Michter's American Whiskey Review [In Depth]

Michter's American Whiskey

Alex author
Founder, writer
michter's american whiskey header

Michter's American Whiskey Details

Distillery: Michter

Type & Region: American Whiskey, USA

Alcohol: 41.7%

Composition: Unknown

Aged: Unknown

Color: 1.3/2.0 on the color scale (russet, muscat)

Price: $40-50

From the company website:

Unlike Bourbon or Rye, which, by definition, must be aged in new oak barrels, our US1 Unblended American Whiskey is aged in a way that utilizes whiskey-soaked barrels to achieve a rich and unique flavor profile. In late 2013, then Master Distiller Willie Pratt agreed to re-release our US1 Unblended American Whiskey after a nearly three-year absence from the market, deeming it “just right” and “the best it’s ever been.” Crucially, our US1 Unblended American Whiskey never contains grain neutral spirits – hence its “unblended” distinction.

Michter's American Whiskey overview

Michter’s has 4 mainstream whiskeys that you can generally find everywhere: Bourbon, Rye, Sour Mash, and American whiskey, which is the focus of this review.

If you know anything about whiskey, the bourbon and rye make sense. Still, you might be thinking to yourself, what the heck is American Whiskey? Well first off, I believe that Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey could technically be called Michter’s American Whiskey too because it can’t be called bourbon, rye, or any other more restrictive name. The problem is that Michter’s can’t have 2 different whiskeys with the same name, so they went with Sour Mash, which is one part of how that whiskey is made. The term “Sour Mash” isn’t that unique or noteworthy. Anyway, I digress.

American whiskey is a generic term for any whiskey (meaning spirit made from distilled grain and aged in oak for more than 0 seconds) made in America. Bourbon, blended bourbon, rye, wheat whiskey, and American single malt, among others, are subcategories of American Whiskey. In reality, companies use that term when the whiskey can’t be called one of the other more descriptive terms because it doesn’t meet the requirements to be called something else.
In Michter’s American Whiskey’s case, it doesn’t meet the more restrictive requirements because it’s aged in used whiskey barrels. The types of whiskey with more restrictive requirements (in the US at least) are required to be initially aged in virgin charred white oak barrels, but can be further aged / finished in used barrels afterwards. If the used barrels come first, it loses that more specific classification.
That said, we also have no idea what types of whiskey barrels are used to age Michter’s American Whiskey. They could be used rye or bourbon barrels, and/or something entirely different. There are few rules, so they have more flexibility. The generic American whiskey term also means that we don’t have many clues on what the mashbill could be – heavy on corn, rye, wheat, barley, or something else. Smelling and tasting will have to reveal more on that.

There’s one more term to discuss – “unblended”. No, this does not mean that this single barrel. If that were the case they would just print “single barrel” on the label, because that is something that they would want to feature. I mean…I guess single barrel technically means that it’s “unblended” too, but it’s “unblended” means something very different in this case.

In this case, “unblended” means that no other types of whiskey were blended into it – meaning no neutral grain spirit, light whiskey, canadian whiskey, or anything else. It’s all one type of whiskey, whatever the heck it is. Some cheaper “blended American whiskey” can have neutral grain spirit or light whiskey blended into it, while others such as Buffalo Trace’s Traveller Whiskey have Canadian whiskey blended into it. “Unblended” really means that it’s purely one type of whiskey.
There are a lot of unknowns, which is Michter’s preferred way to operate, so let’s get some clarity on how it drinks in theMichter’s American Whiskey review.
michter's american whiskey back

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 American Whiskey smell

The scents are full of dark roasted caramel sweetness, toasted vanilla, fragrant roasted oak, cinnamon, dark chocolate, dried cherry, heavily baked apple, orange peel, and a little bit of dry nuttines and roasted coffee. There is virtually no heat to be found. Hmm, Michter’s American Whiskey is unexpectedly dark and roasty like a 12+ year old bourbon. This is curious but intriguing.
This might sound ridiculous, but this leans into Russell’s Reserve 13 Year territory with all that fragrant oak and into Heaven Hill with the nuttiness.
After swirling and rest, I get brown sugar, expressive roasted oak, toasted vanilla, heavily baked red apple, cinnamon, dark chocolate, coffee, tobacco, orange peel, dried apricot, and some dry nuttiness. As crazy as this sounds, I again think that this honestly smells like diluted Russell’s Reserve 13 Year because there’s so much of the mature oak, tobacco, and chocolate. I swear that’s what comes to mind.
You could also trick me into thinking that this was a one-off older Elijah Craig single barrel bourbon. Regardless, Michter’s American Whiskey is so confusing, but in a fun way. I never expected this type of experience, but I’m certainly not upset by it.
michter's american whiskey front

Michter's American Whiskey taste and aftertaste

Michter’s American Whiskey has dark caramel, toasted vanilla, heavily baked apple, vibrant and dark toasted oak, cinnamon, dark chocolate, dried cherry, and tobacco. Huh? This has the trappings of a 12+ year old bourbon from Heaven Hill or Wild Turkey, which is a compliment because those are some great bourbons. It tastes really old and mature, and I am so confused with the experience. This shouldn’t be here.
The problem, and it’s a big one, is that the ABV is a massive letdown. The 41.7% ABV makes the overall mouthfeel and fullness feel so lacking, although the flavors still have decent richness and depth. It sounds like a contradiction, but hear me out.
The flavors have great substance, full or dark sweet, oak, and fruitiness, but it’s all just dulled by the dilution. Why can’t this be 47% ABV? Michter’s clearly knows what they’re doing to make great whiskey, yet also seem completely misguided at the same time. I’m terribly confused why this is the way it is, for the good and bad.
With hard “chewing”, I taste brown sugar, toasted vanilla cream, mature oak, dark chocolate, tobacco, cinnamon, licorice, baked red apple, caramel, dried cherry, roasted coffee, nutmeg, and a little black pepper and dry nuttiness. Michter’s American Whiskey is delicious, but terribly held back by the ABV. The flavors are there and decently rich and complex, but the thinness holds this back from greatness. I guess the trade off is that there’s no heat, so you could suck these down way too quickly.
The finish leaves toasted caramel and vanilla, oak, tobacco, baked red apple, cinnamon, dried cherry, and dark chocolate. After “chewing”, it leaves brown sugar, toasted vanilla, mature oak, tobacco, cinnamon, and baked red apple, leaving a pleasantly sweet and oaky lingering aftertaste.
I just can’t believe my taste buds (yet I do) that Michter’s American Whiskey drinks like the “light” version of Russell’s Reserve 13 Year, Jacob’s Well Hardin’s Creek, or even Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon. In my opinion, this does Michter’s 10 Year better than Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon does, and this isn’t even bourbon. There’s so much of that mature oakiness, tobacco, and dark chocolate in there, and I’m impressed that Michter’s found a way to get that in this bottle.
Michter’s American Whiskey is really well done in many ways, but with awful decisions made on the ABV. I can’t let it go because it’s so good otherwise.
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 American Whiskey Rating

Mid shelf+
Michter’s American Whiskey may be one of the most confusing bour…sorry…whiskeys…that I’ve ever had. Honestly, this is a borderline “Top Shelf” bourbon (dammit I did it again), and I’m a big fan of it…a confused fan…but still one at that. Maybe on a different day I’d be a tad more forgiving of the glaring thinness due to the ABV, and get it over the hump. On this day though, it doesn’t quite get there. To be fair, I was just as critical with Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon for the same reason, and I didn’t give that a “Top Shelf” rating either.
Every piece of this whiskey screams Russell’s Reserve 13 Year “light”, loaded with dark sugars, tons of expressive and mature oak, and dark fruit. There’s not a single whiskey out there under $50, bourbon or not, that has this personality. Mature oak, tobacco, and dark chocolate NEVER come in whiskeys at this price, and it’s a real treat. Maybe you agree with me or maybe you think that I’ve completely lost it at this point (entirely possible). Either way, I stand by this hot take.
Here’s a quick tangent – Still Austin High Rye Bourbon has some of that mature oak character too, but it’s $80 and “Top Shelf” because it has more fullness and pop than Michter’s American Whiskey.
The criminally low ABV doesn’t make sense to me. I’m sure that Michter’s has their reasons, but I don’t get it. It saps so much of the incredible character, richness, and depth that’s there. I wonder if Michter’s intentionally hamstrung this because they know how good it is.
At a higher ABV, I suspect that this would outshine virtually everything else that they make, including the 3x more expensive and highly allocated Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon, so they tone it down to keep it relatively even with everything else. I could be entirely wrong, this is just me making up wild ideas to justify this idiotic ABV for such a good whiskey.
In a blind review / comparison, I can nearly guarantee that no one would ever say that this is just American whiskey. They’d confidently say that this is a 10+ year old bourbon, and they’d be so wrong. This doesn’t make sense to me, yet it exists and I’m assuming that Michter’s didn’t skirt any rules in calling it “American Whiskey”.
I highly recommend Michter’s American Whiskey, and the $40-50ish price point makes it a must try…that is if you like well-made oak-forward bourbon. If you don’t, this still won’t jive with your senses, and that’s ok. I had no idea what to expect going into this, but I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m always down to be surprised…in a good way at least.
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.

There are no sponsors, no media companies, and no nonsense. Support The Whiskey Shelf by Buying Me A Shot.

Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)