The 2020 editions of Bomberger’s and Shenk’s, the duo of annual whiskey releases that make up the Michter’s Legacy Series, arrived briefly on shelves last fall. Each was limited to less than 2000 bottles, so there wasn’t a lot to go around, but we managed to get our hands on samples of each. For both the Shenk’s and Bomberger’s releases, Michter’s Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson selected whiskeys aged in barrels made from wood that had been naturally air dried for over three years. That’s almost unheard of in American whiskey. Both whiskeys also underwent some unique wood aging. The 2019 releases, you may recall, included whiskey aged in Chinquapin oak, and for 2020, the proportion has reportedly been increased. I was quite impressed with the 2019 releases, which look pretty similar on paper to the latest offerings. Let’s taste for ourselves, shall we?
Bomberger’s Declaration Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2020) – The nose is just as complex as 2019, perhaps more so. There’s a strong syrupy sweetness to it with less of the drier oak notes I’d experienced before. Stone fruit and citrus dominate initially with ripe peaches, tangerine slices, and orange oil, but with air, I get a bit of saddle leather and some damp, seasoned wood notes. There’s a remarkable richness on the palate, and it’s even more approachable than the 2019 release with a gentle, well-balanced warmth. The stone fruit stands out less than in 2019, replaced by more brown sugar and baking spice. A bit of pulpy orange and brandied cherry offer nice counterpoints, and the finish is generous and oak-driven, full of Almond Joy and toasted wood. A surprisingly different bourbon than last year’s release, and still exceptional. 108 proof. A / $90
Shenk’s Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey (2020) – Compared to 2019, the latest Shenk’s has an enlarged aroma, forgoing its former, gentler brightness for deeper, richer notes of bread pudding, burnt sugar, orange scones, and a bit of barrel char, which adds a lovely smokiness. The palate showcases less spice than I would expect from a whiskey that reportedly contains a “substantial” amount of rye, but clove and cardamom are here in modest measure, along with a bit of candied cherry, honey syrup, and muddled mint. Like 2019, the finish is a bit shorter than I’d like, but lingering baking spice helps it along. Here, the added Chinquapin has noticeably improved the nose, but it’s impact on the palate is less evident. An excellent whiskey, but still the silver medal of the two. 91.2 proof. A- / $100