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Michter's 25 Year Bourbon Review—An Exploration of the Ultra-Aged and an Answer to the Age-Old Question: "Is Older Better?"


Michter's 25 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - 2023 Release

"Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight.
For the greatest tragedy of them all,
Is never to feel the burning light."
- Oscar Wilde

Like Icarus, Michter's dares to push the boundaries of what is possible. Taking a whiskey to 25 years and beyond is not only daring; some may even call it downright insane. I can only think of a few examples off the top of my head of distilleries pushing whiskey out to these kinds of age statements, given that most people in the American whiskey circles I travel in find 15–18 years about the top end of enjoyable oakiness. There are a few factors working in Michter's favor, however. For one, they are running a temperature-controlled warehouse in their Shively distillery location. They also have a team that consists of some of the best scientists, chemical engineers, and whiskey industry experts you could ask for. In my latest tour with Dan McKee, he highlighted the great work that Katherine O'Nan and Seth Robinson do behind the scenes to make sure the final product that consumers get to taste is their very best work. Utilizing some of the best lab equipment money can buy, I saw firsthand just how much passion and whiskey-nerding goes on under Michter's roof. It's really great to see a company investing in quality rather than quantity these days. Seeing a distillery utilize all the technology available to them and putting into action some of the best distillation practices (like low barrel entry proof) makes Michter's a brand that I think will stand the test of time.


Michter's Shively whiskey barrel storage warehouse
A temp sensor generating key aging data for Michter's

Having access to some of the rarest whiskey in the world is both a blessing and a curse. In argument for the former, I will say the breadth of knowledge that comes with regular palate calibration against what other well-respected palates consider pinnacle American whiskey puts me in a unique position to be highly qualified to accurately rate the gamut of releases we are being bombarded with today.


2023 Michter's 25 year bourbon review
Rare, old whiskey: deserving of a pedestal?

The downside of tasting a 25 year bourbon? This kind of whiskey is nearly impossible for any craft distillery to reproduce at any reasonable scale; it took a quarter of a century to mature, for goodness' sake. Now Michter's hasn't been continuously distilling for 25 years, so this has to be sourced whiskey—meaning it was distilled by somebody else—and Michter's bought the stocks for further aging at their Shively facility. The same was true of the chart-topping 2022 release of their 20 year bourbon. Michter's only recently reintroduced their own production methods around 2015, which I covered in my review of the 2023 10 year bourbon release. Given that timeline, we may soon start to see 10 year releases featuring their own distillate. I am certainly excited to see this, as I've been quite impressed with their entire whiskey portfolio for years, though I do like to keep things honest when things don't quite land.


Despite this being a whiskey that almost nobody other than the most ardent whiskey enthusiasts or deep-pocketed bar patrons are going to taste, let's dive in and review the December 2023 release of Michter's 25 year bourbon nonetheless. Who knows? Maybe this write-up will convince you to go out and seek it out for yourself, or maybe it will end up saving you a few bucks. Either way, buckle up!


 

Company on Label: Bottled by Michter's Distillery (sourced from an undisclosed distillery)

Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed bourbon mash bill (a minimum of 51% corn)

Proof: 116.2° (58.1% alcohol by volume)

Age: 25 years

Further identification: This is the 2023 release of Michter's 25 year bourbon, which was first introduced as a bottle offering in 2020; I am reviewing batch number 23I3017, my bottle being one of the 415 bottles available; it carries an MSRP of $1,500—which is exactly what I paid for it out of my own pocket for the purposes of sharing this review as well as the whiskey within


 

Nose: Upon first lifting the glass to the nose, a prevalent creaminess presents itself as a decadent, rich, and comfortable introduction. Other leading notes include graham cracker and leather as the depths of liquid gold begin to unfold. Milky, marshmallow-laden hot chocolate follows in reserved form. Nosing this is like falling into a fluffy bed with piles of liquid pillows surrounding the senses. An underlying dry fruitiness sneaks into the back of the mind on further inhalation. It's mainly targeted towards the skins of fruit like red grapes—sweet and slightly tannic, though the nougat tones do well to balance this aspect. Sweet vanilla swings in on a soft lakeside breeze. Dark walnut and soft Christmas peppermint puffs are interesting additions to a wildly different style of whiskey than most will be used to. Shellac wood finish sneaks into the glass, causing an eyebrow to be raised. After a long break, I return to the sweet serenity of a raspberry parfait as my nose pulls from the well-rested glass. Woodshop aromas are consistent throughout the experience, eventually evolving into coconut husks, leather, and tobacco that are typical of hyper-aged whiskey. Time for a taste.


Palate: My first sip is surprisingly delicate, with a bloom of leather, graham cracker, brown sugar, and hyper-aged vintage oak that reminds me of some pre-prohibition whiskeys I've tried. Holy wood, Batman! Another sip is more potent, with cherry garcia, cinnamon, black pepper, and allspice shimmering across the tongue. The mouthfeel is slightly textured, like the creamy milk at the end of a bowl of cereal. Throughout the tasting experience, I discover mint, chalky vanilla powder, and the slightest hint of tobacco. After a long break, I return to find more earthiness with clove and allspice behind it. Sipping near the bottom of the glass is rather fickle. At times, it reveals some musty tones that taste like black bread, rattan, and varnish. On other tastes, it presents an exotic sweetness like the açai blueberry pomegranate flavor of XXX vitamin water. I find myself confused most times I taste this, rather than impressed with chills running up my spine like the reaction that really exceptional whiskey often imparts on me. My last sip reveals damp, earthy tones and prevalent wood.


Deeper Aromas: My goodness, the nose improves after a taste, if you can believe it. I find that it has evolved into the interior smells of art eatables: modjeskas and rich caramel coffee bean aromas delight the senses. Cherry skins and raspberry purée undulate in soft undertones. Dulce de Leche cheesecake drizzled in gooey caramel continues to impress the nostrils. Hints of butterscotch and earthy clay are rather obfuscated, but do add to the overall complexity. The main takeaway from the experience thus far is a distinct, classy creaminess, which is quite lovely. Holding the nose too deep reveals some zesty nutmeg spice that tingles in the nostrils. A kiss of bubblegum and mint can be found in the glass that is beckoning towards finitude. The empty glass smells of movie theater popcorn, licorice, tea, and subtle floral tones.


Linger & Finish: Strawberry blow pops can be found on the smoldering linger. The finish is medium to long at times, but notably lacking in some portions of the mouth, as only the tip of the tongue is impressed by flan and leather. 


TL;DR: A bit of a fickle dram; beautiful when shining, but too woody for most occasions


 

Rating: 4/5



This is undeniably good whiskey! Despite the fickle flip-flop that seems to occur every time I taste this, I can really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into creating such a complex blend as this. With each barrel likely yielding very little whiskey at this kind of age statement, I imagine it takes a lot of care to blend enough barrels to make this a release that is accessible even to the lucky few I count myself amongst. What prevented this whiskey from reaching a higher score was the lack of a defining character, the mouthfeel that didn't envelop all the sensory regions of the tongue, and the slightly unsettling notes of funky earth, varnish, and rattan that occasionally said, "Too much oak!"


Sipping through this in a comparison setting with contributing writer Jes Smyth, we discovered this had some distinct flavor parallels to Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, though it clearly outclassed that release in a head to head. We also explored an early 1990s Wild Turkey split label 12 year bourbon, Heaven Hill 17 year, and Redbreast Dream Cask (the 30 year double cask edition V). Put them all together, and the ranking shook out like this:


  1. Redbreast Dream Cask 30 year Irish whiskey edition V

  2. Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 17 year bourbon

  3. 2023 Michter's 25 year bourbon

  4. 1990s Wild Turkey 12 year bourbon

  5. 2022 Old Forester Birthday 11 year bourbon


So, to answer the question, "Is older better?"



 
Nick Anderson - Whiskey Writer and Owner of AmongstTheWhiskey.com
With nearly a decade of sipping experience, Nick Anderson brings a well-calibrated palate to his profound passion for the whiskey industry. Beginning in Irish whiskey before expanding into bourbon, rye, and beyond, he has long been taking the ephemeral observation of unspoken enjoyment and translating it into meaningful words. He is the owner and primary long-winded whiskey writer for AmongstTheWhiskey.com, and he hopes you find resonance in the patient conveyance of an honest whiskey review.
 

54 comments

54 Comments


Jake Gold
Jake Gold
Jun 08

Another great review; always appreciate that it’s more than just the hype and instead an open minded assessment

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Replying to

I love that you can appreciate that perspective! Whiskey is far more than just rarity, it's about the experience, where it can take us, and who we share that beautiful journey with! Cheers to you.

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I appreciate you not just gushing over this bottle purely because it is a 1/415 bottles of 25 yo Michter's. Heck I gush just drinking US*1. What a daunting risk to allow distillate to be against the staves for 25 years...so much could go wrong in that amount of time, including just tasting like wet dank wood, which I pick up on some bourbon half that age, but my palate calibration is embarrassingly novice compared to yours so I'll just finish with "too woody" but maybe I like that!

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I love that you understand that perspective. You are smarter than most, I'll tell you that! Cheers to you and thank you for checking out the review, your comment means a lot to me.

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One of those whiskeys you dream to ever get blessed to review, and what a great review! Cheers!

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Absolutely a blessing. Thank you for giving it a read through!

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Great article per usual! I’ve been enjoying these for a while now and hope this is a breakthrough in more folks enjoying them as well. Cheers!

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I appreciate your support, always! You're a great guy and I hope you get blessed with a taste of the good stuff here soon!

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Stellar review! What I appreciate most is that it would be so easy to succumb to the allure of such a rare bottle, but instead you bring it back into perspective at the end with where it stands amongst giants. This is why you’re one of the best in the game.

Cheers!

Mike (Whiskey Morgue)

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You are so kind, Mike! Thank you for the kind words and for recognizing the patience it takes to suppress the unconscious bias that can so easily creep into evaluating admittedly rare and expensive whiskey. Your perpetual empathy, compassion, and thoughtfulness is what makes you one of the best humans in the world!

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