Updated June 5, 2016
By Kurt Mailand
Last fall I had the pleasure of going to Louisville and spending some quality time talking to people at Michter’s about their releases and their ongoing expansion of facilities in Louisville, including their Master Distiller, Willie Pratt. Since then, I’ve been following up by exploring the Michter’s line, including one of their core expressions, the US 1 Sour Mash.
First, a little history of the brand. The original distillery, first known as Bomberger’s and later as Michter’s, was located in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. It was considered one of, if not the oldest active distillery in the United States at the time it ceased operations in 1989. In its time it was to have produced Old Overholt 1812, A. H. Hirsch 16 Year Old Bourbon (bottled by Hirsch Distillers, Frankfort, Kentucky in the 1990s), and Michter’s Original Sour Mash 101 proof. It even had a connection to the Beam family, as C. Everett Beam was one of its Master Distillers.
In the 1990s, Joseph J. Magliocco, President of Chatham Imports, and Richard “Dick” Newman of Old Granddad, Old Crow, and Wild Turkey fame resurrected the Michter’s brand. They set up shop in Louisville, KY, where Michter’s has been bottling a series of highly regarded whiskeys, bourbons and ryes while building their own distillery.
Nose: stone fruit, spice notes, with floral notes and a light oak.
Palate: You are greeted with the caramel, corn and fruit notes early. As you hold the whiskey in your mouth there is a numbing astringency similar to that of mouthwash (in effect but certainly not taste) as the spice note grows. Michter’s does not release their mash bills, but I’ve been told by sources who would know that it tiptoes right up to the line that would make it a rye, without going over.
Finish: You feel the sweetness of the initial taste slowly morphing into a hotter rye finish but that rye note doesn’t overwhelm the fruit notes and floral notes of the start.
The US1 Sour Mash is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv). It’s a good addition to one’s whiskey collection, and makes for a great option as part of a bourbon based cocktail or to have on its own. That blend of bourbon corn and oak sweetness tempered by a high rye content makes for a versatile whiskey that can suit many a mood.
Addendum by Randall H. Borkus
This is a solid B whiskey. A higher proof may nudge it to B+ for me. Overall, this is a little softer than I prefer my whiskey, yet it is a silky-smooth flavor experience that excites the taste buds.
The whisky’s nose jumps up the nostrils with slight sweetness weaved between caramel and vanilla. The palate starts with a smooth mouth feel that glides flavors of dried fruit and caramel/vanilla and a little Crème brûlée birthday surprise across the tongue. The finish immediately uncovers a spicy overtone on the tong that puts you on notice that the rye content is serious and ends with a hint of wood spice and more caramel/vanilla delight in the back of the throat.
I enjoyed this expression. This is good whiskey, although my palate dreams of the original 101 proof from the old days! I would also consider experimenting with a homemade bourbon BBQ sauce for ribs and chicken using this whiskey. Rumor is “Dr. No” (Master Distiller Mr. Pratt) has his own recipe, if you can find it.
Michter’s Sour Mash will run you about $40 to $48 a bottle, and can be found at many of your better liquor stores.