A good ol’ American whiskey for the Fourth of July
The bottle: Michter’s US-1 American Whiskey, $48
The back story: Searching for the perfectly patriotic spirit to enjoy on the Fourth of July? Sure, you can take your pick of any number of bourbons (we’re partial to Booker’s) or ryes. But you can’t get much more American than a whiskey that’s dubbed “American whiskey.” But what does that moniker mean?
“American whiskey” generally refers to a category of brown spirits made from a grain mix (or “mash bill”) that’s not dominated by corn (as is the case with bourbon) or rye (as is the case with — duh! — rye), though it may contain those two grains. Often, this type of whiskey is blended with a grain-neutral spirit (essentially, vodka), so it’s perhaps no surprise that some have taken to referring snarkily to the style as “whiskey-flavored vodka.” Perhaps the most famous example of such? Good ol’ Seagrams Seven Crown. (Think 7 and 7.)
All of which might suggest that “American whiskey” is a bit of an outdated category. But the Michter’s version, which was first introduced in the early 2000s and then re-launched in 2013, is something of an attempt to bring new life to the style. It’s a different “American whiskey” in that it contains no grain-neutral spirits — hence, it’s considered “unblended.” (It’s also from a brand that has been gaining considerable buzz in recent years for its bourbons and ryes.) So, what’s exactly in the “mash bill”? The Michter’s team won’t say, though corn and barley are suspected by sippers to be prominent. And they won’t go into detail about how long the whiskey has been aged, either – another key marker of quality (generally, older whiskeys have more depth of flavor). All of which makes Michter’s American a bit of an enigma, but one that is apparently proving quite popular — no doubt because of the surging demand for made-in-America whiskeys in general. Sales for the brand were up 186% in 2014, and year-to-date sales are up 74% in 2015.
What we think about it: Sometimes, you just want a whiskey that’s uncomplicated but uncompromising at the same time. Michter’s American is that whiskey. It has all the sweetness of a bourbon, with lots of notes of, well, sweet corn. But it’s also very mellow and smooth – more akin to a good blended Scotch than a bourbon in that regard. But unlike Scotch, it’s all-American.
How to enjoy it: The Michter’s team says the very things that make this whiskey so approachable — namely, its easy-on-the-tongue quality — also make it a solid mixer. “It’s really good in cocktails,” says Joseph Magliocco, president of Chatham Imports, the company behind Michter’s. (Magliocco suggests trying it in a Manhattan.) But this is still very much a sipping whiskey — good to enjoy neat or with a few cubes of ice on a summer’s night. The fireworks display is optional, but happy Fourth of July in any case.
Author: Charles Passy