Michter's Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash review
Michter's Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash
Type & Region: American Whiskey, Kentucky, USA
Composition: Unknown – A blend of corn, rye, and malted barley. No single grain makes up over 50% of the mash
Color: 1.2/2.0 on the color scale (chestnut, oloroso)
Price: $60-80MSRP, $100+ secondary
From the Michter’s website:
“[Michter’s Toasted Barrel Sour Mash Whiskey] is made by taking Michter’s US1 Sour Mash Whiskey and then aging it for an additional period of time in a second custom made barrel. This second barrel is assembled from 18-month air-dried wood and then toasted but not charred. Several different levels of toast for the second barrel were evaluated before our production team led by Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson decided on the one that would best display the elegant nuances of this remarkable whiskey.”
Michter's Toasted Barrel Sour Mash overview
It’s been a long time coming for 2019’s Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash, the third toasted barrel whiskey from Michter’s. The previous two, the Toasted Barrel Finished Bourbon (2014) and Rye (2017) were very limited and highly desired. Unfortunately, the Toasted Barrel Sour Mash is just as limited and frequently marked-up.
Toasted barrel and sour mash are vague terms not often found on whiskey labels. Toasted Barrel finish means that the whiskey was finished in a second barrel that was more gently roasted than what is normally done for the initial aging. In comparison, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked was finished in barrels that were “deeply toasted before a light charring” to add darker and intense roasted notes. The lighter toasting should impart gentler wood influence.
In the context of this whiskey, sour mash means that the mash bill does not contain a majority of either corn or rye to be able to call it bourbon or rye whiskey. As a result, it’s really an American whiskey, the all-encompassing term for non-bourbon or rye.
Let’s find out if these fancy toasted barrels bring anything new and delicious to the drinking experience in this Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash review.
I want to thank my friend Ryan B. for his generosity in providing a sample and the wonderful photo.
Michter's Toasted Barrel Sour Mash smell
Michter’s Toasted Sour Mash leaves a nice first impression with honey, mint, and oak with subtle bready notes. I can sense that extra oakiness, but it’s not in the form of extra darkness. It adds more vegetal and floral dried grass, hay, corn husk, and must, which makes sense because toasted barrels are not as deeply charred as what is used in double oak whiskeys. There is a little chocolate, but it’s far from Woodford Reserve Double Oaked’s level, which is crazy chocolatey. The alcohol is very calm, and so far, I like how this smells.
After swirling, I smell a mix of honey, clove, gingerbread with a little dried citrus and apple peel, and ever-present mint and eucalyptus. It’s a little cider-y, but maybe that’s the weather talking. The deeply roasted oak has come down a little so now I smell more layers of dried musty wood and dried corn husk, and less chocolate. Hints of vanilla also start to appear, but it’s nothing like Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. It’s easy to get lost in Michter’s Toasted Barrel Sour Mash’s aromatic scents, but they’re not potent or powerful.
Michter's Toasted Barrel Sour Mash taste & aftertaste
Michter’s is sweet and slightly bitter with honey, roasted oak, and a dash of coffee grounds. The toasted barrel finishing introduces a little extra oak bitterness and darkness, but it’s not overdone. Vanilla and orange reveal themselves after a few seconds, but the alcohol remains in the background. A nice first sip to start.
With “chewing”, I taste caramel nougat and honey followed by apple and clove, roasted oak, slightly burnt popcorn kernels, and black pepper. Mint and eucalyptus build towards the end prior to swallowing., all covered in a gentle blanket of alcohol. Michter’s Toasted Barrel Sour Mash is certainly pleasant and doesn’t feel thin at 43%, but I wouldn’t call it wildly complex. It just suffers so much from dulled characteristics because of the lower proof and likely younger age.
The finish begins with 70-80% dark chocolate, a nice balance between bitter and sweet. The oak tannins and cocoa from the toasted oak linger with a sprig of mint, leaving a refreshing feeling in my mouth. “Chewing” brings out a little more honey and dried peanut shell with oak and mint, but it’s not chocolatey. Don’t worry though, this isn’t a nutty whiskey a la Heaven Hill or Jim Beam. Overall, Michter’s Toasted Barrel Sour Mash has a lot to like, but it’s hamstrung by low proof.
Place on the Whiskey Shelf
Michter’s Toasted Barrel Sour Mash is quite good but is ultimately just a tease that leaves me wanting more. There are a lot of layers spanning honey, caramel, spice, oak, mint, ginger, grass, and cocoa that are interesting and enjoyable, but I’m never left satisfied with the experience. It’s like going to a restaurant and starting with a delicious appetizer, but then the meal abruptly ends. The low proof is absolutely criminal for an $80+ limited release. “Limited release” is not a hall pass for drowning a whiskey in water. This should have been cask strength like the last Toasted Barrel release.
Lucky for you, there are options if you are looking for something similar, since toasted barrel whiskeys are rare. There’s Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Old Forester 1910, Jim Beam Double Oak, and Knob Creek Twice Barreled Rye to name a few that are easier to find. If you’re just looking for something dark and oaky, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Knob Creek Single Barrel, or any number of American Single Malts (100% malted barley can be quite roasted and chocolatey) such as Old Line Cask Strength American Whiskey may scratch that itch.
At the end of the day, pay whatever you’re comfortable paying, but $80+ is too much for me. I just don’t get it.