Showing posts with label Michters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michters. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Bomberger's Declaration 2020 Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


Back in 1789, Elijah Craig allegedly invented Bourbon. But, before that, in 1753 Pennsylvania, Mennonite brothers John and Michael Shenk founded a distillery on Snitzel Creek near what is present-day Schaefferstown. The Shenks grew corn and rye, mashed and distilled it for what was then "mass" consumption. It remained family-owned until 1860, when Abraham Bomberger purchased it. Theoretically, it remained in the family, as Bomberger was related to the Shenks. However, he did change the name to Abraham Bomberger & Sons. Then, when Abraham passed away, the distillery was renamed H.H. Bomberger.  


Then Prohibition came. The run of the longest continuously-run distillery in American history came to a screeching halt. When Prohibition was (thankfully) repealed, brother Horst had passed away and the distillery was sold to Pennco Distillers. Then, in 1978, the distillery was sold to the Michter Company.


Most of us are familiar with the name Michter's, and they've resurrected both the Shenk and Bomberger brands. Shenk's Homestead is an American whiskey, Bomberger's Declaration is a Bourbon. Both are limited-edition annual releases. Today I'm reviewing the 2020 vintage of Bomberger's Declaration.


"The 2020 release of Bomberger's is a flavorful Kentucky Straight Bourbon with a distinctively smooth character that defies its 108 proof strength. For the aging of this release, Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson chose barrels made of special wood that has been naturally air-dried for over 3 years. While some Chinquapin (Quercus muehlenbergii) oak barrels were used in the 2019 Release of Bomberger's, this year our production team opted to increase the proportion of the Bourbon that spent time in the Chinquapin oak. This special cooperage elevates the unique attributes of this wonderful Kentucky Straight Bourbon." - Michter's


If you have no idea what Chinquapin is, don't fret. Neither did I. As it turns out, that's a subspecies of American white oak. 


Bomberger's Declaration carries no age statement, and Michter's usually holds mashbills close to its vest. There were 1759 bottles released, with each one priced in the neighborhood of $90.00 which, considering all things, is probably at the low end of retail these days. I was gifted a bottle from a friend, and the batch number is 20G1523.


I will say that I've tried on a handful of occasions to procure a bottle of Bomberger's, and the closest I've ever come was a bottle of Shenk's Homestead (which I won't complain about). As such, you can imagine how interested I was to #DrinkCurious and discover if my desire was justified.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Bomberger's Declaration was the color of deep mahogany. The rim it formed was husky, and that produced fat, slow legs that crawled back to the pool of whiskey.


Nose:  Interestingly enough, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow informed me that, while across the room, she could smell the aroma. I found a blast of black cherry, cinnamon, honey, and toasted oak. When I sucked the air into my mouth, it was like black cherry ice cream.


Palate:  I encountered an oily, warm mouthfeel. There was no burning sensation, but it did wake my tongue and hard palate. Speaking of a palate, the front featured cherry, vanilla, and orange marmalade. As it shifted to the middle, I tasted walnut, pecan praline, and maple syrup.  The back offered dark chocolate, clove, and tobacco leaf.


Finish:  The taste of plum, cherry, dark chocolate, tobacco, and clove were long-lasting on my throat. It eventually faded, but it was in no rush.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  First of all, no one would ever guess this was 108°. It drank at least 10 points less. I relished the fruity flavors. I savored the milder spice notes. I have no clue if that's due to the Chinquapin oak because I've never (to my knowledge) tasted whiskey aged in it before. But, the end result is that I simply loved this Bourbon. Would I spend $90.00 on it? Sure. Would I pay double that? No. But, if you can find this one between $90.00 and, say, $130.00 or so, my recommendation would be to jump at the chance. I don't need to say this, but Bomberger's Declaration 2020 vintage bodyslams the Bottle rating. Cheers! 


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Shenk's Homestead Sour Mash Whiskey 2019 Release Review



If you've never heard the name John Shenk, then you've missed one of the pioneers of American distilling. You have to go all the way back to Pennsylvania in 1753, when Shenk, a Swiss Mennonite farmer, started distilling rye. His whiskey was purchased by some obscure guy named George Washington, who gave it to his troops during the Revolutionary War when stationed at Valley Forge. 


Shenk's distillery changed hands many times, most famously to Abraham Bomberger, who renamed the distillery after his family name. For the record, Bomberger and Shenk were distant relatives. The Bomberger Distillery continued to operate until 1919 when a bunch of bad people gave us Prohibition. The distillery reopened in 1934 by Louis Forman, and after briefly selling it, repurchased it again with partners from Schenley Distilleries.  And, then, the most famous family in American whiskey got involved with Master Distiller Charles Everett Beam. Beam and Forman created a pot-still whiskey they named Michter's Original Sour Mash, named for Forman's sons Michael and Peter. Yeah, Michter's Distillery.  


Coming back full circle and here I am reviewing Shenk's Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey which is distilled by Michter's. This is a vintage-stated American Whiskey, meaning each year the whiskey inside is different from the previous year. The mashbill itself is undisclosed. I can make educated guesses as to what grains are used, but it is classified neither as a Bourbon nor a Rye, and as such, we can assume both corn and rye are less than 51% of the content.  It also carries no age statement. What is unique is the distillate was aged in Chinquapin barrels.  If you're like me and had to Google the term, it is a type of beech tree.  After aging, it is dumped and Michter's proofs it down to 91.2°. Retails starts at around $69.00.  I picked up my bottle at a charity auction.


How's Shenk's taste? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious, so let's get at it...


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as a deep chestnut. I don't have a familiarity with what beechwood does to whiskey, but the color was very inviting. It left a medium rim and fast, heavy legs to drop back to the pool.


Nose:  Aromas of stone fruit filled the room. In fact, the stone fruit was prevalent from the second I pulled the cork. That was married with barrel char and dark chocolate.  As I continued to explore, I picked up rye spice, citrus, and brown sugar.  The blending of these smells really made my mouth water. When I inhaled through my lips, it seemed like honey rolled over my palate.


Palate:  An oily and thin mouthfeel led to a somewhat complicated palate. At the front, it was as if I bit into a dark chocolate bar, one very heavy on the Cacao. It was joined by mace. Strangely, as it moved to mid-palate, it became orange candy and charred oak. Then, on the back, it was a union of tobacco leaf and cocoa. 


Finish:  The long-lasting finish consisted of orange peel, clove, and dry oak. It was warming but nothing to set my mouth on fire. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:   I'll get right to the point here. I think Michter's knocked this one out of the park. I loved every bit of Shenk's and it is one of my favorite American whiskey pours of 2020. The price is less than obnoxious and, frankly, I believe it can compete with more expensive whiskeys that I've had in the last year or so. As such, it snags the coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

My Not So Aimless Wander Around Kentucky

I've been to Kentucky several times. To me, it is the Promised Land. The distilleries, the great people, the Bourbon culture, the gorgeous scenery - it all gets my blood racing. This time around, the purpose was for a Bourbon & Banter barrel pick and some handshaking, and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I decided to make it an extended trip. 






Our first stop was on the way to Kentucky, in Borden, Indiana.  If you're wondering what's in Borden, it is the home to Huber Winery and Orchard and Starlight Distillery



When I was taking part in some barrel picks recently, I was introduced to Starlight via Huber's Old Rickhouse Indiana Straight Rye. Now, I know what you're thinking... Indiana Straight Rye means that this is MGP distillate. I made that same assumption and I was absolutely wrong. Huber's has been around for 170 some-odd years. The distillery is newer, but it is all their own.



Anyway, for $15.00, you get a tour of either the winery or the distillery. Either one includes seven samples. As luck would have it, they had several whiskeys from which to sample, and the only one they were sold out of was the Old Rickhouse.  That's okay because I had a chance to sample their other whiskeys, as well as a Blueberry Port and a Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy.  Reviews of the whiskeys will follow.



I will say this much:  Starlight is a distillery you should pay attention to. I predict big things once people learn about it.





Our next stop was to Louisville Distilling Company, a/k/a Angel's Envy. This working distillery was opened in an ex-elevator and sawblade factory. For $18, they put on a very nice tour that gives you a lot of ins-and-outs and provided some good transparency. What you don't get is a glass to keep at the end of the tour. We had a fantastic guide named Peter who knew his stuff and had a great sense of humor. Honestly, a lot of these tours give you the same basic information on the distilling process. Each has some unique aspect of what makes them special. But, the tour guide makes or breaks these tours, and if you get Peter, you're going to have a very enjoyable one.


We sampled their standard Bourbon finished in Port barrels. Once the tour ends, you're invited to their bar where you can order cocktails or their Rye finished in rum casks.


The gift shop was gorgeous, but things were more on the pricey end of the spectrum.





Then, it was off to Old Forester.  This is a working distillery re-opened original location on Whiskey Row. What makes Old Forester unique is they have a working mini cooperage on-premises. I've been to cooperages before and building a barrel is a fascinating process. Being Sunday, the staff was off, but the equipment was still there. Our tour guide was McKenzie who was full of energy and animated. She made it fun. At one point, after she was done explaining where the various flavors come from, my buddy Jim Knudson and I asked her, "Where does the marzipan come from?" Kudos to McKenzie for not missing a beat and getting halfway through her explanation before she stopped and asked, "Is this some sort of set-up?" We admitted it was and had a great laugh.


We sampled the workhorse, Old Forester 86, then 1897 Bottled in Bond, and then their brand-new release of their Rye. For $14 it is a nice tour that, again, does not include a tasting glass to keep at the end. The gift shop has very fair pricing.






Monday morning was the crown jewel.  We met up with Eddie Russell at Wild Turkey to do our barrel pick of Russell's Reserve.  If you're curious, Eddie is very down-to-earth and an all-around gem. We didn't tour the facility, but we did hang out in one of the rickhouses to sample directly from the barrels. We settled on an absolutely delicious one, but until it is time for release, I'll withhold details.








Next was probably the most unusual tour I've ever been on. We were able to tour the Castle & Key distillery on a private tour. Our guide was Abigail, and she knew everything about everything. What made Castle & Key fascinating was how they're still renovating things on the campus. This distillery used to be the Old Taylor Distillery and was left abandoned and severely neglected. They've done a marvelous job restoring things to their original condition as much as possible while ensuring things are safe and up to code. When they're finished, I predict Castle & Key will be like Woodford Reserve or Maker's Mark, where the campus itself will be a destination beyond the distillery.


Castle & Key is not sourcing anything. Currently, they've got vodka and a couple of gins, but we were able to sample some of the newmake that is aging in one of the original rickhouses.  They've also got a gift shop that is well-stocked with variety and was surprisingly affordable.










From there, we went to Michter's Fort Nelson for a private tour. Our guide was Jacqueline, who had an amazing sense of humor and put up with a lot of our silly jokes, including the marzipan one (and then joined in on the fun). We wound up skipping some of the basics since she knew we were not distillery newbies, and really enjoyed the tasting, which included the Michter's 10 Bourbon and Rye as well as the 20 Bourbon. For the record, the 20 is stupidly amazing. 


Michter's also has a very interesting bar at the end of the tour. Here, you can try pretty much anything Michter's has ever produced, including the famed Celebration. You may need to take out a small loan for that, though. Their gift shop is very nice and what I browsed seemed affordable.




 


The next day was our two final distillery tours, starting with Lux Row DistillersOne of the burning questions I've had was Lux Row's relationship with Limestone Branch. I discovered that these are sister organizations under the Luxco parent company.  Thank you to our host, Vincent.


Lux Row is another one of those drop-dead gorgeous campuses. This was erected on a farm near Bardstown and the scenery is amazing. Too bad I didn't catch much of it on film. We were able to sample Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks 90, and David Nicholson Reserve. We were then given the choice of their Double-Barrel Bourbon and Blood Oath V for our final. I recently reviewed the Double-Barrel Bourbon and fell in love with it, but have a bottle at home and opted for the Blood Oath. 


Lux Row also has a beautiful and affordable gift shop.








The final distillery tour was at Bardstown Bourbon Company.  This distillery landed on the Kentucky scene with one plan and wound up with something completely different. They set out to do their own distillate and took on some clients for contract distilling. From there, the contract distilling business apparently went gangbusters. Every client has their own completely customized mashbill and is then distilled by BBC. I don't recall the exact number, but our guide, Sam, told us it was somewhere around 43 different mashbills they distill. 



The campus itself is very modern, from the distillery to the guest center to the rickhouses. One curiosity for me was the feasibility of the rickhouse design. The inside was fine, it was the outside. Rickhouses grow a lot of lovely mold on the outside as the angels take their share, but the way the BBC ones were designed with glass walls and wood plank siding, looks like they'd need to be regularly cleaned to maintain the appearance of the campus. Of course, I could be way off base here. 


When you come through the front door of BBC, the lobby is their restaurant which, if you're curious, has a very nice menu and the food is well-prepared. Their bar has much more than what you'd find at bars of other distilleries. It is fully stocked with a variety of brands. Their gift shop was minimalistic and could best be described as "new retro-modern" in design. They sold not only their house brand of whiskeys but also those of their clients.


On a side note, in the photo below (the overview of them loading barrels), this guy in the warehouse was very talented. He would spin and flip the barrels to get them in the right place. Spinning and rolling I could understand. Flipping? That looked like it required a lot of practice!





And with that, my time with my fellow Bourbon & Banter colleagues came to a finale.




This was, overall, a really fun experience. As I stated at the start, I've been to Kentucky several times. But, it had been five years since I'd been, and there has been a lot of growth in Bourbon Country. Aside from the wonderful fellowship with my colleagues (and seeing many of them in person for the first time), except for Wild Turkey, these were all distilleries that were new to me.


If you've never been to Kentucky, you should go. And, if it has been several years since you last visited, maybe it is time to consider a return.  As for me, I will not wait another five years.


Cheers!