, aging facilities, and bottling plant. Shortly thereafter, in 2019, they opened another facility in downtown Louisville. Between these two facilities, Michter’s now makes their own spirits in house, but retains the name and the original 1753 date from the distillery in Pennsylvania.

In addition to the distilling facilities, Michter’s operates a 205-acre farm that partners with local Springfield, Kentucky farmers to grow corn, rye, and barley that is shipped to their distilleries.


There’s very little information about the production of this spirit other than referring to it as a “cost be damned” approach. However, some things can be inferred from the packaging.

This product is marketed as a whiskey, rather than a bourbon or a rye, so we can be pretty certain that the mash bill contains less than 51% corn (the requirement to be a bourbon) and less than 51% rye (the requirement to be a rye). But the specifics of the exact combination of grains that actually went into this bottle isn’t disclosed. 

We do know that this whiskey is made through a sour mash process. If you were one of the many people who got into making sourdough bread during 2020, then the process will seem very familiar. Some portion of the spent mash from the previous batch of whisky is kept as a stable blend of yeast as a starter to the new batch, just as a sourdough starter from previously batch of dough is used to create future balls of dough. This process allows distillers to better control the pH levels in the mash, reducing the risk of unwanted bacterial growth and increasing the consistency batch to batch. 

The label claims that this is a “small batch” production, but there’s no discussion of what that specifically entails here. Michter’s does operate a pair of distilleries, a farm, and a “custom-built 32 inch diameter, 46 foot high copper column still” — which sounds more like a mass production facility more than an artisanal whiskey production operation to me. “Small batch” usually makes me think of carefully crafted pot still distilled spirits, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.


While Michter’s bourbon has some ties to the show Billions, the bottle looks like it’s straight from Boardwalk Empire. 

The bottle shape is a traditional whiskey bottle with a larger rounded body, a quickly tapering shoulder, and a medium length neck. There’s a bit of a swell to the end of the neck to make gripping it easier, but otherwise it’s fairly unremarkable. The whole thing is topped off with a cork and wood stopper.

The labels are really what sell it, though. They look like they were printed via wood block engravings, complete with ragged edges and yellowed paper. The art style is similar to those historical papers as well, with simple black and white lines and very little shading. The lettering is in bold black, with some red for accent work.

I take some issue with the label calling out “est. 1753”. The brand name may be able to trace roots to 1753, but I find this fact very misleading on the label given that the current company only started operating in 2004.

The other thing I would call out as a negative is the image of the pot still in the middle of the label. The first time I ordered this at a bar, I referred to it as “the label has the monk giving a toast on from a rooftop on it”.  (Trust me, you may never see a pot still the same.) Anyway, while it seems to be trying to convey that pot still image, the message is lost in translation and misleading at best. 



There is a surprisingly little aroma coming from the spirit, making this a bit nondescript honestly. With a bourbon, you’d expect big bold aromas and flavors — but since this is just a “whiskey” and not specifically labeled as a bourbon, those lighter components might make sense. There are some faint notes of brown sugar and some nuttiness, the combination of which reminds me of a pecan pie.

The first sip brings a flurry of flavors that fulfill the promises of sweet, delicious pie that we had in the aroma.  Toffee and caramel are the first notes I’m getting, combined with a nuttiness that reminds me of pecan, and notes of nutmeg and cinnamon are also present to cap off that pecan pie flavoring. It finishes with a mild and pleasant heat.

It’s impressive that all of the flavors are complimentary and not overpowering. Everything seems nicely in balance and provides a delicious sipping experience.

On Ice

Usually, a bit of ice added to a spirit has some drastic impacts on the flavor profile. But here, quite surprisingly, there isn’t too much change. The biggest difference is that the aroma has all but disappeared, but it was faint to begin with.

Other than that, the flavors seem to take a single step back in unison. All of the components are there in the same orchestration as they were when drinking this neat but everything is just a little more mild and subdued. Still as delicious, but without the same level of saturation.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

Last summer, I remember sitting at one of my favorite local bars, and since it was a slow, rainy Saturday we had convinced the bartenders to have an “old fashioned off” (because why not). The winning entry also happened to be my introduction to Michter’s sour mash whiskey.  

This might be my favorite way to drink this spirit. The stable, balanced, consistently rich and delicious flavors of the whiskey complement the angostura bitters beautifully. The added sweetness from the sugar is welcomed, and the orange peel pairs well with the nutmeg and cinnamon. 

I’ve experimented with various flavors of bitters, making a second (and third) old fashioned. Every time, the base spirit shines and allows you to create a unique drink. 

Fizz (Mule)

Full disclosure, I do not love mules. But with an ingredient as bold as ginger beer, it does a great job to truly test a spirit. I want the spirit to be the main attraction, and all too often a mule ends up being a glass of ginger beer with a whiskey that generally is lost.

This is the first time that the flavors of Michter’s sour mash whiskey starts to bend, but they do not break.  Some of the more subtle notes, such as the pecan, are lost to the boldness of the ginger beer and the baking spices seem to come across a little more bitter in this mixture.  However, the saving grace here is that the toffee seems to bring a brightness to the cocktail that stands out.

This is not a bad cocktail, but it’s not a great cocktail. Given how good this can be neat or in an old fashioned, I would recommend grabbing a different bottle if you want a mule.


Overall Rating

I was introduced to this bottle Michter’s Sour Mash through an impromptu bartender competition and thought it had a picture of a monk giving a toast on the label. Since then, I’ve become much more familiar with the distiller and it’s found a regular place in my normal rotation.  

I know that many distilleries take a heavy marketing hand to their story, and this feels a little more egregious than normal.  They can trace a lineage to 1753, but the current distillery was established in 2004. Also, I’ve checked out several small batch distilleries, and none of them have all of the equipment or volume that Michter’s churns out. That said, the quality of this spirit itself is solid and it makes a great old fashioned. 

It would be nice to have more information on the “cost be damned” process — but whatever it entails, the outcome is fantastic.

Michter's Original Small Batch Sour Mash Whiskey
Produced By: Michter's
Owned By: Chatham Imports, Inc
Production Location: Kentucky, United States
Classification: Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $45.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 5/5
Tasty, versatile, and priced right… but I wouldn’t call it a “small batch” product from “1753”.


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