Michter’s Master Distiller Emeritus Willie Pratt
About 5 years ago I was invited down to Louisville, Kentucky to visit and write about Michter’s Distillery. It truly was an amazing experience. I got to see the new Michter’s facility, we went to some great local restaurants, and along with great food, some great cocktails made with Michter’s whiskey, and of course, a flight of the entire current product line of Michter’s Whiskey.
While there, I met Master Distiller Willie Pratt, along with Pamela Heilmann and of course the most gracious host and President of Michter’s Joe Magglioco. It is great to see what actually goes on behind the scenes. Often you see a fancy bottle, a lot of glitz and glamour in advertising, and even celebrities enjoying what is often taken for granted.
Michter’s is truly an American brand by a small company with quality that surpasses the better known brands. In fact, in one night I had the opportunity to drink 3 of the best bourbons out there. Michter’s 20 year bourbon was the best of them all, it was bold, flavorful, just plain delicious and easy to drink. The runner up was not the Pappy Van Winkle 20yr, but Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 22 year old. That’s right, Pappy came in 3rd. I am not saying its bad, but its not the best. In my opinion, Michter’s is the best. The fact is, whiskey must be listed as the youngest vintage in the bottle. Many times the Michter’s 20 will have older whiskey in there.
If not for the people like Willie behind the scenes, perhaps anything can be pumped out of a factory, poured into a bottle and then shipped out in mass distribution. But Willie was known affectionately as “Dr. No” because so many times when pressured to get the product out, he said “No. It’s not ready”. It was his driven commitment to excellence that lead Michter’s to become the fine product it is. In fact, once it did go out for distribution, he kept a numbered bottle from every batch right next to his office, so should an issue ever arise, he could taste or examine a bottle from that very batch to see if there was in fact an issue.
You won’t see Willie’s likeness or image on any bottle of Michter’s like you will Pappy Van Winkle, but because of people like him, you will definitely taste the difference side by side in any blind tasting.
Cheers Willie, you done good. Rest In Peace.