This is the third joint review that I’ve done with Adam, who is a member of the San Francisco Whiskey Bourbon and Scotch Society and who has recently became a founding member of a new group called the Neat Drinker’s Association (or NDA for short. Very pun-y!). Adam lives in a state that feels like it gets more than half of the nation’s supply of Michter’s 20 Year bourbon. He graciously provided me with a sample of his 2019 bottle so that we could review it together. I’ve never had any Michter’s product older than their 10 year old bourbon and rye whiskey, so this was sure to be an eye opening experience.
Unlike Pappy Van Winkle or Buffalo Trace Antique Collection bottles that have an MSRP that is unreasonably low relative to quality, Michter’s has priced their top-tier products at what they’re actually valued at. This hasn’t stopped the secondary market from taking this $700 bottle and marking it up to $2500 recently. This joint review will examine if a bottle of this magnitude is worth the asking price; secondary or otherwise.
Michter’s is usually tight-lipped on the source of their bourbon and rye whiskey at this age. One can assume that the bourbon still comes from Brown Forman. But due to the extreme amount of age coupled with being stored in those heated warehouses (where evaporation obviously takes a bigger toll than traditional wooden rickhouses), it’s amazing that any liquid comes out of these barrels at all. Every bottle of M20 is proofed down to 114.2, which seems insane to believe that not only was there any liquid left in the barrel, but that the proof after 20 years in a barrel was still much higher.
Before we started this review, Adam warmed up his palate by sipping on a Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon while Mike had been drinking blind samples beforehand that included a South African Whiskey and a Barrell Bourbon 18 year old American Whiskey. We each did a thorough palate cleanse before we started.
Mike: It seems like just yesterday that we were reviewing a $70 bottle of High West Campfire and now we’re reviewing a $700 bottle of Michter’s 20 Year Bourbon. At this rate, our next review is probably going to be a 20 year old bottle from the original Stitzel-Weller distillery, right?
Adam: It seems like that’s what’s going to happen! We also joint reviewed your $150 bottle of Belle Meade Honey Cask before you lost the conversation and notes.
Mike: I sincerely apologize about that! Who knew my phone deleted old texts and only kept the new ones?!
Adam: No worries, we’re here now with this bottle, so let’s see what it’s all about! This nose is deep and dusty oak mixed with buttery toffee caramel brown sugar vanilla and a slight floral note
Mike: Oh wow, that dusty note is really apparent.
Adam: Right? It’s almost like molasses mixed with rum or something. It just smells like deep burnt caramel or toffee.
Mike: It’s one of the most exotic things I’ve smelled in a long, LONG time
Adam: …but there’s something else on top of it
Mike: Yeah, it’s really sweet dusty for me almost like… chocolate too?
Adam: I usually get dark chocolate on the finish but I can get a little hint of baker’s chocolate on the nose
Mike: My chocolate is sweeter on the nose than baker’s is, but at least we’re both in agreement that the chocolate is something that is there.
Adam: I can’t quite put my finger on the sweetness, toffee and caramel and brown sugar and vanilla pretty much cover it but there’s something else there… I’m hesitant to call it cherry or plum, but I don’t know.
Mike: Man, I can’t put my finger on this dusty-ish note though… it’s wood, but this is like the most beautifully crafted wood scent.
Adam: That’s what I’m having trouble with as well. To me, it’s kind of like a sweet note that I can’t place.
Mike: Yeah, Actually plum might be knocking on the door with that description. Isn’t a dried plum a prune?
Adam: Yes, I think so.
Mike: I mean, if dark sweetness was a physical thing, it’d be this nose. This bourbon really shows its value just in the nose alone, there’s really nothing else like it.
Adam: Yeah, I know that we’re trying to stay away from vague descriptors like that, but that is a good one. Are you ready to taste it?
Mike: Let’s do it.
Mike: This is absolutely beautiful
Adam: It really is. It’s actually better than I remember it being.
Mike: There is nothing else like this that I’ve tasted.
Adam: Dusty Old Grandad comes to mind, but it’s different.
Mike: True, but the dusty note remains, just in its own way. But wow, I never wanted that sip to end.
Adam: The finishes when all the really interesting tannic stuff comes out for me. The oak and the burnt toffee and the chocolate
Mike: those dark, dried fruits covered in chocolate that only the finest Swiss Chocolatiers could craft
Adam: I also get like some leathery stuff in there too
Mike: The leather I can totally taste
Adam: Yeah, like chocolate covered blackberries or something like that. There’s definitely some fruitiness on the palate.
Mike: Blackberries! Yes! That’s the fruit I’m tasting!
Adam: the depth is just so amazing, there’s so many things.
Mike: Have you ever tried true balsamic vinegar? Like the kind that’s almost $10 per ounce?
Adam: Yeah, in Italy like 15 years ago.
Mike: Yes, that’s what I’m talking about, there are so many flavors in that stuff that remind me of these darker ntes in here… there’s a musty-ness in balsamic that’s present in this M20 as well. It’s also thick and rich just like Balsamic as well.
Adam: I can see that. I would say that this bourbon does not have a whole lot of light or bright flavors. I don’t get any citrus or grain. I do get a little bit of a floral note though…
Mike: You’re right about brightness or citrus notes. If there any floral notes for me, which are really hard for me to find, they’d be more like the oils that come out of a pressed rose.
Adam: I was going to say something like potpourri which is pretty close to roses for me. There may also be some nuttiness here, perhaps chestnut or hazelnut.
Mike: I’ve never had a chestnut before, but your potpourri description is dead on!
Adam: the nuts is not the same as Beam or Heaven Hill is thought.
Mike: I really thought this was going to be like M10 x2, but no. It’s so much more.
Adam: The finish is where all the tannic stuff really comes out for me. It’s like it’s on another world.
Mike: yeah, but it’s not as tannic as these recent Old Forester Single Barrels have been though, which are all bitter wood and drying oak.
Adam: Exactly, this is so warm and rich and sweet.
Mike: I still get some chocolate on the finish, but it’s really just sweet and decadent, not like it was ever mass produced or overly sweet.
Adam: I kind of associate that sweetness with burnt toffee and I pick up more of a baker’s chocolate on the finish as well as touch of cinnamon and clove.
Mike: I’m in agreement with that, it’s just a perfect dram all around.
Adam: yeah, this is awesome.
Mike: easily a 10 in my book, and I’m not just saying that to say it
Adam: Yeah, this is the perfect bourbon
Mike: I know there are other M20s out there, but I’m sure they’re just as good.
Adam: some people say that 2018 M20s are even better than this.
Mike: there’s room in the bourbon world for more than one 10, haha
Mike: Well, that was my last sip, all gone now!
Adam: I’m sorry, but all good things must come to an end.
Mike: This is true, and what an ending it was!
Tasting Notes Recap:
Nose: Deep and dusty oak mixed with buttery toffee. Caramel, brown sugar, vanilla and a slight floral note. Later on, a hint of baker’s chocolate. Fruity notes like plums.
Palate: Leather, dusty notes, oak, burnt toffee and chocolate. Chocolate covered blackberries. Chestnuts and/or Hazelnuts. Potpourri.
Finish: Baker’s Chocolate, Cinnamon, Clove
Nose: An exotic, dusty note that both sweet and chocolatey. Dark, sweet fruits that are so unique, it’s hard to describe which fruit they’re most like. There is oak, but I’ve never had a bourbon where the oak smelled this old and refined. There is no equal I’ve had so far.
Palate: Dark, dried fruits and berries covered in fine Swiss chocolate. Leather. True Balsamic Vinegar. Rose Oil. The mouthfeel is very thick and rich overall. The “soft oak” flavors coat everything and it’s magnificent.
Finish: Sweet and dusty oak, chocolate, tobacco, baking spices. The finish lasts forever and never gets old.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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