Review: Michter’s US-1 Original Sour Mash Whiskey

michters sour mash 116x300 Review: Michters US 1 Original Sour Mash WhiskeyMichter’s is the It Company of the American whiskey world right now, its from-the-ashes story bringing many fans forward to hear about its charms. Michter’s is a brand that dates waaaay back to 1753 but which went bankrupt in 1989. In 1990 the company was rescued and relaunched, and only in the last five years or so has it really become a hit once again.

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, Michter’s US-1 Original Sour Mash was the top-selling product of this Bardstown, Kentucky-based distillery. But this whiskey inexplicably wasn’t revived after the ’90 reboot. Now it’s back after a 23 year hiatus off the market. (Michter’s isn’t exactly making it themselves right now, but that hasn’t stopped people from gobbling it up the way they do for Bulleit. The company is producing again… but that spirit won’t be bottled any time soon.)

There’s a lot of confusion over what “sour mash” means. For starters, it doesn’t mean the taste is sour. It just means that some of the fermented mash is held over from one batch of whiskey to start the fermentation on the next batch, the same way that sourdough bread is made. Jack Daniel’s famously puts “sour mash” on its label, and in reality virtually all Bourbon made today is sour mash. It’s most costly and less effective to make mash from scratch every time out — this is known as “sweet mash” — although this is experimented with at various distilleries, too (particularly when unusual yeasts are being used).

Michter’s doesn’t offer a lot of specifics about the Sour Mash. It is distilled from a proprietary grain mash (the company will only say “the mashbill has a fair amount of rye grain in addition to a fair amount of corn and some barleymalt”) and is aged in new, charred oak — but it is not a Bourbon. (My hunch is that there is not enough corn in the mashbill.) It is also filtered before bottling.

This is a really lovely, very fruity whiskey. The nose is all apples, with a touch of caramel behind it. Supple and silky, that fruitiness continues on into the body, with an apple pie character that is far too easy to drink, and doesn’t taste at all like it’s been bottled at a solid 86 proof. Not too sweet and lightly wooded, the graininess of the spirit is all but gone — a touch of corn on the mid-palate and a bit of popcorn on the finish are all that remind you that you’re drinking a whiskey instead of chowing down on dessert.

86 proof. Reviewed: Batch no. 13A1A.

A- / $44 / michters.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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4 Responses to Review: Michter’s US-1 Original Sour Mash Whiskey

  1. You’re right about the mashbill not having enough corn. According to Chuck Cowdery’s book on AH Hirsch (the last bourbon whiskey made at Michter’s distillery in Pennsylvania), the Original Sour Mash Whiskey was somewhere like 48% corn (51% corn makes it bourbon).

  2. There are two different Michter’s. The one that distilled what became the AH Hirsch bourbon at the Sheafferstown, Pennsylvania distillery and went under in 1989 isn’t the same as the one that bottles and sells the current line of Michter’s whiskeys. The current Michter’s is a non-distiller producer that purchases whiskey from distilleries, bottles that whiskey, and then markets those bottles. A name is somehow shared, but nothing else I believe. The aforementioned Chuck Cowdery has explained it better than I can, so you may want to search his blog for the details.

  3. McKinney – Correct, didn’t mean to imply this was the same product from the same distillery.

  4. Christopher – Thanks, I don’t think you implied that at all. I was replying to EricH’s comment that led me to think he was confusing the AH Hirsh distilled in Pennsylvania with the sourced Original SOur Mash Whiskey you reviewed.

    Thank you for your blog, by the way. I’m rather amazed at the breadth of drinks categories you cover so well.

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