When Chatham Imports acquired the Michter’s label, they also acquired the Shenk’s heritage of the brand. Michter’s was known for their “Sour Mash Whiskey” – a whiskey without enough corn to be Bourbon or enough Rye to be a rye whiskey – thus it is simply a “Whiskey”. They added the term “Sour Mash” for a couple of reasons: to keep it from being confused with a blended whiskey and because at the time the brand was created a certain brand in Tennessee was making the term very popular. It worked in both instances.
Shenk’s is a limited release version of the popular Michter’s Sour Mash. It pays homage to the history of the Michter’s distillery back in Pennsylvania. These whiskeys were made just for the Schenk’s brand in that they used some French oak barrels in 2018 and Chinkapin oak in 2019 in the aging process and added a little more rye than is used in their regular release of the Sour Mash Whiskey. The two different oak barrels do make a difference in the flavor. The results are outstanding in both cases.
Shenk’s Sour Mash Whiskey 2018 release
Age: No Age Statement
Nose: Butterscotch and sour cherries with a little oak wood and smoke.
Taste: Butterscotch with creamy milk chocolate, oak and pepper spice. Tasted with a dried cranberry brings out a French vanilla flavor in place of the butterscotch and the pepper spice becomes baking spice – cinnamon and nutmeg, Tasted with a pecan the butterscotch becomes a dark chocolate and the pepper is a floral white pepper. This is a complex whiskey that works well with food.
Finish: Long and dry with oak wood and pepper spice. The cranberry made the finish sweeter with oak and a hint of chocolate. The pecan enhanced the oak in the finish with a touch of that white pepper spice.
Shenk’s Sour Mash Whiskey 2019 release
Age: No Age Statement
Nose: Caramel and oak wood with lots of baking spices and a hint of citrus.
Taste: Caramel and apricots with black pepper. When tasted with a dried cranberry the apricot and caramel come forward and the pepper becomes just a background flavor. When tasted with a pecan the pepper disappears but returns in the finish. Lots of vanilla and caramel notes with just a hint of fruit dominate the flavor with a pecan.
Finish: Long and dry with oak and lots of pepper. The cranberry has a hint of pepper at the beginning but then the oak comes forward until it becomes a dry tannic finish. The pecan actually made the finish sweeter without any spice but lots of oak with some vanilla notes lingering on the palette.
I am pairing these whiskeys with a The Wiseman El Gueguense cigar. I like the rich tobacco flavor with a little caramel and cedar spice and because I believe it will pair well with these complex whiskeys. The 2018 whiskey made the smoke very creamy with sweet tobacco and vanilla. The smoke brought out some nuttiness – either hazelnut or pecan, I can’t decide which, and lots of the baking spice notes of nutmeg and a little clove. It is a great pairing. The 2019 whiskey brought forward the vanilla and added some sweet coconut notes to the smoke. The smoke made the whiskey taste of buttery caramel with a hint of cinnamon. Another great pairing.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller