Nose: Vanilla, oak sawdust, soft spices, hint of cherry nougat, brown sugar, and toffee whispers.
Taste: Sweet cherry cola syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and a dash of spiciness.
Quick – the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions American Whiskey is:
(Your answer goes here)
(Another answer goes here)
Sure, that too.
However, while bourbon doesn’t have to made in Kentucky, 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky. There are, as well, a few other things that go into bourbon – more specifically – straight bourbon so it can indeed be called straight bourbon. And they are as follows, ahem:
- more regulations,
- and a couple of more regulations.
It has to age a minimum of 2 years in new, charred oak barrels. It has to have a mash that contains at least 51% corn. And, so on and so on. Here’s the thing: all (straight) bourbon is American whiskey; but not all American whiskey is straight bourbon. (This may seem like a square segue fitting into a round narrative but bear with me.)
That brings us to Michter’s and its US*1 lineup. Yes, there’s a bourbon, as well as a rye. Ahhh, but also in that lineup is the Sour Mash Expression and, reviewed in a couple of sentences from now, the Unblended American Whiskey. It can’t legally be called a bourbon as this expression is aged in used bourbon barrels (The bourbon lawyer behind me ok’d that last line.). That’s important not just for following the letter of the law, but the role the ex-barrels play in the delivery of the flavours.
Tawny-rich in colour, this whiskey doesn’t have the bold arrival as one would expect in a typical straight bourbon. The sweetness is front and centre here with vanilla, brown sugar, suggestions of toffee and more. The spices present aren’t forceful. It’s as if the corners were sanded down and rounded off so they can become soft and smooth, without any nasty flavour splinters. On the tongue, the sweetness continues with sweet, fizzy-less cherry cola and the other sweet notes. Again, the spices are subtle, and the heat has been dampened to more of a temperate zone rather than a sizzling, seeing-the-heat-come-off-the-pavement-kind of hot. The finish, though, is lightning bolt short. The presence is a big/sweet flash but fades away quickly with perhaps a few flavour rumbles in the back.
Not every whiskey is for everyone but there is a whiskey for everyone. Michter’s Unblended is such a latter pourer. For those who want their American whiskies with that new, charred oak heft and attitude, this may be too demure for you. However, if you want a whiskey that isn’t timid at 41.7 abv, but isn’t yelling either, you’ll find this one easily approachable. This whiskey does have something to say; it just chooses to say it in its own way. Cheers.
Whiskey postscript: when first launched, Michter’s was using a sourced whiskey. Apparently, as of 2015, it is now using its own distillate.