October 23, 2013

Michter's 10-Year Bourbon Vertical

Whatever You Do, Don't Read SmokyBeast

A few months ago we published a post about Michter's 10-Year.  Hubby called it his favorite bourbon.  Well, it caused a stink.  People flooded retail stores seeking out this overlooked treasure.  It was sold out across Manhattan within days.  The five boroughs were dry within a week.  The entire Eastern seaboard was depleted within a month and people were starting to smuggle it in from Canada by canoe.  So moving forward we must warn you, in order to spare us another bourbon drought, whatever you do, do not read SmokyBeast.



Better Increase Production!

Citing "Beastly" conditions, Michter's decided that they had better step up production.  Low and behold, a couple of short months later, new batches of Michter's 10-Year Bourbon have popped up across the country.  Surreptitious black marketeers are already hoarding bottles in the hopes of flipping them at extortionate rates during the next inevitable dry-up.

How Many Whiskey Snobs Does it Take To...

How many whiskey snobs does it take to change a light bulb?  One hundred.  One to put in the new bulb, and ninety-nine to tell you why the old one was better.  So, shocker, when the new Michter's release came out it was instantly dismissed by many aficionados as an inferior product.  There were rumors that the old stock had come from the mighty mothballed Stitzel-Weller distillery, which is the Land of Oz for whiskey geeks and the original birthplace of Van Winkle bourbon.  Then people became very interested in which exact barrel of Michter's 10-Year they were drinking.  Turns out there were three different generations of releases.

Putting Them To The Test

So as dutiful fans and bloggers we searched far and wide to find all three different batches of Michter's.  We then assembled a crack team of world-renown whiskey heavy-weights (hubby, wifey, and our buddy Josh from Coopered Tot) for a scientific quadruple-blind tasting.  (Ok well hubby had to pour so only two of us were blind, that's double blind right?!??).  We were going to get to the bottom of Michter's even if we had to get to the bottom of a few bottles of Michter's!

Contenders (**warning, this section contains severe, unadulterated whiskey wonkery**)


Michter's Barrel 7K-3

Widely acknowledged as the first generation of Michter's 10, the original bottles had a three character code of number, letter -dash- number.  This bottle "7K-3" is from that original release.  Heavily rumored to actually be 18-year bourbon from Stitzel-Weller, the true source remains mysterious.







Michter's Barrel 2339

The second generation had a four number code in the two and three thousands.  This barrel 2339 is from several years ago, the next batch after the number, letter -dash- number releases.









Michter's Barrel 13G153

The latest, 2013 release has a two number, letter, three number scheme.  This barrel 13G153 was released this fall, 2013.





The Wild Card





Lining up three Michter's in a row would be too easy of course.  And since the big hubbub was basically comparing Michter's 10 to Van Winkle, we threw in a fourth bottle: 12-Year Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon.







Tasting Notes



Wifey and Josh were presented with four unmarked glasses and a computer to make their tasting notes.  Each pour was judged for our standard nose, body, and finish, and a 0-10 rating.  The order went reverse-chronological from the most recent Michter's on the left, with the Van Winkle thrown in third.





Wifey's Results


Michter's Third
Release (13G153)
Michter's Second
Release (2339)
Van Winkle
12-Year
Michter's First 
Release (7k-3)
Nose: woody with a hint of caramel rich and caramel,
spice
very mild and
smooth
cotton candy and sugar, very sweet
Body: warm brown sugar with a bit of citrus spicy; cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves mild flavor, floral, smooth sweet and citrus
Finish: Floral and perfume finish more spice mild finish, smooth more citrus with a hint of spice
Rating 90 85 95 90


Josh's Results



Michter's Third
Release (13G153)
Michter's Second
Release (2339)
Van Winkle
12-Year
Michter's First 
Release (7k-3)
Nose: Big lush sweet candied bourbon. Smells like a wheater.   Citrus, musk, and musty spice. Rye in the mash Compote & florals (marigold) - farmy loamy must. Most reserved.  Peanuts, ham, mineral earth.
Body: Phenolic, candied.  Palate bigger than the nose.   92-100 proof.  Rich brown sugar, sandwood spice. 90 proof - warm but shy.  Nose better than the palate Astringent, dry, notes of acids.  Moderate strength 94-100 proof.
Finish: Heavily oaked - with plenty of tannins and spice Nice lingering finish on oak char and baking spice. More citrus tang on the finish - much less char. Medium and salty
Rating: 90 89 86 88

Hubby's Results (not blind)


Michter's Third
Release (13G153)
Michter's Second
Release (2339)
Van Winkle
12-Year
Michter's First 
Release (7k-3)
Nose: big brown sugar, honey, and cherries, tiny bit more menthol, licorice tiny bit more fruit, but virtually the same as A nose is much less sweet and less vanilla / cocoa from the first two.  More farmy and dry. more similar to C except less sharp,  this one is more similar to C.  I greatly prefer the nose on A and B
Body: Heavy heavy spice.  A
hint of rubber and menthol.  
even more in the direction of the menthol, tree bark.  A little more sweetness. cleaner, but less spice.  More balanced but less of an impression. strong, bordering on over-wooded - but also the most "pappy-ish"  
Finish: short finish, smoke comes through with celery and oak. virtually the same finish
as A.
quicker than the first two, but higher on the grains / farmy element. the longest finish, but less balanced.  
Rating: 89 91 89 90


Conclusion?

Well if you've made it this far then you can officially consider yourself a whiskey geek.  What were the final results?  Wifey liked the Van Winkle the best, Josh gave the newest Michter's the highest rating, and hubby liked the second release the best.  In general we all found the older Michter's more similar to the Van Winkle, but that didn't necessarily mean that it was better.  If you prefer dry crisp woody bourbon (Pappy 23-Year, Elijah Craig, etc) then you probably will dig the older version better.  But if you like a sweet buttery and spicy bolder flavor, the new versions might well be preferable to you.  In any case all of us have sampled a ton of whiskey in our day, and no one gave dramatically different grades to the different releases.  I think we can safely say that the new lightbulb shines pretty bright.  If you can get your hands on some of the old juice, go for it, but the new stuff is awesome as well.

Are you drinking Michter's tonight?  Let us know what you think.  Cheers/SmokyBeast

10 comments :

  1. Excellent article! I especially loved the light bulb joke. So true.

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  2. Great article, and a lot of fun to read. I've yet to grab a bottle of Michter's, mostly because it is hard to find and expensive where I am, but this article has made me curious to go out and snag a bottle.

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  3. A wonderful post with some amazing quote worthy bits. The lightbulb joke is one for the ages - and very very true. I've argued with several people who SWEAR that the first batch of Michter's was amazing but the latest is just swill. Thanks to your generous and excellent sourcing I tasted them all BLIND and came to the conclusion that they are all good but the latest one was the best, in my opinion. Just top notch Bourbon. Trust your senses, not the dogma. That's the clear conclusion here.

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  4. Agreed & thanks for lending your paintbrushes!!!

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  5. First of all, a wonderful article on a must read blog. Thank you for the effort and time you put in. I greatly appreciate it.

    I am one of the sheep who followed the original post and snaffled up a bottle of Michter's 10 on your recommendation. I have not been disappointed, it is a cracking drop. Many thanks.

    This post could not have been better timed. By sheer coincidence, I treated myself to a taste of barrel 13H207 tonight, prior to reading the post. I have nothing to compare it to, it being my first (but hopefully not last) bottle of Michter's 10, so this fantastic article was very interesting. If the latest release is supposed be poor, I can only imagine what the prior iterations must have been like. To my mind, and novice palate, the latest release is a simply splendid whiskey.

    Some questions:
    i.) how easy is it to source the older releases; and
    ii.) what else would you recommend to someone who likes Michter's 10?

    Many thanks.

    Bacon

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    1. Ha, best comment ever! And worthy of a thorough response.

      i.) bottles of 23xx and 33xx Michter's can still be found. pick one up if you see one, but don't go out of your way hunting for it, the differences to your bottle are very subtle. The 7k-3 bottles and everything from that generation is LONG gone and impossible to find. Unless you find a dusty unicorn sitting on a shelf somewhere... It was extremely difficult to procure for this article and required personal favors and such. Also sadly the Michter's 10-Year Rye is all but extinct. (we do have one bottle hiding away for a future review though!) Hoping that Michter's comes up with a new line of the 10yr Rye which was great stuff.

      ii.) Since you like Michter's 10, there are some other things you might want to try. In the 'somewhat difficult to track down' category we'd recommend: Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof; Old Forester Birthday 2013; Willett Family Estate Bourbon (8 or 10-yr), Parker's Heritage Collection #6 or #7. In the 'readily available' category you might want to try Larceny, Colonel Taylor Single Barrel, or Rock Hill Farms. Also there are some great private barrel programs going on at liquor stores now where they hand pick a barrel of brands like Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, or Angel's Envy and offer exclusive bottlings. These are worth trying (the store will often pour you a taste before buying) and are a great way to forge a relationship with your local hoochery.

      Thanks for reading. Glad you're enjoying the whiskey! /sb

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  6. Many thanks for your tips (and kind words about my novice comment).

    Bacon

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  7. It is interesting that Josh used "peanuts" to describe the nose of the first supposed "SW" release, everytime I taste and nose Louisville WSR and Old Fitz BIB that is the first description that pops into my head. For an enlightening side by side try Elijah Craig 12 and the new release of Michter's 10, the first time I did this I was very surprised how similar the two pours are.

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  8. So, where is the new release of the Michter's 10yr distilled? Still Heaven Hill?

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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