Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey

Long ago, Michter's was a distillery near Schafferstown, in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  The distillery shut down in 1989, but as with many American distilleries, the name lived on.  After the original name was abandoned, it was registered by Chatham Imports which used it as a label on sourced whiskey that it had bottled at Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.

The original Michter's is most known today as the source of the A.H. Hirsch bourbon, a series of private bottlings of bourbon distilled in 1974 (For more detail, see Chuck Cowdery's book The Best Bourbon You'll Never Taste).

But A.H. Hirsch was a one-off; Michter's had its own brands, the most known of which was their Original Sour Mash Whiskey.  According to Whiskey Advocate's resident Michter's expert Sam Komlenic, the Original Sour Mash mashbill was 50% corn, 38% rye and 12% malted barley, and it was aged in a combination of new and used cooperage. It couldn't be called bourbon both because it had less than the required 51% corn and because some of it was aged in used barrels.

When Chatham took over the label, they put out bourbon, rye and an "American whiskey" but they didn't use the Original Sour Mash label, until now.  Last December, Chatham released an Original Sour Mash.  They don't give much of a description of it so there's no telling if anything about it is similar to the original version, except they say it is aged in new charred oak and it appears to be distilled in Kentucky, two things that were not true of the original Michter's brand.  Of course, the use of the term "sour mash" tells us nothing since sour mash is the process used by nearly all American whiskeys to keep a consistent environment for their yeast from batch to batch.  But let's see how it tastes.

Michter's Original Sour Mash, 43% abv, Batch 12 LID ($45)

The nose has candy corn and wood.  The palate starts with lots of sweet corn and some grassy notes.  Then wood and spice kick in.  The spice takes over and gets peppery into the finish, then turns to corn flakes.  It certainly tastes like bourbon. The prominence of corn reminds me of one of the Beam Small Batch bourbons, but the way the spice mixes in is more akin to Elijah Craig or another Heaven Hill product. 

The new Michter's isn't bad at all, but there's nothing in it that is at all compelling.  It's a decent whiskey which I would be able to recommend if it were about half the asking price.

How does this new label compare to the original Pennsylvania Michter's Original Sour Mash?  There's only one way to find out.  Tune in tomorrow for Dusty Thursday.

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