First of all, I am a huge fan of Hirsch 16/20. I bought a pair sometime in the late 90s on the suggestion of my brother and finally got Bourbon. Those Bourbons are my benchmark bourbons, and I was able to learn more about bourbon by learning what I liked and didn't like about other bottlings compared to the Hirsch. And while I still love my Hirsch, I've found a few other favorites -- and lately have been going through a vintage bourbon phase (mostly concentrating on Pre-UD Stitzel).
Anyways, I wound up bidding and winning a litre decanter of Michters 86 Proof in the Texas Longhorn Football Decanter. I figured I could give the decanter to a longhorn friend of mine, and I got it at a pretty decent price.
This evening, I finally opened the decanter to try the whiskey and I was surprised at what I found. For comparisons' sake, I tried it against a glass of Hirsch 16 YO -- not expecting to find a better bourbon -- just to get a find the family resemblence...
First of all, the bourbon's color was more cloudy apple-juice than bourbon. I don't think I have opened a bourbon this light before and it looked more of an unfiltered SMSW than Bourbon. The Hirsch was a beautiful bourbon color -- rich dark leather or the look of an over-oiled baseball glove.
Color - Hirsch 19/20; Michters 6/20
The nose of the Michters was also disapointing. Even though the proof was much lower than the Hirsch, the alcohol was the first thing you notice, then some wood/smoke and then the hint of carmel corn (pretty much the opposite of what I prefer -- or what I'd call the SW Old Fitz nose). I nosed this both in a glass and poured between my palms and rubbed together and found common traits. Nosing the Hirsch, I did get a bit of a family resemblence -- though the Hirschs was a bit more integrated -- Less alcohol but definitely wood-dominated. FWIW, I wouldn't call the nose of Hirsch my favorite all-time. It tastes much better than it smells (though it doesn't smell bad);
Nose - Hirsch 17/20; Michters 9/20
In the mouth, the Michters tasted as it smelled. Alcohol, wood and caramel. It had a bit of eucalyptus on the finish and did have a lingering afterburn -- but it was a pretty single dimentional spirit. The Hirsch, on the other hand, was smooth, integrated and as expected. It tastes of fall, hint of burning leaves, caramel corn and pumpkin pie spice. A lingering finish with the right amount of stomach burn.
Taste - Hirsch 56/60; Michters 30/60
Overall - In the end, the Michters was a very mediocre bottle and while there was a small resemblence to the Hirsch, it is a single dimensional and uninspiring pour.
Hirsch 92pts; Michters 45pts
I'm not going in search of any more bottles of Michters and I'm curious if others feel the same. Given how much these bottles are going for, I'd still rather spend my time hunting down old SW Old Fitz or drinking a ORVW.