Michter’s is one of the biggest and most respected names in American whiskey. There’s no denying that. The Kentucky brand has a cult-like following among the whiskey elite as both a “look at me” sipper and an investment brand. What makes Michter’s essential, though, is that it’s also accessible to the passive whiskey drinker. You can actually find truly high-quality mid-shelf labels of rye, bourbon, sour mash, and American whiskey on the shelves at most liquor stores nationwide (and internationally) for a decent price.
So a ranking of all the bottles of Michter’s whiskey is relevant to more than just the true aficionados. It’s for the people!
All told, Michter’s has 17 expressions out there. I’m ranking every single one of them below according to how good they taste. For this exercise, I’m looking at the latest release from each expression. That means the lion’s share of these are going to be from 2022. I’m lucky enough to get to taste these as they roll out, so this is a fresh and current ranking of the stuff you can actually find out there.
We can’t really dive in without talking about Micther’s without talking about price tags. Outside of Michter’s core four entry-point expressions, it’s very allocated. That means that a small number of bottles are released to bars, restaurants, and retailers quarterly, yearly, or whenever a special release happens. That in turn means that finding the rarer bottles is going to be hard and expensive if you’re not in the know. Some of these will be available for MSRP at the Fort Nelson Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. But only some of them. Others will only be attainable through trade (if you know someone) or the aftermarket at inflated prices. That’s just the reality of rare whiskey in 2023, especially with limited Michter’s releases being a pretty well-known whiskey investment brand.
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17. Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Unblended American Whiskey
Average Price: $48
Generally speaking, when you see a whiskey labeled as “blended whiskey” or just “bourbon” (instead of “straight bourbon”), it’s a blend of whiskey with neutral grain spirits to help keep costs down and profits high. This expression is labeled as “Unblended,” specifically because it’s made with whiskey only (no grain spirits added). The whiskey in these bottles was aged in barrels that are “whiskey-soaked.” Once the whiskey is just right, it’s then blended and small-batch bottled.
Nose: Orchard fruits, butterscotch candies, and vanilla cake greet you on the nose with a hint of wooden spice.
Palate: That fruit becomes more dried and almost salted on the palate while bourbon vanilla and mild caramel sweetness mingle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Finish: The finish is pretty short and sweet with a red berry vibe next to some thin apple cider.
This is one of those whiskeys that truly slaps as a mixer, and it’s fully built that way. A pro tip: Keep this one in the freezer and make killer highballs and cocktails with it. It’s also delicious poured over some ice cream.
16. Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $46
Michter’s really means the phrase “small batch” here. The tank they use to marry their hand-selected eight-year-old bourbons can only hold 20 barrels, so that’s how many go into each small-batch bottling. The blended juice is then proofed with Kentucky’s famously soft limestone water and bottled.
Nose: The nose on this is very fruity with a mix of bruised peach, red berries (almost like in a cream soda), and apple wood next to a plate of waffles with brown butter and a good pour of maple syrup that leads to a hint of cotton candy.
Palate: The sweetness ebbs on the palate as vanilla frosting leads to grilled peaches with a crack of black pepper next to singed marshmallows.
Finish: The end is plummy and full of rich toffee next to a dash of cedar bark and vanilla tobacco.
This is a great, classic bourbon that hits high notes. I’d call it a “bourbon-y bourbon” in the best way possible. It’s also a really solid cocktail base, especially for any whiskey-forward pour.
15. Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Original Sour Mash Whiskey
Average Price: $50
This was the first American whiskey to be named “Whiskey of the Year” by The Whiskey Exchange in the U.K. back in 2019. The reason this is a “sour mash” and not a “bourbon” or “rye” is that the mash bill doesn’t focus on corn or rye, hence it’s just a sour mash whiskey. The whiskey is aged in new white oak with a heavy char.
Nose: The nose opens with smoked plums, crunchy rye crusts, a hint of caraway, and deep caramel with a hint of salt next to vanilla and apple/pear cider.
Palate: The sip really embraces the smoky dark fruit with hints of vanilla and cherry popping up next to winter spices and a touch of green savory herbs.
Finish: The whiskey carries that smoky plumminess through to the end with a nice nod to an oaky and bourbon-y vanilla underbelly.
This is a fun and balanced whiskey. It feels like the best of both the rye and bourbon worlds in one glass. It also makes a hell of a Manhattan.
14. Michter’s US*1 Limited Release Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey
Average Price: $286
This release takes Michter’s signature Kentucky Sour Mash — which doesn’t have enough corn or rye to be either bourbon or rye whiskey — and finishes it in toasted barrels. In this case, those barrels are first air-dried for 18 months and then lightly toasted barrel before the whiskey is filled in. Finally, the booze is batched and bottled with a good dose of that Kentucky water.
Nose: There’s a soft sense of a pile of firewood cut from an old fruit orchard next to dark chocolate oranges with a flake of salt and a drop of honey with a hint of vanilla cake frosted with apple-cinnamon butter frosting.
Palate: The palate has a lightly smoked cherry vibe next to clove and allspice with a sense of lush and creamy eggnog and vanilla-cherry tobacco stuffed in a slightly pitchy pine box.
Finish: The end really leans into the cherry tobacco with a layer of mild chili spice and more of that soft and sweet orchard firewood.
This is like a “bourrye” (bourbon-rye hybrid) that has an extra layer of dank wood added. That’s balanced out by nice creaminess, spice, and dark fruit, making this a good whiskey for drinking on the rocks with a dash or two of bitters.
13. Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $520
This juice is Michter’s standard rye that’s finished in a second, toasted barrel. In this case, those barrels are air-dried for 24 long months before being lightly toasted and loaded with the rye. The juice then goes into the bottle at barrel strength.
Nose: This has a spicy and sweet nose that’s just like a buttery, candied and dried fruit, and nut-filled holiday cake that’s been drenched in good whiskey and left to sit for a month to really amp up those flavors.
Palate: The taste has a clear sense of dates, creamed vanilla honey, walnuts, wet brown sugar, and a touch of salted dark chocolate with a whisper of bitterness.
Finish: The mid-palate dries out towards that pitchy yet dry woodpile with an echo of dirt from the bottom of that woodpile on the finish.
This is woody rye that shines best with a rock or two. This is a great example of pushing the limits of “toasted” whiskey without overdoing it. That said, if you’re not into heavy, pitchy, and dank wood notes in your whiskey, you might want to skip this one. It reminds me of chopping firewood with my old man when I was a kid so I’m all in.
12. Michter’s US*1 Limited Release Toasted Barrel Finish Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $400
Michter’s originally dropped this back in 2014; it has since become a mainstay of their release schedule. The whiskey is standard bourbon that’s then finished in a toasted barrel from the famed Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville. They build these barrels by hand from 18-month air-dried white oak and then lightly toast the inside before the aged whiskey goes in.
Nose: This opens with a pecan pie vibe that’s nutty, dry, and full of dark Caro syrup sweetness with a hint of candied orange peels with a touch of cinnamon and dry cedar bark.
Palate: The palate holds onto the sweetness as it leans towards a campfire roasted marshmallow, a touch of saffron and clove-stewed pears, a pile of sappy firewood, and creamy nuances of vanilla pudding all meander through your senses.
Finish: The end has a light savory nature that leads back to the pear, vanilla, and marshmallow on a very slow fade toward a pile of fresh firewood piled high on soft black soil.
The softness and sweetness of the bourbon create a nice balance for the earthy wood notes. Again, if you’re not into the hefty woody whiskeys, this might be a skip. I dig it over some rocks with a dash of Angostura.
11. Michter’s US*1 Limited Release Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $100
Michter’s fills their barrels with 103-proof hot juice off the stills. After a handful of years spent aging, that proof inches upwards as the angels take their share. Usually, the whiskey is cut with that soft Kentucky limestone water before bottling but not in this case. This is pulled from single honey barrels that were just too good to cut and bottled at the Fort Nelson Distillery right on Louisville’s Whiskey Row.
Nose: The nose draws you deep into the classic bourbon ecosystem of rich buttery toffees next to salted dark chocolate-covered cherries, a touch of smoked stone fruits, and a minor note of spicy tobacco leaf.
Palate: The palate delivers on those notes as the tobacco spice amps up before being smoothed out by rich and creamy vanilla, salted caramel, and apricot stone dryness.
Finish: That dryness drives the mid-palate towards the finish with a pecan shell vibe next to slightly bitter singed cedar bark.
This is a great bourbon for mixing up cocktails. The deeply classic bourbon vibes really shine through in a Manhattan, boulevardier, or old fashioned.
10. Shenk’s Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey 2022 Edition
Average Price: $260
This whiskey is made with a fair amount of rye whiskey over a bit of bourbon whiskey in a traditional sour mash style. 2022’s release varied mildly in that some of those whiskeys in the blend were aged in specially made toasted French oak that spent 24 months seasoning before they were made. The barrels were all vatted and bottled with just a touch of Kentucky limestone water.
Nose: Soft leather, burnt orange, spiced Christmas cake, fresh vanilla beans, sultanas, and a hint of fresh firewood round out the nose with a hint of almost sweet oak char.
Palate: The palate has a nice sweet spiciness to it like a box of Hot Tamales next to allspice and orange with raisins, nutmeg, and a whisper of espresso bean sneaking in late.
Finish: The end marries the orange oils to soft cedar notes with a woody spiciness next to soft notes of sweet cinnamon, stewed plums, minced meat pies, and brandied cherries layered into chewy tobacco leaves.
This “sour mash” is a great stepping stone from Michter’s standard bottle (above) and their famed Celebration Sour Mash (below). I dig this over a single large rock. It’s a great pour for when I don’t know if I want a rye or a bourbon that satisfies both cravings.
9. Michter’s US*1 Limited Release Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $250
This rare Michter’s expression is pulled from single barrels that were just too good to batch or cut. Once the barrels hit the exact right flavor profile, each one is filtered with Michter’s bespoke system and then bottled as-is at the strength it came out of the barrel.
Nose: Dark cherry and butterscotch candies pop on the nose next to sour red wine mixed with mulled wine spices — lots of cinnamon, clove, and star anise — next to tart apple skins, apple bark, and a hint of singed marshmallow between lightly burnt Graham Crackers.
Palate: The palate leans into spices in a subtle way with a nutmeg/eggnog vibe next to rich vanilla ice cream and smoked cherries with a minor note of fresh pipe tobacco and singed cedar bark.
Finish: The end adds some dried red chili and sharp cinnamon to the tobacco with a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper and a supple sense of a fresh fruit bowl with a lot of red berries.
This is where we get into the stellar stuff. This makes a wonderful cocktail, thanks to the ice taking the edge off the high ABVs. That said, if you’re looking for a classic Kentucky rye with a spicy/fruity sweet edge with a nice kick, this is the pour.
8. Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $44
Michter’s well-crafted juice is warehoused until the deeply charred new white oak barrels hit just the right moment in both texture and taste. Those barrels are then hand-selected and bottled one at a time with a touch of Kentucky water.
Nose: Peppery rye and a hint of citrus open this one up before deep fatty nuttiness, dry espresso beans, soft dark chocolate sauce, and a twist of sharp spearmint dance through the nose.
Palate: There’s a distant line of toffee candies dipped in roasted almonds next to a brioche smeared with Nutella and dipped into a fresh cup of espresso with mild notes of white pepper, ground chili powder, and maybe a whisper of honey.
Finish: The finish leans into woody winter spice barks and buds — think cinnamon, clove, and allspice — with a sense of whole red peppercorns soaked in molasses, a whisper of walnut cake, and a thin line of toasted marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate.
Goddamn, this bottle has no business being as good as it is for this price. It’s a legitimately first-rate single barrel rye that you can actually find pretty much everywhere and also afford. That’s a quasi-miracle on its own these days.
All of that aside, this is the only whiskey you should be making Sazeracs with it. It’s freaking delicious. It also works perfectly well as a sipper on the rocks too.
7. Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10 Years Old
Average Price: $520
The whiskey barrels sourced for these single-barrel expressions tend to be at least 10 years old with some rumored to be closer to 15 years old (depending on the barrel’s quality, naturally). Either way, the whiskey goes through Michter’s bespoke filtration process before a touch of Kentucky’s iconic soft limestone water is added, bringing the bourbon down to a very crushable 94.4 proof.
Nose: There’s a peppery sense of cedar bark and burnt orange next to salted caramel and tart red berries with a moist and spicy sticky toffee pudding with some brandy butter dancing on the nose.
Palate: The palate blends vanilla tobacco with salted dark chocolate-covered marzipan while espresso cream leads to new porch wicker and black peppercorns.
Finish: The end has a pecan waffle vibe with chocolate chips, maple syrup, blackberry jam, and minced meat pies next to old tobacco and cedar with a sweet yet singed marshmallow on the very end.
This is the most bourbon-y bourbon on the list. It’s just straight-up quintessential and the bourbon so many other single barrels at this age are measured against. I do enjoy this over a single, large ice cube but I also make a mean old fashioned with it too.
6. Bomberger’s Declaration 2022 Edition
Average Price: $326
This whiskey heralds back to Michter’s historical roots in the 19th century before the brand was even called “Michter’s.” The whiskey in the bottle is rendered from a very small batch of bourbons that were aged in Chinquapin oak which was air-dried for three years before charring and filling. The Kentucky bourbon was then bottled in an extremely small batch that only yielded 2005 bottles this year.
Nose: Sweet mashed grains — thinks a bowl of Cream of Wheat — mix with sticky toffee pudding, old leather, old cellar beams, and sweet cinnamon with a hint of burnt orange and dark chocolate next to eggnog with a flake of salt.
Palate: The palate is super creamy with a crème brûlée feel that leads to soft winter spices, dry cedar, and orange chocolates with a hint of marzipan in the background.
Finish: The end has a creamed honey vibe next to figs and prunes with fresh chewing tobacco and salted dark chocolate.
This is a like secret Michter’s that’s totally unique on the palate. It’s a nice example that the team at the distillery can really nail varied styles of bourbon with ease. Overall, this is a great slow sipper either neat or over some ice. Dealer’s choice.
5. Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey 25 Years Old
Average Price: $45,540
All we really know about this single-barrel rye release is that the barrels Michter’s sourced for it are some of the best of the best in the whiskey world. It’s rare that a 25-year-old whiskey aged in a new oak will taste this nuanced but that’s sort of the magic of Michter’s and this bottle.
Nose: There’s an earthiness here that feels like dried white moss on a wet forest floor next to little popping notes of bitter yet oily espresso beans, vanilla that costs way too much to buy, oranges wrapped in gold cellophane, and an almost wet black pepper vibe.
Palate: Golden sultanas draw you in with a very clear sense of clove that almost leads to anise (maybe black licorice) with that vanilla staying dry as the orange oils become burnt and this distant note of salted, almost black cacao powder harkens the finish.
Finish: That finish does lean into a classic Tellicherry cracked black pepper but remains dry and features just the right amount of dried fruit sweetness.
Every whiskey from here on out is just incredible. It’s so damn rare to find a good whiskey barrel that’s over 20 years old. It just doesn’t happen that often. So a 25-year-old rye whiskey that actually tastes this good is a small miracle. It might sound like sacrilege to some, but this over a single large rock is bliss. The creaminess really spikes with a sense of spiced creamed puddings and cakes on Christmas morning.
4. Michter’s US*1 Limited Release Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 25 Years Old
Average Price: $16,915
This whiskey is made from a special mash bill and then left to rest for a quarter of a century. The whiskey in the bottle is cask strength version of very old bourbon that still hits amazingly high marks according to the Michter’s crew.
Nose: This draws you in with this matrix of rich and brandy-soaked holiday cake brimming with candied and dried fruits that edges into a smoked almond nuttiness and an almost funky rummy molasses next to browned butter.
Palate: The palate really leans into the smoked almonds with a nice savory edge while the butter marries the holiday cake and almonds to create rich marzipan with a very mild cedar note that’s like a very old cigar humidor.
Finish: The end just sits on your palate — like a soft hug from an old friend as the nuttiness and dark sweetness slowly fades out, leaving you … happy.
This is a great pour of bourbon. Pour it neat or over a rock and you’ll be set.
3. Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey 10 Years Old
Average Price: $260
2022’s only Michter’s 10-Year release was an instant classic. The whiskey is made from a corn-rich rye whiskey mash bill with a good dose of barley in there. The absolute best barrels are chosen — with some up to 15 years old — for this release. Then each of those barrels is individually bottled as-is with a hint of proofing water.
Nose: Rich and lush toffee combine with soft marzipan on the nose as a dash of freshly cracked black pepper lead to cinnamon-laced apple cider and cherry-soaked cedar bark.
Palate: The palate is part Red Hot and part zesty orange marmalade with creamy vanilla pudding, sweet and spicy dried chili peppers with a hint of smoke and woodiness, and this fleeting whisper of celery salt.
Finish: The end dries out the almond with a vanilla cream tobacco, soft and sweet cedar, and dark chocolate orange vibe all balanced to damn near perfection.
This is another rye whiskey that has no business tasting as good as it does while still being fairly gettable (albeit at a price).
All of that aside, this makes the best Manhattan you’ll ever have. I like to call them $50 Manhattans. They never fail to wow.
2. Michter’s US*1 Limited Release Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 20 Years Old
Average Price: $7,026
Master Distiller Dan McKee personally selects these (at least) 20-year-old barrels from the Michter’s rickhouses based on… I guess just “pure excellence” would be the right phrase. The bourbon is bottled as-is — no cutting with water.
Nose: A sense of dark cherry with deep rummy molasses, dried rose petals, old almond shells, and cedar bark mingle with a fresh pipe tobacco leaf just kissed with apple and pear essence with a hint of vanilla oils and old wintry wine spices.
Palate: The taste leans into smoldering vanilla pods with a sense of old oak staves from a dusty old cellar next to sweet cinnamon and cherry over dried sage and sharp spearmint with a clove syrup base and a dash of toasted marshmallow sweetness.
Finish: The end is full of dark cherry and woody spice with moist marzipan, burnt orange oils, and chewy fresh tobacco wrapped up in old leather and cedar bark with a hint more of that old cellar sneaking in.
This was my favorite bourbon of 2022. It’s unequivocally a classic from top to bottom and one of the best bourbons that money can buy.
1. Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey 2022
Average Price: $7,000 (MSRP)
The fourth ever Michter’s Celebration release — and the first one since 2019 — is finally here. This American whiskey is a collaboration between Michter’s Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson. The duo chose seven whiskeys for this special blend that ranged from twelve to thirty-plus years old. Those barrels were batched and bottled without any cutting with water, creating only 328 bottles for the whole world.
Nose: The nose subtly opens with a sense of dark chocolate cut with brown butter, Saigon cinnamon bark, and a light note of crème brûlée made with just a drop of cognac.
Palate: That boozy vanilla opens the luxurious palate toward a dusting of winter spices — clove, anise, nutmeg — next to stewed peached and burnt orange over singed marshmallows, old smoldering hickory, and orchards full of falling leaves next to whisper of creamy black cherry and candied pecans.
Finish: Those pecans meld with woody maple syrup, more cinnamon bark, orange-studded cloves, and a sense of bushels of orchard fruits mixed with nuts and dried fruits in an old wooden basket and wrapped with thick old twine and leather next to a spiced chocolate-cherry tobacco leaf dropped in the middle of it all.
This is easily one of the best whiskeys you can buy in 2023. Most of these bottles will go to investors and their vaults, meaning that if you do find one (especially open at a whiskey bar), try it at the very least. It’s a phenomenal pour of American whiskey.