The first time I heard about Michter’s was from Billions, the TV show. Apparently Michter’s sponsors the show, and as a result the cast gets a fresh bottle in their dressing room at the beginning of filming for the season. I’d seen it on the shelves before, but this new trivia was enough to pique my curiosity and actually pick up a bottle to try for myself.
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.
There’s very little information about the production of this spirit, but some things we can infer from the packaging.
As a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, there are some legal and traditional requirements that accompany that appellation. Namely, we can say that the majority of the grains used to make this spirit come from corn, and that the spirit has been stored in a charred new oak barrel for a minimum of four years.
Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot of information. 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 pot stills as depicted on the front of the label, but they also have a honkin’ big column still that can crank out a ton of spirit.
I appreciate the thought and effort that’s been put into the bottle design. This might not be an actual historical brand, but it sure does look like a bottle straight out of the 1750’s.
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 alongside the Revolutionary War wood block engravings that you see in textbooks, complete with ragged edges and yellowed paper. The art style is even similar, with simple black and white lines and very little shading. The lettering is in bold black, with some red for accent work.
And best of all, the label is small enough that the beautiful brown liquid inside is clearly visible.
The liquid is a thick and rich dark brown color, almost like molasses. It has a similar aroma to it as well, a sticky sweetness that’s punctuated by some peppery spice and cinnamon. The usual scents of caramel and vanilla are lingering in the background but, at first whiff, you might almost mistake it for a spiced rum.
That sweetness follows through to the taste, with the sweetness and caramel flavors tinged with some licorice or star anise and cinnamon. Within a couple of moments, there’s a bit of peppery spice that joins the party and lasts a little bit past the last lights of the primary flavors.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable experience. The flavors are all great without any single instrument overpowering the rest of the orchestra, if you will, and the spirit is smooth and delicious without any bitterness or bite.
Normally, with the addition of a bit of ice, you’d expect that the spirit would change in terms of flavor profile. Typically the more delicate flavors disappear and the bolder notes are toned down a bit. That didn’t really happen here.
Here, there really aren’t any changes to the broad strokes of the spirit. The big bold flavors are still present and just as loud as before, but that peppery spice on the finish may have taken a little bit of damage and isn’t quite as pronounced. It’s still there, but not as strong as it once was.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
This is legitimately great.
One of the biggest issues that a whiskey can have in an old fashioned is the question of how it handles the bitters. Usually the sugar content takes care of it, but in this case it’s almost like the whiskey stepped in, rolled up its sleeves, and told the sugar “I’ve got this one.” There’s more than enough sweetness from the spirit itself to balance out those bitters, and it does a great job of making that rich flavor a bit more cheery and bright.
That said, a bit of sugar never hurt, and makes the drink that much better. With that added sweetness, the zest from the orange peel is free to compliment the caramel and vanilla flavors and really ties the whole thing together.
When it comes to an old fashioned, I think the Hudson Maple Cask still takes the crown, but this is a solid contender.
There are two things I look for in a good mule, namely (1) that the flavor of the bourbon comes through the ginger beer and (2) that there’s some peppery spicy kick to keep things interesting at the end. This spirit does those both.
That rich molasses flavor comes through and balances with the tangy and bright ginger beer in a way that, once again, makes me double check that I didn’t reach for a spiced rum and make a dark and stormy instead. In fact, I’d bet good money that you wouldn’t be able to tell this apart from some Captain Morgan in this format. It’s very similar, and I gotta admit… that’s not a bad thing.
Overall, it’s a good product. There’s some good flavors in here, and I appreciate how it performs in our taste test. But the faux historical branding gives me some pause.
|Michter's US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon|
Kentucky, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45.7% ABV
Price: $40 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
Worth the price, no matter how you use it.