Every once in a long while, a whiskey comes around that feels essential. A dram you have to be able to discuss with expertise if you want to call yourself “in the know.” But also something that is so deeply enjoyable and full of classic notes that it draws you in. Approachable. Michter’s has a knack for nailing that feeling with many of its releases. Their Michter’s 10-year Bourbon and Michter’s 10-year Rye drops are much-beloved and sought after because they’re prime examples of how good those styles of whiskey can be. Michter’s 20-year Bourbon was our favorite bourbon of 2022 and we were not alone in that take.
This year, the team at Michter’s did it again with the release of their much-anticipated Celebration Sour Mash, which I can assure you will be on nearly every “best of” whiskey lists come November and December of this year.
Not long ago, I was lucky enough to get an invitation to Michter’s Kentucky distillery in Shivley to taste the latest edition of Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash with Michter’s Master Distiller Dan McKee. It was a quiet and enlightening experience. Dan and I sat and chatted about whiskey while he presented the bottle and I sipped the whiskey. We talked through nose notes, palate notes, and the feeling you get from the whiskey. Spoiler Alert — it’s freaking delicious.
Then we spoke about something deeper. After all these years of tasting thousands of whiskeys, I’ve noticed one throughline that arises in all great whiskeys. Passion. The truly great whiskeys have truly passionate people making them. There’s a sense of depth and care that comes through in the profile — nose, taste, finish, and feeling — that speaks to something more than just an average pour. And that’s created by the people who make the whiskey caring so deeply about the product — in every step of its lifecycle — that it just… as if through alchemy or osmosis… makes the whiskey fundamentally better.
Look, the first half of whiskey making — the grain malting, the fermentation, the distilling — is heavy science. It’s following recipes that the whiskey makers (hopefully) know work for that they want to make. There is nuance in this step, of course. But then that whiskey goes into a barrel and is stacked in a warehouse somewhere. And that’s where something more mystical happens. Microorganisms, local ecosystems, atmosphere, weather, evaporation, and a million other factors take over and can create two completely different whiskeys inside two barrels that sat right next to each other and were filled moments apart with the exact same base spirit coming off the stills.
This stage is where passionate people come in. People like Dan McKee and Andrea Wilson — Dan’s partner at Michter’s and their Whiskey Hall of Fame Master of Maturation. Dan and Andrea have decades of experience between them and they care deeply about what they put their names on. That level of knowledge and care manifests in the bottle and every drop that hits your senses when poured. It is in that level of care and craft that people like Dan McKee and Andrea Wilson are able to create a whiskey that truly transcends the ordinary and becomes something more.
There’s a point to my sermonizing…
Often with whiskey at this level, people ask “how could it possibly be worth that price?” That’s fair. We are talking about a grain spirit that’s left in a barrel and then mixed into a bottle. That sounds basic because… it is. But the quality of the juice in that bottle is where things go beyond what’s basic into something less tangible, at least at first. But one sip in and you feel the quality that comes from the people behind the scenes who are constantly testing, pushing boundaries, experimenting, and questioning everything that is in a single barrel of whiskey and then doing that again and again and again until they create something bigger and better than any of its individual parts.
That’s what goes into a whiskey like Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash. Days turn into weeks that turn into months and years of fretting and perfecting a whiskey like this from a scant few barrels that actually meet the sky-high demands of people like Dan McKee and Andrea Wilson. And all of that — a true sense of care and love by a few stone-cold experts — is what presents on the nose, palate, and finish of a whiskey like this. Truly. I absolutely believe there should be a flavor note called “love.”
When love is there, a question like “how could it possibly be worth that price?” feels almost … meaningless. How could it not — after all that pain and effort of creating this expression — be worth it? After all, once the bottles of this one are gone, we’ll never see something exactly like this ever again. It’s a moment of whiskey captured in a few bottles that we get to experience.
That’s damn near priceless. Now, let me get off my soapbox and read my review…
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Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey 2022
Real World Prices: $24,999–$70,000
The fourth ever Michter’s Celebration release — and the first one since 2019 — was released in February 2023 after a slight delay. This American whiskey is a collaboration between Michter’s Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson. The duo chose seven whiskey barrels for this special blend that ranged from 12 to 30+ 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 and a hint of old champagne cellars.
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.
The latest Celebration Sour Mash comes in a tailor-made box that reveals a beautiful bottle of whiskey inside. There’s a small drawer with a personalized note at the bottom. The whole thing is luxe to the max and very plush.
How To Buy Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash 2022?
This is an extremely heavily allocated bottle of whiskey. That means only the biggest and best clients of Michter’s have received bottles. That includes bars, restaurants, some very high-end liquor stores, and a few state-run liquor stores.
Your best bet to actually try this is to buy a pour at the Fort Nelson Michter’s Distillery on Whiskey Row in Lousiville, Kentucky. State-run liquor stores will sell these via a lottery only. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to know someone (or pay dearly for it on the secondary market).
This is an excellent American whiskey. It’s the sort of whiskey that you enjoy slowly over a good conversation. It slowly blooms in the glass as it rests in the open air and with the steady addition of drops of water. The nose, palate, and finish just keeps going deeper and deeper.
All of that said, this is a bottle you get for the vault as an investment or for showing off during the biggest occasion(s) of your life.
99/100 — This is as close to perfection as any American whiskey can get both in flavor/profile and in presentation.