Michter's Sour Mash Whiskey (2014) Review [In Depth]

Michter's Sour Mash Whiskey (2014)

Alex author
Founder, writer
2014 Michter's Sour Mash header

Michter's Sour Mash Whiskey (2014) Details

Distillery: Michter’s

Type & Region: American Whiskey, USA

Alcohol: 43%

Composition: Unknown

Aged: Unknown

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

Price: $45-50

From the company website:

During the 1970s and 1980s, Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey was the distillery’s single most popular product. While the “Sour Mash” moniker originated from the whiskey production process of the same name – whereby some previously fermented mash is used as the starter for the new mash to be fermented, much like making sourdough bread – Michter’s Original Sour Mash earned distinction for its unique taste. With its unique grain selection, it cannot be categorized as a rye or a bourbon. After disappearing from the market in 1989, Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey made a triumphant return in 2012 with its introduction into the US 1 line. Staying true to the profile and palate of its predecessor, Michter’s US 1 Sour Mash has quickly become a favorite of whiskey enthusiasts.

Fire-charred, new American white oak barrels

2014 Michter's Sour Mash Whiskey overview

You know what this review is about, so let me first tell you why I’m reviewing a 2014 Michter’s Sour Mash (instead of a more recent one) and then what this whiskey is.
In 2023, I walked into a store that I go to every now then and saw this bottle from batch 14A29 (meaning from 2014) intermingled with bottles from 2022 / 2023. Michter’s Sour Mash was re-released starting in 2012, so 2014 it’s not so far off from that. Out of sheer curiosity, I wanted to try it.
Because I’m doing this review of a 2014 batch and have never had a more recent one, I have no idea how more recent ones may be different. I will get to that, but wanted to call that out. Now onto what this whiskey is, because it’s not obvious.
Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey is strange, or the name is at least. In their every day lineup, Michter’s has a bourbon, rye, American whiskey aged in used oak (so it can’t be called bourbon, rye, or wheat whiskey depending on the majority grain), and this Sour Mash whiskey. Assuming that Michter’s isn’t doubling up on any whiskey, it’s not immediately obvious what it is. Thankfully, there are some clear-ish clear signs, if you know what you’re looking for.
The biggest sign is the fact that it’s aged in new oak but not called bourbon, rye, or wheat whiskey. The second is that Michter’s says “with its unique grain selection, it cannot be categorized as a rye or a bourbon”. So while it’s aged in new oak yet can’t be called bourbon, rye, or wheat whiskey, that means that none of the grains in the mashbill make up at least 51% for it to be called one of those whiskeys. Who knows, it could be 40% corn, 40% rye, 20% barley for all I know. Technically, Michter’s could call it American Whiskey, but they reserved that for the one aged in used oak.
The “Sour Mash” name isn’t actually that fancy or special. Sour mash is just a whiskey production method that uses some of the previous mash to help kick start the fermentation of the next mash. It’s like using someone else’s sourdough starter to create your own sourdough bread, instead of doing it from scratch on your own.
The thing is, sour mashing is not a particularly rare or uncommon thing to do, so Michter’s Sour Mash really just means that they used that common process (and may even use it for their other whiskeys) and didn’t want to call it Michter’s American Whiskey. I don’t think “Michter’s Three Grain Whiskey” or “Michter’s The Other American Whiskey” are very catchy names either. So just like Nikka Coffey Grain (just means they use corn and distill using column stills), they made it sound fancier than it actually is. It’s not a bad thing, but you should be educated on what it all means.
Let’s find out what this older 2014 release brings in this Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey.
2014 Michter's Sour Mash front

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2014 Michter's Sour Mash Whiskey smell

2014 Michter’s Sour Mash starts with lightly toasted caramel, dried apricot, lightly dried oak, toasted vanilla, pear, clove, cinnamon, fennel, dried orange peel, and some oak char. As gentle and light as it is (not all in a bad way), there’s a nice roasty, fruity, and herbal character that reminds me of Blanton’s, but this is denser and darker. Seriously, Blanton’s comes to mind.
Don’t be mistaken, the lower ABV definitely comes through, but the character isn’t so light and watered down for 43% ABV. I guess the benefit is that there’s just about zero bite.
After swirling I smell caramel, apricot, toasted vanilla and oak, cinnamon, orange peel, fennel, and a little cherry and mint. I like that the oak takes a back seat. It covers everything in a gentle veil of oak but doesn’t feel overdone.
2014 Michter’s Sour Mash still smells really nice. As-is, it has decent density and personality so the dilution didn’t wash everything away. I really wish this was higher ABV though, because I think it would be so much better.
2014 Michter's Sour Mash tag 1
2014 Michter's Sour Mash tag 2

2014 Michter's Sour Mash Whiskey taste and aftertaste

My first sip has caramel, vanilla frosting, dried cherry, roasted oak, clove, licorice, apricot, apple, orange peel, coconut, and cinnamon. Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey has sugar and vanilla sweetness up front with some oak, spice, and fruit in the back that’s well balanced across everything and has a bit of this darker fruit tart-type vibe. As much as this isn’t bourbon, it honestly feels like bourbon to me.
At 43%, the mouthfeel and flavors are not that dense, but are far from thin and still have a little pep and personality. It’s super approachable and I actually like it already. It already feels like a well-matured and crafted whiskey that I prefer over Blanton’s, which has a similar herbal and fruity personality.
With “chewing” I taste caramel, vanilla, orange peel, dried apricot, tosted oak, coconut meat, cinnamon, clove, mint, and fennel. Yes, “chewing” opens up more sweetness, coconut, density, and brings a little spicy kick with this freshness and effervescence. There’s a bit of a caramel custard vibe going on with some fruit thrown in and briefly crisped with a torch.
The aftertaste has caramel, vanilla, dried apricot, toasted oak, clove, cinnamon, mint, and licorice. There’s nice lingering oaky sweetness with some mint. Post-chewing, it leaves caramel, vanilla, dried apricot, toasted oak, cinnamon, clove fennel, and this oaky effervescence and charred marshmallow. It’s really nice.
The flavors feel surprisingly full for the ABV, but the entire experience is still dampened and softened by it at the same time. I really like this a lot. The ABV is still a dealbreaker for me to get it to “Top Shelf”, but at 100 proof I bet that it would.
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.

2014 Michter's Sour Mash Whiskey Rating

Mid shelf+
I don’t know what more recent releases are like, but the 2014 version of Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey is delicious stuff. I hope that recent releases are like this, but it’s not guaranteed because so much can change over time, especially as the American whiskey boom puts a major toll on the more mature and developed whiskeys, what I call the “good stuff”.
Speaking of “good stuff”, Michter’s Sour Mash seems to have a similar personality to Blanton’s, but outdoes Blanton’s because it’s more developed and rich. Michter’s Sour Mash has the fruit (especially apricot) and herbal-forward traits, and does it better in every way. I say this because I reviewed a 2022 Blanton’s Store Pick not too long before reviewing this. Comparing 2014 Michter’s to 2022 Blanton’s isn’t necessarily even, so take that thought with a grain of salt.
Unfortunately, the criminally low ABV is the real problem. The whiskey still holds up well at 43% ABV, but I can imagine that the bolder fruity and herbal sweetness would be delightful at 100 proof. I guess they’re hell-bent to keep most of their whiskeys under 50% ABV, and meter out their cask strength releases as super allocated or distillery-only offerings. I hate it.
I am so curious how much Michter’s Sour Mash has changed over time. In 2014, whiskey was growing in popularity, but it was far from this massive boom we’ve experienced since 2019/2020. In 2014, distilleries and sourcers could be more discerning with their barrel selection, but the surge in popularity has led to some unfortunate (but expected) blending decisions that usually include using less developed barrels to keep up with demand. That’s for another post, but I know it needs to be done.
Time for me to figure out what’s going on with the version you can actually buy. If it’s anything like this one, then I think it’s going to be very good.
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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BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)