By Elizabeth Emmons
I had the pleasure of tasting PM Spirits’ Mic Drop at a blind whisky tasting in October. At the time I thought it was clear this mystery whiskey I was tasting was a bourbon, but what on earth could this be? Four Roses private barrel release? No. A Michter’s? No. We were all stumped. Whatever it was, we all agreed it was excellent. The reason this one tripped us up was because this mystery was a one-off limited release from PM Spirits, to be released that very day.
PM Spirits, self proclaimed “Provider of Geeky Spirits,” is run by Nicolas Palazzi who began his career in the spirits industry with his interest in Cognacs. The company has expanded and now has a unique portfolio of cognac, eau de vie, whisky, brandy, mezcal, grappa, gin, vodka and more. While the company sells spirits within each spirit type, the offerings are small and curated. PM prides itself on selling artisan spirits they would only drink themselves, insinuating only the highest quality.
In my experience, each of the labels I have had under the brand are indeed excellent. PM sells under its own label as well as works with brands around the world, importing to the U.S. They currently operate under 2 portfolios of distribution, the New York market and the national market which includes 24 states.
According to PM, Mic Drop came from a year long search for the right batch of bourbon. They had sampled many sub-par barrels and one day a sample of this arrived. The PM Spirits website goes into great detail about its provenance, but the short of it is: iMGP-made, high rye (mashbill is 75% corn, 21% rye and 8% barley malt), 8 years old, cask strength at 56% ABV (112 proof), and comes from 20 consistently excellent barrels, all of which PM purchased in Kentucky and blended to produce this release. It was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2017. The label, an over-the-top, busy, comic-inspired design of a superhero man surrounded by a snake, mouth agape, and an eagle with open talons, is meant to reflect American spirit on steroids. Additionally, the glass stopper is a nice touch and shows attention to quality and detail. The name, Mic Drop, comes from an amusing story about Palazzi’s discovery of the phrase. Being French, he did not know what a mic drop was until a neighbor coached his two year old daughter to perform one at home with a toy microphone.
In the glass, the spirit is a dark burnt orange.
The nose is a classic bourbon smell of baking spices with cinnamon and clove being the most prominent, and roasted fruit such as plums or apples (think of the smell of natural sugar breaking down in the oven) and caramel corn. The notes of corn are cloaked in spiced sweetness and are not prominent and overwhelming in the way many young bourbons characteristically tend to be. Interestingly, there is an underlying umami earthiness – a mushrommey, funky smell that peeks out occasionally which adds depth and makes it memorable. Its nose also has a cologne-like, perfumey quality with warm notes of treated leather like a horseback riding supply store or an old leather chair, and the mustiness of old books.
The mouthfeel is light-medium viscosity with a light oiliness that coats the mouth like homemade buttered popcorn, tingling with spices like cinnamon and cardamom with sharper hints of cloves. Other notes are apple brandy, maple, and the moderate sweetness of roasted green plantains. Considering the high proof, this whiskey is incredibly smooth and goes down with no trouble at all, with just the right amount of burn.
The length of the finish is substantial. It becomes progressively, albeit slowly, drier. There is something that reminds me of Cognac or Armagnac in its essence, in the way the sweetness lingers as the spice fades. Perhaps this Cognac quality was another drawing factor in Palazzi choosing these barrels.
With a few drops of water, the caramel and floral notes are enhanced on the nose and the palate becomes sweeter (bubble gum) and creamier. I did notice, however, that the finish errs on the bitter side (roasted almond skins). If I had to choose, I prefer it without water, but it is just a matter of taste; it’s still very good.
This is such a beautiful whisky. It is most definitely the best bourbon I have tasted this year. If you are in the New York area and find this, grab yourself a bottle! It is limited to 3,358 bottles.
Expect to pay between $100 and $120.