Thursday, April 18, 2013
Dusty Thursday: The Real Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey
Yesterday, I sampled the new Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey. That one is a Kentucky whiskey from an undisclosed distillery (or distilleries), but long ago, when Michter's was a real distillery, the sour mash whiskey was made in Pennsylvania from a mashbill of 50% bourbon, 38% rye and 12% malted barley and aged in a mixture of new and used barrels. I was lucky enough to have a generous friend who shared a sample of a miniature bottle of the real stuff with me (pictured, right); I know he likes some char on his bourbon, let's see what it's like.
Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey, 43% abv.
The nose is a bit soapy with some of the sandalwood notes that I often get on old Pennsylvania ryes. The palate too is soapy with a lot of sandalwood. Spicy notes dominate the finish. This is much more similar to the old Pennsylvania ryes than it is to any bourbon I've had. I generally like the sandalwood notes in those old ryes, but the soapy notes in this clashed with them.
This is absolutely nothing like the contemporary version I reviewed yesterday. Whereas that one tastes pretty much like any current bourbon, the original Michter's tastes nothing like a modern bourbon. Of course, the original Michter's was not only made in Pennsylvania, it was made in a pot still, which imparts a very different flavor to a whiskey. The new Michter's was almost certainly made on a continuous still, which probably accounts for some of the differences between the two. (UPDATE: Sam K. points out in the comments that the pot still was the doubler and the whiskey went through a typical continuous still first). In addition, soapiness is a characteristic that I have found in a number of dusties, and it can be a result of poor storage or handling over the years. In addition, the small quantity involved in a miniature bottle makes it even more susceptible to the ravages of time. All this is to say that the current state of this whiskey might not reflect what it tasted like in its prime, but that's always a risk with dusties.
Despite its flaws, I'm intrigued by this old Michter's, particularly the Pennsylvania rye notes. I'll have to see if I can track down some more of this stuff.