“American whiskey still wasn’t out of the downturn, and Kentucky was awash in some great bourbons and ryes,” said Magliocco, president of Michter’s, located now in Shively, Kentucky. Newman opened all the right doors because he “was a real gentleman and had a lot of friends in the industry. He made the connections.”
Interestingly, Magliocco wasn’t pursuing a Michter’s remake. He and Newman sought to produce whiskeys that were stylistically unique. That sent them tasting American whiskeys from the 1970s and ‘80s, everything from “old dusties someone kept in a closet” to straight barrel thieving, he said. Some searches took them to conference rooms for group tastes, while other distillery samples were delivered to their offices.
Magliocco admitted there was little adventure to the hunt, no Indiana Jones discoveries of lost barrels from which light shot out when opened. Each taste only led him one step closer to how the Michter’s new line would taste.
“We tasted a lot of great stuff before deciding what we wanted ours to be like,” Magliocco said. Though he’s bound by contract to not reveal which distilleries produced those whiskeys, he insisted that all of it was Kentucky made. “One-hundred percent of what was bottled since I’ve been involved came from here.”
Yet Magliocco wanted Michter’s to make its own, and the closest thing to doing that was “cooking in someone else’s kitchen,” he said. The phrase describes Michter’s use of its own recipes and control of distillation (at an undisclosed distillery). Michter’s unique mashbills and yeast were used, and those whiskeys were barreled at 103 proof, well below the industry’s 125 proof maximum for bourbon.
That control increased further in 2007 when retired Brown-Forman distiller Willie Pratt became Michter’s master distiller and oversaw its production. Pratt also conducted the chemistry work to ensure those whiskeys were duplicable when Michter’s opened its own distillery in 2015.
“We (still) run the white dog through a gas chromatograph and spectrometer, which takes a chemical fingerprint,” Magliocco said. “That tells us it’s the white dog we made previously, that chemically it’s the same as before.”