Cult whiskey maker Michter’s has a deliciously sweet ‘sour’ spirit
By Charles Passy
We’re sipping on a limited-edition offering from the brand that could be called the “new Pappy”
Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash Whisky, $100
The story back
First of all, Sour-mash whiskeys don’t really taste sour. In fact, much of the bourbon or other American whiskey you drink is probably made using the sour mash process, even if it’s not necessarily labeled as such.
The term refers to a common production method. Mash – a mixture of grain, water and yeast – is what you need to make whisky. But once the liquid is produced, some of the spent mash, as it is called, can still be used and added to the next batch of fresh mash. Without getting too technical, the method is used to “ensure flavor continuity from batch to batch,” according to the Whiskey Wash website. (There’s also something called sweet mash, but I’ll save that for another discussion.)
Some distilleries indicate that they use the sour mash process. Have you ever bought a bottle of Jack Daniel’s classic Old No. 7? If you look closely you will see that the label refers to it as “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey”.
All this brings to this week’s bottle: a limited edition offering from Michter’s, the American distillery that has become cult in recent years. I sometimes call it the new Pappy (as in Pappy Van Winkle, the bourbon that really started the whole cult trend). These days, high-end Michter versions can easily sell for thousands of dollars. (I wrote about one of these bottles in 2020.)
The Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash is also limited edition, but the price is $100. It’s technically not a bourbon, according to Michter President Joseph J. Magliocco — meaning it doesn’t have at least 51% corn in its grain (or mash) blend — but it’s is really an American whiskey made with the sour mash process. What makes the bottle more special is the ‘toasting’ process behind it – that is, the whiskey gets a second aging in a cask that has been, well, toasted. The idea is that by doing so, the whiskey acquires an extra sweetness.
What we think
In short, it’s a delicious sip – and deliciously mysterious. It begins with notes of brown sugar and vanilla, all smooth and light. But then it suddenly becomes drier on the tongue, taking on a whole different character. Either way, this is definitely a whiskey to savor. And again, there’s nothing sour about it.
How to benefit
Don’t think about cocktails with this one. Instead, make it neat or with an ice cube or two.
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