The first sitting for the Michter’s Master Tasting took place in the afternoon and one in the evening, led by Matt Magliocco, son of the owner and Brand Ambassador John Shutt.
This is the first ‘3rd party brand’ that Ireland-based Intrepid Spirits has taken on (it already owns the Egans Irish whiskey, March Hare Irish Poitín and Cocalero).
The sessions were a true immersion into Bourbon and Rye whiskey’s past and present with nine different tastings including the US No*1 range and some limited release products from the brand.
American whiskey making its way back
American whiskey seems to be making its way back into the US (and global) market after suffering a long downturn in the 70s, 80s and 90s, so it perhaps comes as no surprise that the old Michter’s distillery went bankrupt in 1989.
However Matt Magliocco’s father Joe resurrected, re-structured and re-started the brand in the 1990s.
But what saved Joe from following in the bankrupted wake of previous Swiss owner John Shenk (who came up with the brand name by merging the names of his two sons Peter and Michael) was the renaissance of cocktails in the US – thanks in significant part to the TV series Mad Men which brought Rye whiskey back from the dead and did the ailing Bourbon a power of good too.
Michter’s phased return
Joe took the Michter’s revival in three distinct phases with Phase One making use of surplus (at the time) aged American whiskeys from other distillers in Kentucky.
Phase Two saw him “cooking in other people’s kitchens” as he bought time in already-established distilleries to make his own whiskey.
And Phase Three, naturally, came to see the company build and commission its own distillery (with a second one coming into operation only two months ago).
Together, the two distilleries have a production capacity of 1.5 million ‘Original Proof Gallons’ and today, bottles of Michter’s can sell for anything from $48 to $5,000.
To be a Bourbon, corn must comprise at least 51% of the mash mix and it must be matured in brand new Oak barrels.
95% of all Bourbons have Rye as the second ingredient with Barley Malt likely to be the third – and no colouring or flavouring is allowed.
Thus the assembled mixologists in the Drury Buildings got to taste a representative range which included Michter’s US No*1 Rye and its US No*1 Bourbon as well as a couple of somewhat rarer Michter’s scions in Shanks and Bomberger.
The tasting also included Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash which won The Whiskey Exchange’s Whisky of the Year.
Michter’s also produces its 10 Year-Old Rye once a year where its 10 Year-Old Bourbon is produced twice a year.
“You can’t add colour or flavouring so everything is coming from the wood,” Matt Magliocco reminded the assembled tasters.
It’s interesting that Michter’s puts an age on its Rye as it’s not necessary on an American whiskey if it’s more than four years old.
Of course the storage of the product plays a huge part in the final taste and Michter’s warehouse makes use of natural seasonal heat cycles, but in Winter it creates them itself by closing all the windows and pumping up the heat for a few weeks.
This expands the air, putting pressure on the contained spirit in the virgin oak barrels, forcing the spirit further into the wood.
Michter’s should make an interesting new addition to the on-trade cocktail scene this year.