The back story
We’re in the era of cult bourbons — meaning bottles that are prized for their pedigree and can command prices in the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Many smart sippers are familiar with Pappy Van Winkle, the Kentucky brand that basically started this super high-end bourbon craze. But increasingly, they’re paying close attention to Michter’s, another Bluegrass State distillery that has earned a certain cachet.
In a sense, Michter’s is both old and new. Its roots go back to the mid 18th Century in Pennsylvania — it was originally known as Shenk’s and later Bomberger’s, but became Michter’s by the 1950s. But Michter’s went bust in the late ’80s, only to be reborn as a Kentucky distillery when spirits industry professional Joseph J. Magliocco, working with booze biz long-timer Richard “Dick” Newman, took over the name and forged a new path. The goal was straightforward: to make great American whiskey.
And so Michter’s has, judging from reviews and fan accolades (we’ve sung the praises of its 10-years-in-the-barrel release ourselves). The brand produces bourbons at all price levels, but it has become celebrated for ones that have more aging on them and are indeed at the top end of the market. That’s very much the case with its recent 25-year release — it’s one of the few times the brand has ever released a bourbon with so much aging on it.
And given that fewer than 800 bottles of it are available, it is certainly a rarity, which perhaps justifies the $1,000 price. But consider yourself lucky if you pay so little for it. The bourbon is such a hot commodity that retailers are generally charging more than $6,000.
What we think about it
Aging can be a tricky thing with bourbon, which is to say a little can go a long way. When distilleries push things past around 15 years, they run the risk of the spirit tasting too woody. So, what does a 25-year Michter’s taste like? It does have some oaky notes, but the wood is not overbearing — rather, it comes off as a sexy dryness on the palate, complemented with flavors of spice and chocolate. Perhaps most remarkable is how smooth a bourbon this is, even though it’s 116 proof. In all, a very classy and special sip, notwithstanding the fact it may cost more than your mortgage payment. The good news is that you can get a fine bottle of Michter’s for much less — around $50 for the brand’s US 1 release. It may not be in the same league, but Magliocco says the emphasis on quality runs throughout the brand.
How to enjoy it
Needless to say, whiskey this pricey isn’t often used in cocktails. So, if you’re fortunate enough to try it, we suggest sipping it neat or with water or just a little ice.