At a time when the rest of the world is losing it’s mind over the BTAC and Pappy-hysteria that’s more akin to a scene from the Walking Dead (where the living character is stuck on top of a delivery van and the walkers are swarming en mass, clawing away , trying to get their Pappy)…I try to rest myself in the knowledge that there are other great bottles to come. Other great bourbons to drink. Within those, you have the pure breeds, like the senselessly overlooked 2015 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition, which I thought was fantastic, and the recent Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. And now the 2015 Michter’s 10 year old single barrel bourbon.
I must say the 2015 M10 was one of my more anticipated pours this year. Would it live up to the past releases that have been so vaunted and sought after? Would it fall flat on its face and leave me utterly disappointed, asking what went wrong? It’s contract-distilled bourbon, and Michter’s keeps the secrets about the origins of their juice locked up tighter than the original architectural blueprints for the Great Pyramids of Giza. Even so, the marque has been known for its consistent taste and quality over the years….even as other NDP’s fall by the wayside with lackluster offerings. Need I remind anyone of the Black Maple Hill Oregon bourbon? No.
That being said, despite it’s past reputation, I gave the 2015 M10 a more thorough tasting than any recent bourbon I’ve had. The test consisted of two pours in the evening, leaving the spent glasses to sit overnight for the purpose of post-nosing in the morning. I also had two pours the next morning, at 10:00AM, in two different variants of glencairn (one standard, and one with a smaller rim to contain more of the aroma.) The results were very consistent, though I felt like the small rim glencairn did help bring out some of the more obscure underlying components. I compiled all of my thoughts into the review.
So here we go…..
Let me start off by saying: Man that’s some heavy wax on that bottle!
I poured the 2015 M10 into a glencairn and gave it a good swirl, let the juice cool for a second, moved the rim around my nose to find that sweet spot (which is different for every bourbon and every pour) and….zang. Cocoa bomb. It was like the poof of cocoa dust that rises out of the Quick container at 6:00 in the morning when I’m mixing up chocolate milk for my kids.
But the nose kept evolving. That’s something I really like in a bourbon, one of the things that makes a pour special, it’s ability to stretch its legs and be everything that it can be. The cocoa eventually subsides and is replaced by a hive of hardworking honey bees cranking out copious amounts of sticky, gooey, sweet translucent golden liquid. Honey. Honey. More honey. The honey is almost everlasting. Within that is a nice blast of honeysuckle. It reminds me of the rickety, rusty barbed wire fence row that ran down the long side of the pasture at Mom and Dad’s house. In the summers it would burst forth with a rainbow of honeysuckle blooms that I could smell from across the field. Plucking the blooms, pulling the tassels, savoring that little droplet of sugar dew. There is an element of summertime berry. It’s not overwhelming, just something I picked up, in the realm of summer currants. Add to that a distinct layer of nuttiness, walnuts.
Interestingly, I detected an earthy component that lies far beneath everything else. It’s a component similar to the blast of air that rushed out of the caverns we played in as kids, damp, dank and cool….maybe this barrel came out of the bottom of the warehouse. There is also a hint of fresh leather, like belts hanging in a leather shop.
The flavor is pretty straight forward, not at all complex. But it doesn’t need to be, because what it does, it does right. The honey is still there, specifically clover honey. It’s sweet but not cloying. There is also some black pepper, and a nice amount of oak. The mouth-feel is not rich, and it’s not thick. But its also not astringent. What it delivers is simple, smooth, enjoyable flavor. I noticed during the sip that something became familiar, almost friendly. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but it was a pleasureful moment I had experienced before. That’s the mystery of this bourbon.
The finish came out of nowhere. I am a self-admitted fan of high proof bourbon (120 and above), and I look for that immediate burn after the flavor. For a moment I didn’t think there would be any finish at all, and was prepared to pan this juice. But the finish came up like a sunrise on the Atlantic, slowly blossoming from nothing into a radiant warmth that hovered right at the back of my throat, fading into long lasting embers on the sides of my tongue. Very pleasant.
One of my favorite elements in a bourbon is the post-nose. This one provided an epic post-nose, which I’ve only experienced on a few other bourbons. There was an awesome element of oak, which gave way to a massive amount of butter and sweetness. I kept thinking of my favorite breakfast…buttery syrup drenched over a stack of french toast.
And looking at all of that is what makes Michter’s releases such a head-scratcher. It’s great juice, but I have no idea what the origins of this bourbon are. It should be obvious, but it’s not. I’ve been told it’s contract distilled. I’ve read all the rumors and speculation that it’s tanked distillate, but never seen anything definitive. I went back through my book of tasting notes and pored through my scribblings on so many different bourbons, from the final releases of Stitzel-Weller to OFBB, to everything in between. Could be this, could be that. It has the honey, but it’s missing the thick mouth-feel. It has the butter, but it’s lacking the syrup. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s not.
At the end of the day, maybe I don’t want to know. I’ll take it for what it is, a mysterious, fine drinking, lovely bourbon that you should absolutely pour and enjoy, if you can find it.