WORDS KEN GARGETT
As the excitement mounts for the forthcoming explore WHISKY release, some of us have been working hard, exploring the world of whiskies and bourbon from around the world (although the bourbons, of course, should really be regionally restricted to the USA).
Needless to say, many exciting gems are emerging. Today, Michter’s. I’d heard bourbon-loving friends speak highly of it, but it was not a producer I’d had a chance to look at before now. Something that will often be rectified in the coming years.
Michter’s is a little bit different from the typical American whiskey story, or rather, it is a bit of the old and new. It began with a distillery known as Shenk’s, way back in 1753, in Pennsylvania. It was sold, in the mid-1800s, to the American Dutch businessman, Abraham Bomberger, and continued on until finally, prohibition proved too much and the doors closed. After prohibition, the distillery reopened but went through a succession of owners. In the 1950s, it was owned by Lou Forman who decided a name change was called for. He called it Michter’s, which was a combination of the names of his sons, “Mich”ael and Pe“ter”. In 1989, or 1990, depending on which source you believe, it went belly-up.
A few years later, enter entrepreneur, Joseph Magliocco and his mentor, Richard Newman, the pair were keen to set up their own whiskey operation and decided they would chase down the name, Michter’s, and all that pertained to it. Turns out, all trademarks and the like had been left to expire. No one owned the name. They swooped.
In the early days, they sourced their material from various distillers but have now opened not just one, but two operations in Kentucky, the second recently. The team retained the old Pennsylvania pot stills and equipment. They are one of the very few distilleries with a female, Pamela Heilmann, master distiller. They aim to make small batch or single barrel products. ‘Small Batch’ has no legal specifications in the States, hence a product can be “stretched” to umpteen thousand cases and still claim to be small batch. Michter’s have restricted themselves to a maximum of twenty barrels for any of their Small Batch products.
I’ve looked at two of their products, which I think qualify as their “bottom end” stuff, and please forgive the prejudicial terminology, but if it is this good, I can’t wait to try some pointy end stuff. Although, as both sit around the $120 to $130 mark, perhaps ‘bottom end’ is a bit out of place.
The Small Batch US1 had lovely caramel notes with hazelnut and honeycomb. Florals and a hint of vanillin oak. Reasonable length and good complexity.
The Single Barrel Straight Rye US1 was all cinnamon and teak with orange rind, nectarines, spices and a little caramel. A supple texture, mid-length and again good complexity.
Two cracking American whiskies.