Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Malt Mission 2009 #369

Michter's 10yo, GH-1
Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey
47.2% abv
$75 (USD)

"Michter's: the Whiskey that warmed the Revolution."

In 1753, Swiss Menonite farmer John Shenk joined the American tradition of whiskey making and built a farm distillery in Schaefferstown, PA for "local use". Within four generations the family distillery became a commercial venture (apparently on the back of supplying Washington's troops with liquid courage) and was sold.

After prohibition closed the distillery, a confusing web of tales seems to exist that this author tries to untangle, but the story seems to end the same: "sometime around 1991 everyone just up and left." Today, what was the Michter's distillery is a crumbling, weed-overrun site that scarecely looks like it ever produced anything.

The name "Michter's", however, was sold to Chatham Imports who proceeded to revive the brand with great success.

And goddamn it if this isn't just another example of how hard it is to wrap one's head around the world of American whiskey. Can't wait to finish my American "weeks" here on the mission; I don't have time for invesitgative journalism!

There still seems to be plenty of mystery surrounding the Michter's name and history that scholars far more informed on the topic than Dr. Whisky cannot seem to answer. For more info, check out Cowdery's book, click HERE or HERE, or just have a googlygander yourselves. Geneology in the world of American whiskey can be hard to navigate, but is made somewhat easier by this great online resource from Sku, Complete List of American Distilleries and Brands, which tells us who bottles this liquid (KBD), but gives no info on who produces the sauce. Heaven Hill? Other? Anyone have an idea?

Finally, this past weekend we saw the Michter's range on optic at the Roebling Tea Room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Not something you see very often in this country so I thought it was interesting and that I would share it with you here.

Now, finally, let's taste.


Whoa. Vegetal, meaty, oraganic and gingery. Some floral notes but the meatiness persists with lamb and peanut butter, ginger again, green peas and/or soy beans. Brown sugar, clay, muddy autumn leaves, and plasticine.

Kale, vinegar and ice cream truck butterscotch. Strachy, bean-y. Perfumy vanilla. Oaky and spicy on the way out.


Firm, fun flavours, unusual ones, too, but jaw-splittingly unbalanced. It would be hard to get me to fill another glass, YES even if I added some Bernheim Wheat, rye, vinegar or applesauce. What is the point in trying to make this more appealing to me? Life is too short to drink whisky I don't enjoy and lord knows there is no shortage of fine drops to drink instead.

Now, I have examined other reviews of this and spoken with several friends about their reactions to the whiskey and although it is quite clear that David and I had a very different reaction to this whiskey than the majority of others, I stand by my (our?) opinion and only slightly reluctantly press "publish", esp in light of all the recent Dr bashing.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Malt Mission 2009 #368

Four Roses Single Barrel
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

TN 85-4L

50% abv

$40 (USD)

Although Wikipedia tells us that Four Roses was possibly named after original founder Rufus Mathewson Rose, his brother and two sons, Four Roses' website tells the story of Paul Jones, Jr., founder of Four Roses, whose love interest accepted his invitation to a grand ball and showed up wearing, as promised, a corsage of 4 red roses. I guess if we whisk(e)y nerds weren't spending all our online time surfing porn and writing vitriolic comments on whisky websites and fora we could remedy the spread of misinformation. But where would be the fun in that?

Four Roses produces 10 different recipes of bourbons out of 5 different yeast strains and two mashbills (one 60% corn, one 75% corn) at their Lawrenceburg, Kentucky-based distillery. While most of their whiskies are made with a mix of each between 2 to 10 of these different bourbons, this Single Barrel is, obviously, I suppose, made using only one.

From 1957, Four Roses bourbon was unavailable in its country of origin with Yellow and Black label being more easily found in Kyoto than Kentucky.

Master Distiller Jim Rutledge continues to make great whisky: 5 stars from F. Paul Pacult, Gold at the ISC, and Best Bourbon (no age statement) WWA 2008. So the verdict is in. What of any significance could my opinion possibly add?

Tasted as a part of a lovely morning session with DS.


Big and sweet. Luscious candy fruitiness, Bazooka bubble gum, Watermelon Hubba Bubba, Juicy Fruit. Coconut and gorse, even some baby powder with water.

Dry but chewy with basil, mint, caramel. Sweet and light, floral. Cream soda and maple with time and a pleasant slightly bitter and spicy finish.


Interesting and tasty drop that kept insisting I stick and re-stick my nose in the glass and revel in its big, sweet, voluptuous vapours. My only complaint (or perhaps oversight on my part) is that there is no indication of which mashbill this cask is made. They have this cool tool on their website but the numbers on the label (TN 85 4L) seem to have no relationship to the spirit codes but rather to the cask and warehouse number. Would be cool to know which spirit is which, esp as it is single barrel, no?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Malt Mission 2009 #367

Bernheim Original
Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

45% abv


Keeping the American theme going with a few more drops from whiskEy country up my labcoat sleeve. Sorry if it takes me weeks to pull 'em out.

Typical of American whiskey, the Bernheim story is shrouded in mystery, some confusion, and even a little intentional deceit. The Bernheim website reads, "Brothers Isaac Wolfe and Bernard Bernheim, pioneering German immigrants with little money and big dreams, established a distillery in Louisville, Kentucky in the 19th century. Since that time, the Bernheim distillery has consistently produced whiskeys lauded for their superior taste and quality." The Heaven Hill website reads, "Heaven Hill produces its whiskies at the historic Bernheim Distillery."

Historic? consistently making spirit? The old Bernheim distillery was demolished and the new one was built in 1992. The whisky is distilled at (the new) Bernheim distillery and is matured at Heaven Hill's facilities in Bardstown, Kentucky. The amazing Sku, who helped me clarify some details about this whiskey (and many others over the years), also points out that
this is straight wheat whiskey (>51% wheat), not to "be confused with what in Bourbon lingo is referred to as a "wheater." A wheater is a Bourbon in which the remaining grains, beyond the required corn, contain wheat instead of rye. In a wheater, corn is still the base grain. In wheat whiskey, which is not Bourbon, wheat is the base grain.

Thank you, my west coast malt loving brother!

Tasted with an east coast malt loving brother, David Stewart (no, not that one. Or that one).


Perfumy, aromatic, like hot tea. Vanilla, chamomile, and fresh mint. Simple and clean with a gentle spice beneath the sweet surface.

Very soft in the mouth, verging on bland. Not much of note happening here. Hmm... Late notes of bread, baguette and then... fin


In tasting this with DS, we were both speechless for no other reason than there was next to nothing to say about the flavours in this drop. Light? Clean? Yes, but also boring and inconsequential. Although unique in the world of American whiskey, I think Greenore provides a parallel but this drop doesn't come close to the complexities of oak influence in texture and flavour found in its Irish comparison.

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