Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Michter’s. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this statement couldn’t be truer for fans of Michter’s, a favorite brand amongst whiskey fans that is just emerging from a three-year hiatus with the release of the US*1 Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon.
President of Michter’s Joseph J. Magliocco has said in a prepared statement, “We first launched our groundbreaking US*1 Toasted Barrel Bourbon in 2014, and we followed up with releases in 2015 and 2018. While we continue to experience whiskey shortages at Michter’s, we decided to use some of our bourbon stocks for this toasted offering so our loyal Michter’s supporters could enjoy it.”
The hiatus was noticeable, as many whiskey drinkers have been relegated to seeking out Michter’s through other channels, often opting for inflated prices in the effort to satisfy their needs. But with this limited release, consumers can experience the newest expression which promises to be “exceptionally balanced” and “the perfect complement for the fall and holiday season.”
Originally known as Shenks, and then as Bomberger’s, the legacy of Michter’s Distillery has spanned over 250 years. While the whiskey company originated in Pennsylvania by a Swiss Mennonite farmer named John Shenk, it was relocated in Louisville, Kentucky upon its restoration and rebranding in 1990s.
The US*1 expressions are named in honor of Michter’s heritage. The distillery is one of the first to release whiskey’s in heavily toasted barrels, taking the classic Michter’s US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon and utilizing a gentle heat to the barrel as opposed to heavily charred barrel. While the heavily charred barrel causes the whiskey to age to a smoother, more mellow level, the toasted barrel whiskey enjoys a dark brown toast, adding more complex vanilla notes that are sharper on the palate, as well as a lighter shade.
Master Distiller, Dan McKee, states, “At Michter’s we do a lot of experimentation as we pursue our goal of making the greatest American whiskey. The innovative work that our production team is undertaking on toasted barrel finishing is delivering remarkable results.” This innovation is clear in my tasting of Michter’s US*1 Toasted Barrel Finish, and it has been well worth the wait for this newest limited release that my friends are already clamoring to have to me share.
Vital Stats: Small batch, limited quantity. First barrel: Fire-charred, new American white oak. Second barrel: Toasted barrel made from an 18-month air-dried wood. 91.4 proof (47.5% ABV). Louisville, Kentucky.
Appearance: The bourbon is a dark umber.
Nose: Heavy notes of cherry, maple, and strong vanilla bean.
Palate: There is an initial sharp, prickly heat that mellows to a glow. The bitter note at the top of the palate is reminiscent of dandelion greens and a bit of smoke and spice combined with chocolate notes offers a palate-pleasing expression.
While Michter’s stands as a popular and well-loved whiskey, I found today’s tasting to be good but not great. Perhaps it’s a personal preference but I found the bite of the whiskey to be nearly too intense, and could have used a smoothing property, perhaps a bit more sweetness. That said, this tasting is well worth the time and if you can find yourself a bottle, I recommend giving it a go.
Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.