Michter's 20 Year Bourbon Review [In Depth]

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon 2021 Release

Alex author
Founder, writer
Michter's 20 Year bourbon review header

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon Details

Distillery: Michter’s (sourced from a Kentucky distillery)

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, Japan

Alcohol: 57.1%

Composition: Unknown

Aged: 20 years

Color: 1.8/2.0 on the color scale (old oak)

Price: At least $1,000

From the company website:

While we regularly sample all our Michter’s barrels to see how our whiskey is aging, we pay even extra special attention to our barrels once they are over 17 years old. At Michter’s we consider 17 to 20 years the “Fork In The Road Point” when certain barrels of whiskey can achieve an extraordinary level of quality. It is these particular barrels that our Master Distiller Dan McKee personally selects for our very limited bottling of Michter’s 20 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon overview

Michter’s is a premium brand, I think we can all agree on that. At the top of the premium lineup hierarchy is Michter’s 20 Year Bourbon (and a few other crazy rare whiskeys). Unless you hit the jackpot, you’re not going to find this at MSRP. You’ll barely see it even when it’s marked up, but when you do it’ll be very marked up. If you’re reading this, I think you know that already, but I have to write it anyway.
Then you might wonder, “Alex, if this is so rare, how did you get to drink it?” To start, I did not obtain a bottle. I was graciously given a sample to review from Big Tom Gale, Executive Director of Virtue Feed and Grain in Old Town Alexandria, VA, as a gift of sorts…a token of appreciation for doing my thing.
When we met at the restaurant and bar, we talked for hours about all things bourbon as we sipped on my bottles of 1990 Kentucky Prince, 1994 Maker’s Mark Gold 101, and Bardstown Bourbon Company West Virginia Great Barrel Company Rye. By the way, the rye held up very well to the dusties. Here’s my short plug, check them out if you’re in Northern Virginia. The drinks are tasty and the food is delicious. The Umami Burger I got was savory deliciousness.
Michter's 20 Year bourbon review neck
This sample came from bottle 361 of 678 from batch 21I2611. Since this is a 2021 batch, go back 20 years and the liquid had to have been distilled no later than 2001. This also gives me a general estimate of how many barrels went into this batch: about 6-14. Bourbon this old tends to lose a lot of volume over 20+ years so you might realistically have only 30-40% of the original liquid left in the barrel. I’ve seen low-yield barrels from 12 Year Old Four Roses Private Selects have less than 80 bottles from a barrel (that’s really low by the way).
If I go that low, that’s 8-9 low-yield barrels in this Michter’s 20 Year. If there are some slightly higher yielding barrels that could fill 100-120 bottles, then you’re somewhere in the 5-7 barrel range. That’s a lot of assumptions, but the point is still that this is a really small batch of a few choice old barrels.
As for who might have distilled it, I have no idea. The list isn’t long though, because it can only cover Kentucky distilleries that were up and running in 2000 that make bourbon with rye in the mash, which pretty much covers Buffalo Trace, Barton, Old Forester, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Four Roses, and Heaven Hill (might have missed a few). That’s still a really big list and not that helpful.
Realistically, this review doesn’t help many people and it’s definitely not going to affect sales. It’s one of those things I do for fun and to learn given the amazing opportunity. Maybe you’ll learn more about this terribly inaccessible bourbon. In my wildest dreams I never thought that I’d get to try this, yet here we are.
Now let’s find out what all that aging and careful barrel selection led to in this Michter’s 20 Year Bourbon review. Tom, thank you again for this sample.
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As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon smell

Oh yeah, Michter’s 20 Year is old and oaky bourbon goodness – dark and dense caramel, vanilla, dense dried cherry, mature and refined roasted oak that’s heavy and dark but not burnt, tobacco, dark chocolate and cocoa powder, cinnamon, and a little licorice. It’s hard to put this all to words, but the layman’s version is that this has crazy depth and a lot of density and richness all over the place. This is dark chocolate coated dried cherry lathered in roasted caramel charred with a hand torch.
I’ve had a lot of old bourbon over the years, and this has that same old bourbon vibe with the old oak and dried fruit. As old as it is, the amazing clarity and vibrance stand out. I feel like I’m smelling a hugely dark and oaky bourbon in 8K definition. Every part has great tightness and separation, and no flabby muddiness, which sounds like I’m commentating on a bodybuilding competition. Right off the bat, wow this smells sublime.
After swirling and 10 minutes of rest, the dense scents continue to waft over me. There’s gorgeous roasted caramel and dried cherry wrapped up in refined roasted oak and tobacco, dried cherry and apricot, vanilla hit with that hand torch, dark chocolate, cinnamon, dried prune, and dried red apple peel. Michter’s 20 Year is dark, bright, fruity, oaky, spicy, vibrant, old, heavy, and light all at the same time. It all feels so integrated, yet every part is clear and dense, an absolutely superb bourbon that’s pure indulgence and luxury.
Michter's 20 Year bourbon review full
The entire personality continues to feel like a dusty bourbon from the 80’s or 90’s, but a tad more oak-forward and less fruity. I could be tricked into thinking that this was Wild Turkey from the 90’s or something that was finished in Armagnac casks for a year.
The scents are a masterpiece, and I feel like this long section still doesn’t do it justice. It is everything I wrote and more.

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon taste and aftertaste

Michter’s 20 Year starts off with dense and rich caramel, dried cherry, toasted vanilla cream, beautifully mature, rich, and luscious roasted oak, dense dark chocolate and dried orange (dark chocolate orange ball vibe), cinnamon, coffee, and some “old” funk I’ve gotten from Armagnac-finished bourbon. The oak brings a very light astringency but is still pleasant, the opposite of the overly astringent Wild Turkey 17 Year Bottled in Bond.
It is round, dense, luxurious, refined, 8K high definition defined, and everything. There’s that dark and dried caramel and fruit sweetness, all enveloping and defined oak that is dark but not burnt, and smooth spice. Lux Row 12 Year Double Barrel Bourbon comes to mind as a comparable-ish comparison because of all that sweet oak, but the Michter’s is way more sweet and fruity to offset the oak.
After “chewing”, I get a powerful caramel, chocolate, mocha, and oaky rush followed by dried cherry, brighter lemon, tobacco, vanilla, cinnamon, more chocolate, nutmeg, dried date, brighter red apple and fennel, and mint. Michter’s 20 Year brings wave after wave of refined oak, tobacco, chocolate, and dried sweetness.
As dark and oak-forward as it is, it still has a standout bright side to it that makes it so much more complex. Oh…my…[insert something that Will Ferrel would say in Taladega Nights] this is flat out magical.
My “dusty” bourbon radar is ringing. It’s not the date and prune heavy seems like it was finished in sherry (for example 1995 Wild Turkey 8 Year or 2006 Pure Kentucky), but has a lot of that old oak and dried fruit of something like Anderson Club 15 Year (pre-fire Heaven Hill). For modern bourbon, this has more of the dark, rich, and fruitiness of an Armagnac finish like Bardstown Bourbon Company Chateau de Laubade batch 1.
Michter's 20 Year bourbon review back
The finish starts with roasted caramel, dried cherry, refined oak with some char on it, tobacco, cocoa powder, and mint. There’s a little bit of a dark chocolate Andes mint vibe, and the oakiness runs on like it’s a marathon that I don’t want to stop. After “chewing” it leaves roasted caramel, roasted oak, tobacco, dried cherry, orange peel, cinnamon, chocolate, dried apple, and mint.
“Chewing’” takes an already supreme bourbon and unleashes the masterpiece onto my tastebuds. It’s burned into my memory and I will never forget this feeling. No kidding, wow, oh boy, holy shit.
I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too.
Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon Rating

glass case
There are times in life where you get to experience something truly rare and amazing, and then it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Drinking and reviewing this 2021 release of Michter’s 20 Year Bourbon is one of those moments in my whiskey-drinking and reviewing life. I’ve drank some amazing American whiskeys over the years, and this top 3. If you’re wondering, #1 may be Old Grand Dad 114 from the late 80’s.
Just wow. Wow, 2021 Michter’s 20 Year Bourbon is absurd and I hate it so much. It’s rude to give me this kind of euphoric experience and know that I’m not going to have this again for a while. Nonetheless, I’m extraordinarily lucky to have tried a pour AND received a sample to review. Tom, thank you again for the camaraderie, time spent talking about whiskey, and a sample of this for me to review. I’ll be back, and the food was top notch.
You might exercise some cautious skepticism and accuse me of inflating the rating because I know what it is, and that’s understandable. Is it possible? Sure it is, but I’m drinking this and I still can’t believe how insanely magical it is. I’ve reviewed a lot of bourbon, both from eras gone by and more recent, and this is special.
This is old bourbon done nearly perfectly, a modern classic in bourbon that feels like it could have been sold in the 90’s. The old oakiness is dark and all-encompassing yet not overbearing, and the dense dark fruitiness provides layers of depth and character that make it a complete experience. Even in all that oakiness, there’s so much clarity and brightness that keeps me hooked.
I could sip this all day, if I had more than 50ml of it. It feels so familiar too because I’ve had old bourbons like this, especially Anderson Club 15 Year (was 43% ABV and not cask strength). To be fair, they probably sold things like this in the 80’s and 90’s for not much money when there was just tons of it around to bottle (e.g., Wild Turkey 12 Year Cheesy Gold Foil, old Willett, etc). Now you just have to settle for paying $1-4K for a bottle of this or anything to this level.
Similar (and still inadequate) bourbons I can think of are Hardin’s Creek Jacob’s Well 15 Year, Russell’s Reserve 13 Year, and Lux Row 12 Year Double Barrel Bourbon. Imagine those 3 bourbons if you can and then try to imagine what it would be like if they were more defined, rich, and just flat out better. That’s my inadequate explanation.
This refined and mature oak and dark fruit personality is particularly expensive and difficult to get because it has to come from older stock that is carefully selected to avoid harsh astringency and “licking a burnt tree” traits.
For the sake of having some critiques – I would like a little more dark berry and more overall viscosity. This is a “Glass Case” bourbon so it’s a miniscule nitpick at worst.
If I could somehow get one for MSRP, which I think is $1,000, I’d seriously think about it. My significant other might not approve of it, but I could argue that this is one of those bourbons worth the high MSRP asking price.
Where do you go after a bourbon this spectacularly spectacular? I guess I keep working at it until I get my next chance to drink this again. Maybe I’ll even get the chance to buy it at MSRP. Michter’s, you already know how I feel about this bourbon, so…damn you for limiting my consumption of this bourbon.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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