Michter's 25 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2023) Review
In December 2023, Michter’s released one of its rarest and most coveted expressions: Michter’s 25 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. When it comes to a release schedule, these expressions are as unpredictable as they are in-demand. While Michter’s 20 year bourbon is only rarely spotted at some of the world’s top whiskey bars, the 25 year version resides in a class of scarcity even beyond that.
The 2023 Michter’s 25 marks the brand’s first-such bourbon since 2020, with a highly limited bottle count. When asked, Michter’s said it does not release specific production figures, but the American market bottle I sampled from was labeled 109 of 385. According to the company, master distiller Dan McKee and master of maturation Andrea Wilson work hand-in-hand to select these barrels for bottling only when they reach the very peak of their quality. That helps explain the infrequent release cadence.
This is a sourced Kentucky bourbon — Michter’s wasn’t actively distilling 25-30 years ago — though the company is tight-lipped on exactly where these barrels originated, other than Kentucky. Speculation abounds, but one thing is generally agreed upon among fans of high-end spirits: When Michter’s bottles a 25 year bourbon or rye (the latter an even rarer occurrence), it’s worth paying attention.
Of course, even with extreme scarcity, bourbon is best when sipped and not simply talked about. Fortunately, I was able to sample the 2023 version of Michter’s 25 year bourbon. Let’s see how it stacks up.
Michter's 25 Year Old Bourbon: Stats and Availability
There were likely only a few hundred bottles of the 2023 Michter’s 25 produced, and it carries a suggested retail price of $1,500. Fun fact: Even at the $1,500 suggested retail, it’s not the “highest end” modern-day Michter’s release (that honor belongs to Celebration Sour Mash, with a suggested retail price of $6,000).
Four figures is a lot to spend on liquid in any form, that much is certain. But acquiring this bottle for anything below $3,000 is a feat unto itself, with retail markups often pushing these 25 year releases near (or north of) $10,000. I’ve seen high-end, concierge-style bottle shops list these for anywhere between $8,000 and $20,000. The secondary and auction markets aren’t much more forgiving here, with prices several times MSRP (at the least).
Michter’s 25 is toward the very tippy top of bourbon’s premium market. Those adamant about securing a bottle would be wise to keep that in mind.
Michter's 25 Year Old Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
The nose starts with rich cinnamon and fresh apple cider, along with a noted “funk” of both overripe fruit and cigar box. Immediately, this noses similar to some “dusty” whiskeys of decades past, with both earthy and sweet elements working in tandem. In particular, this Michter’s 25 has elements of pre-2000 Wild Turkey, 1970s-era Old Forester, and pre-fire (aka distilled before 1996) Heaven Hill — all expressions from a bygone era of American whiskey, and a bit unlike anything else regularly produced today.
Those initial notes gradually transition into fried banana and pralines, both on the cusp of being burnt but never fully veering into that territory.
Nosing further brings back those earthy elements, which are an undercurrent throughout, not dominant but never quite fading to the background. Here, on a third or fourth return to the glass, aromas are rich with root vegetables and portobello mushrooms, all with a damp, sweet, caramelized quality. Those notes are capped by a thick, dark chocolate and oak barrel char, showcasing the full weight of over 25 years in a cask.
Superlative on the nose, this 25 year bourbon just keeps giving and giving. Even 10 minutes in, I keep detecting new elements: dried oak leaves, maple bark, and the aftermath of burnt sage are some of the final entries in my hand-scribbled notes.
A first sip brings immediate baked apple and caramel sweetness, along with a remarkably viscous mouthfeel that both tastes and feels near to honey syrup. Things quickly shift to both dark chocolate and wood sugars, and the oak influence starts early on the tongue and crescendos to the midpalate. There’s also baking spice aplenty: nutmeg, thyme, cinnamon, and especially clove.
The midpalate is a rich, liquid brown sugar bomb the likes of which are rare across the spirits landscape. The sides of the palate bring notes of candied, sugar-coated orange peel, along with a lightly numbing quality on the upper palate.
It’s thick and tannic but not at all drying. Instead of getting bogged down in a dreaded over-oaked territory (the death knell of many ultra-aged bourbons), Michter’s 25’s heavy wood influence corresponds to a salivating burst of sweetness and citrus.
The finish is extraordinarily long, leaning into spiced, dessert-forward sweetness. My only tiny criticism is that the baking spice’s influence can feel slightly heavy through the finish, though that’s really splitting hairs over the course of a truly great whiskey. Sugared orange peel stays present and at the very end of the finish, then fades to leave a touch of sour citrus. It’s a slight curveball to cap a decadent and delicious pour.
Michter's 25 Year Old Rating
The latest version of Michter’s 25 year old is, simply put, one of the most flavorful American whiskeys I’ve had in recent memory. It both leans into the extreme age and wood influence while maintaining equilibrium in almost every aspect of the pour, from nose through to finish.
Balanced, drinkable 20 year bourbon is rare. A 25 year (and likely somewhat older) product is another unicorn entirely. Michter’s has built a reputation for its rarest releases, and this most recent version lives up to the pedigree. What anyone is willing to shell out for a whiskey (let alone bottle) is really their business. But if offered another pour, I’d at least clear my calendar to make it happen.