Michter’s Rant Part II: The Backpedal

Michter's Bourbon

In May, we featured an article on Michter’s Rye.  While we enjoyed the whiskeys very much, much of that post could be viewed as a rant against the now brand-owner’s (Chatham Imports) lack of lineage to the original Michter’s brand.  As a reminder, the current company simply acquired the brand name after the previous company’s bankruptcy and abandonment of the Michter’s trade name).

I recently listened to an episode of the Bourbon Pursuit Podcast, featuring Michter’s president, Joe Magliocco.  During that podcast I learned that there is, in fact, an interesting link between the original company and the new company.  That story has caused me to backpedal a bit – maybe my flippant remarks that the original Michter’s dating back to 1753 “ain’t this Michter’s” was short sided?

As it turns out, while Joe Magliocco was in college, he actually was a sales rep for the original Michter’s company’s products.  Magliocco tells the story of being tasked with selling some $50,000 worth of Michter’s products to retailers – something that was not an easy project given the regression of the American whiskey market.   It is a story that he tells with apparent pride, for it occurred in the formidable years of his life and he and his father (who was a liquor distributor) were regular Michter’s drinkers.

In addition, Magliocco worked with the Austin Nichols company (then owner of Wild Turkey), who at one time attempted to buy the original Michter’s distillery.  As a young lawyer, Magliocco was tasked with performing the due diligence on the Michter’s company for Austin Nichols.  Magliocco tells the story of advising Austin Nichols not to buy the brand.  But years later, when Magliocco sought to enter the bourbon market, he worked with mentor Dick Stoll (whom he had worked with during his Austin Nichols days), and the two settled on the acquisition of the Michter’s brand name.

When all these facts come to life, while I can support the questioning of Michter’s label practices that seem to imply that the Michter’s products themselves date back to the 1700’s (let me remind you that the new company uses the original Michter’s name but not the original recipe or facilities), I can’t support criticisms for Magliocco’s attempts to make the brand live on.  Is the resurrection of the brand name by Magliocco any less legitimate than the buying and selling of active brands by distilleries?  To me, this is much akin to what happens in professional sports.  Teams are bought and sold.  Teams move facilities.  Players come and go.  Management comes and goes.  Many sports champions of today share only a name with their brethren of decades ago.  Take the Cleveland Browns for example (maybe a bad example, because of their lack of success).  The Browns of old became the Baltimore Ravens.  The team today is connected to its history by name only.  (link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Browns)

So again without further elaboration, I’ll again tell you what we (Chris Crow, Jay Cary and Scott Hill) thought a couple of their products.

Michter’s Bourbon US*1 – 91.4 Proof (Batch 15R863) (Note: this version lacks reference to “Kentucky” and “Straight” on the label)

Nose: Mint, herbs and ethanol immediately hit, followed by the smell of chewy soft caramel candy and  vanilla; raisin; soft boiled peanut; chocolate.

Palate: More chocolate and caramel; decent mouthfeel, but young and lacks complexity.

Finish:  Medium finish; young corniness.

Overall:  The nose is quite good, but the remainder of the pour is not very complex and a bit disappointing.  Overall, the palate and finish are fairly bland with an unmistakable youth.  Not what we expected for $40-$45 a bottle.

Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon Single Barrel – 94.4 proof

Nose:  Hay and earthy; corny; some pepper; a surprisingly little amount of wood; sugary cereal with dried berry sweetness.

Palate:  Creamy; spice; a nice mouth coating palate; burnt brown sugar.

Finish:  Lingering age with a fair amount of spice; some caramel; definitely some oiliness on the finish.

Overall:  A bit underwhelming given its age and price, but by no means a bad pour.  We were all surprised that the product was a 10-year bourbon, because it tasted quite a bit younger.  We expect this may be due to the very low barreling proof (103).  Compared to the US*1, this pour has much more rye, but maybe that is just the corniness worn off with age.  Oak did not really play much of a factor in this one.  The complexity is definitely ramped up.  But don’t go in to this thinking that you are going to experience heavy oak and age.  It’s simply not there.

Generally, we were disappointed in the US*1.  The 10 Year was a nice bourbon, but maybe just a bit overpriced (especially at secondary prices).  Overall, my view is that Michter’s does a much better job with their ryes than the bourbons.

Scott Hill

Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.

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