Michter’s Distillery is named “World’s Most Admired Whiskey” by Drinks International, becoming the first American brand to receive the prestigious honor.
Throughout the lion’s share of the 21st century, Michter’s has enjoyed its status as one of the premier names in American whiskey. But now, the Kentucky-based distillery can lay claim to a new title: king of the global whiskey-making game. This week, it was named “World’s Most Admired Whiskey” in the annual list of top 50 producers published by Drinks International.
Now in its third edition, the yearly ranking is formed by surveying a consortium of “independent whisky experts from across the globe,” according to the magazine’s website. Those industry veterans are asked to evaluate brands by way of a number of key metrics, including quality and consistency, price-to-quality ratio and strength of marketing.
Using that rubric, Michter’s bested the field—which was something of a coup, as this was the first time that an American distillery had received the top prize. Indeed, in hauling home the hardware, Michter’s beat out Yamazaki—the pride of Japan—and Ardbeg, a perennial darling among scotch enthusiasts.
“For decades, American distillers have been working hard to produce outstanding whiskeys,” stated Michter’s president Joe Magliocco, following the announcement. “To finally see this international recognition for a whiskey made in the U.S. is absolutely wonderful.”
It’s been an unpredictable journey for Magliocco and his team. In the late ‘90s, he procured the trademark to the Michter’s name for merely $245. The distillery, which was defunct at the time, had a legacy dating back to pre-Revolutionary War Pennsylvania. He then promptly established his business in Shively, Kentucky, and engaged top talent from the bourbon industry to assist with the production. Fast forwarding to 2020, the brand was already breaking world records with the sale of a single barrel for over $200,000 (it was a 10-year-old bourbon that was auctioned off for a Covid-related charity).
Setting high records is not a rarity for Michter’s. In 2013, it unveiled its Celebration Sour Mash. This exclusive blend of ultra-aged bourbon and rye was priced at $4,000 a bottle, marking it the costliest American whiskey release of that time. The label’s fourth edition was released earlier this year, with a mere 328 bottles priced at a soaring $6,000 per decanter. However, finding one at half this price today would be a stroke of luck.
Even so, the distillery wouldn’t have garnered this recent recognition had it solely marketed top-shelf products. In its U.S. 1 lineup of bourbon and rye, the brand consistently produces a tastefully delightful small batch bourbon, which is aged for more than 8 years and priced affordably within the $40-$50 range.
Despite the relatively slow progress of American whiskey within European markets, Michter’s stands as a notable outlier. The esteemed London, Paris, and Berlin bars frequently feature its 10-year-old bourbon and rye, dripping in a signature wax seal. The brand considers their recognition to be a significant moment that may potentially forecast future success for the broader category, reminiscent of the infamous “Judgment of Paris.”
“The implications of this award for both Michter’s and the broader American whiskey community fill me with immense pride,” expresses Andrea Wilson, Michter’s Master of Maturation. “Though we’ve long believed in our methods domestically, it’s a common sight to witness bourbon automatically relegated to the lower shelves when traveling internationally. So, to witness it finally achieving such lauded recognition is beyond thrilling.”
The international community may now finally give the term “whiskey” the respect it deserves.
Michter’s has made a major inroad for American whiskey on the global scene.