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.
In November 2022, Michter’s released one of the bourbon world’s unicorn bottles: the Michter’s 20-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon. 20-year-old bourbon doesn’t make it to market that often for more than just the obvious reason. Not only is it a long time to wait, but also it is incredibly rare for the liquid inside to survive that long without becoming unpalatably oaked.
Part of the reason for its finesse could be the meticulous care the barrels receive. Nearly since its (latest) inception, Michter’s barrels are produced from staves that were seasoned 15 to 30 months longer than typical and are “toasted prior to being charred” per the Bourbon Culture.
Founded in the 18th century in Schaefferstown, PA by John Shenk, what would became this distillery in modern times was passed through various hands until, after Prohibition, it was renamed Michter’s and became one of the first distilleries licensed to sell direct to consumers on its premises. The distillery declared bankruptcy in 1989, closing its doors thereafter. A few years late, in the 1990s, Joseph J. Magliocco, a former Michter’s salesperson, and Richard “Dick” Newman acquired the abandoned rights to the trademark for Magliocco’s company, Chatham Imports.
The new owners set up shop in and around Louisville, KY, and initially sold sourced stock before eventually contract distilling in 2004 and in-house distilling in 2015. Thus the Michter’s 20-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon is likely sourced stock, though the distillery doesn’t go to great pains in verifying.
What we do know for certain is that this is a blend of barrels selected by Michter’s Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson. It’s not released every year, but only when barrels meet the distillery’s incredibly high standards.
Just 530 bottles were released of batch number 22H2515, which means a handful of bottles will make it to each state. If you see one on the shelf for close to SRP, grab it if you can afford it.
Michter’s 20-Year-Old 2022 (image via Suzanne Bayard/The Whiskey Wash)
Vital Stats: Aged for 20 years in fire-charred, new American white oak barrels, 57.1% ABV, mash bill: undisclosed, SRP $1,200/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is a dark mahogany brown in color.
Nose: The nose is high toned and opens with a hint of fresh rubber and a touch of volatile acidity. Fruit and spice notes jump out of the glass, with heady aromas of brandy-soaked dried sour cherries, dried orange peels, baked clay, and firewood. This is no slouch in the aromatics department, but its fruit and spice profile keeps it from smelling saccharine or one-note. There’s a subtle note of fresh baker’s yeast and antique wood furniture.
Palate: On the tongue, this offers a stronger kick and firm tannins. Pungent spice, cedar, and oxidative notes build into a crescendo. There are long and lingering aromas of cola spice, walnut skins, vanilla ice cream, and a hint of orange creamsicle. This reminds me of mixing together all the sodas in a soda machine, without the sugary sweetness, of course.
The distillery writes that this whiskey shows “intense notes of black cherry, rich molasses, honeysuckle, roasted pecans, toasted charred oak.” Though I might squabble over specific notes, I agree that it is boldly flavored. There’s so much going on and the finish lasts and lasts with powerful fruit and spicy aromas. This might just be the best root beer float ever.
With such limited production and availability, the Michter’s 20-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon is listed online for multiple times well above its already luxury-level MSRP of $1,200. Last year’s release was a mere $750, so why the price hike? Sure, inflation, supply-chain issues, the fairness of producers getting a cut of rabid cult pricing… But is it worth $1,200 or $7,950 or $10,190?
It’s hard not to shake my head at bottles of booze that sell for more than a decent used car. Regardless, this was a phenomenal bottle and one that I will cherish with good friends. Looking for more affordable lux release from Michter’s? Their 10-Year-Old Bourbon will hit the shelves this year.
Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...