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Bourbon

Michter's 10-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

$250.00

OVERALL
RATING

9

Whiskey Review: Michter’s 10-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Tasting Notes:

About:
94.4 proof; 10 years; 750ml; $250.
Appearance:
Rich, dark molasses. An elegant, rich viscosity.
Nose:
Vanilla and sawdust jump out at you right up front, girded with some secondary aromas of candied pecan, violets, and celery stalk. A few minutes in the glass and the candied notes give way to a more pronounced nuttiness, like a roasted peanut bouquet. About 45 minutes in the glass revealed really enticing undertones of dark cherry and just a hint of menthol. This thing is delicious to smell!
Palate:
This is masculine juice. Rich and warming on the palate and with a pronounced honeyed-ethanol note. There is tannin here, and pretty rich tannin at that, which will dry out the bottom half of your teeth, but it comes without the astringency that can often make too much tannin a flavor disrupter. Here it simply adds another layer of complexity to an already lively mouthfeel. The mid-palate reveals a rich tapestry of raisin, toffee, cinnamon toast, and dark fruit custard. The finish, while relatively brief, was a burst of baked dark cherry.
Finish:
Comments:
There’s a chance this release is polarizing to a few people depending on tastes. There is an alcoholic ‘heat’ to it that some may be turned off by or interpret as unbalanced, but I found it well-integrated and the ‘flavor’ of that heat suggested an expertly distilled product to me. rnrnIt’s also in keeping consistent with the Michter’s ‘house style’ so to speak. Whiskey lovers who like to ‘taste the alcohol’ as the saying goes, will likely add this release to the top of their year-end lists for American bourbon. That being said, I did multiple tastings of this and for those who don’t like that alcoholic bite, a couple drops of water really softened that up and released a lot more of those dark fruit/cherry characteristics. I was as thrilled by its complexity and boldness as by the places where it was restrained. rnrnWhile I think it stops just short of being an all-time classic, it is unequivocally a top tier bourbon.

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. 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 in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs. 

What a difference a year makes.  Michter’s near annual tradition of releasing a 10-year-aged single barrel expression took a hiatus in 2022. This was done because, according to Master Distiller Dan McKee in this February press release from the company,  “Last year, Andrea and I tasted the then already well over 10-year-old Bourbon and talked about it. We both felt that it would be exceptional with one more year in the barrel.”

The ‘Andrea’ in this case is Michter’s Master of Maturation and Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member Andrea Wilson.  And the result of McKee and Wilson’s patience and understanding of what a little more time and heat can do to good juice in a barrel is yet another release that makes one want to stamp into the nearest whiskey bar, slam a bottle down on the deck and boldly declare, “Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is bourbon.”

Now, let’s be clear about something: There is every bit the possibility that there was some other reason for the delayed release and that Michter’s simply used it as a marketing opportunity. However, because it’s Michter’s, I find it unlikely for a couple of reasons.

The first is that, frankly, Michter’s has long been known to use liquid that is older than their 10-year age statement, sometimes releasing juice that has been barrelled up to 14 years. In this 2019 interview McKee even stated that ‘the liquid in those bottles is almost always older than ten years’ (emphasis mine).

But why age a spirit longer than 10 years and not release it under that age statement? Don’t people pay more for longer aged whiskey? What the Michter’s team very clearly knows is there is an often huge difference between a whiskey’s age and a whiskey’s maturity. You’ll notice Andrea Wilson’s title isn’t ‘Master of Aging’ – age is simply the amount of time the distillate has been in a barrel. Its maturity is how the cumulative effects of things like average temperature, relative humidity, and barometric pressure (among a litany of other influences) are impacting the juice’s interaction with the wood and vice a versa, and the way those influences are coalescing and integrating. 

To my personal tastes, integration is where a good deal of maturation falls short. Often, even high end products are so focused on a longer age that they simply release an otherwise well-distilled product whose characteristics are so oak dominant you lose all the subtlety of what the original mash was bringing to the party. Likewise, not enough time and the bourbon’s natural harshness hasn’t mellowed enough, or the corn hasn’t integrated with the vanillin in the barrel enough, etc.

There’s always a sweet spot where everything is playing together in perfect equal harmony.

The second reason to take Michter’s at their word is that in the case of most distilleries, just skipping a whole year without releasing a certain expression of higher-end whiskey would simply not be permissible regardless of the circumstances.  There’s simply too much money to be lost. This is but one benefit of Michter’s being a privately held company as opposed to a public one.

Although they did, as a company, release some very well-received new expressions in 2022, Mckee and Wilson really only had to convince their president Joe Magliocco of the value in losing a year from an otherwise annual income generator. Imagine having to tell a board of directors that you want to take a huge chunk out of their bottom line and the only reason you have to do so is “Well… it’ll taste better.” 

Woe for all of us, but “connoisseurial restraint” is not something one can write off as a tax loss.

Michter's 10 Year Bourbon 2023 review
We review Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon 2023, a classic to this classic American whiskey label. (image via Michter’s)

Tasting Notes: Michter’s 10-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon 2023

Vital Stats: 94.4 proof; 10 years; 750ml; $250.

Appearance: Rich, dark molasses. An elegant, rich viscosity.

Nose: Vanilla and sawdust jump out at you right up front, girded with some secondary aromas of candied pecan, violets, and celery stalk. A few minutes in the glass and the candied notes give way to a more pronounced nuttiness, like a roasted peanut bouquet.  About 45 minutes in the glass revealed really enticing undertones of dark cherry and just a hint of menthol. This thing is delicious to smell!

Palate: This is masculine juice. Rich and warming on the palate and with a pronounced  honeyed-ethanol note.  There is tannin here, and pretty rich tannin at that, which will dry out the bottom half of your teeth, but it comes without the astringency that can often make too much tannin a flavor disrupter. Here it simply adds another layer of complexity to an already lively mouthfeel.

The mid-palate reveals a rich tapestry of raisin, toffee, cinnamon toast, and dark fruit custard. The finish, while relatively brief, was a burst of baked dark cherry.

5 Sherried Whisky Alternatives

Here are my recommendations for those of you who want something sweet and luscious, but a little different in your glass this year. 

Jason McBeth

Jason McBeth is a hospitality professional and consultant with nearly 15 years experience in fine dining beverage programs, including six different Michelin Star and/or James Beard award-winning restaurants. As a consultant he has developed and set up unique cocktail programs in markets from Los Angeles, to Lincoln, NE to Richmond, VA. He loves poetry and basketball with equal fervor and when not immersed in the world of spirits or hospitality, he would prefer to spend his evenings shucking oysters for his wife and washing them down with a bottle or two of grower Champagne.

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