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Henry McKenna 10 Bourbon Review

Henry McKenna 10 Bourbon – Distiller: Heaven Hill. ABV: 50%. Age: 10 years. Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley. Price: $25-30.

The Henry McKenna 10 Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is an increasingly rarity: a high-quality, age-stated bourbon that comes at a very reasonable price.

It’s a product of Kentucky’s Heaven Hills Distilleries, which makes an impressive range of whiskies (among other spirits): Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Bernheim, Larceny, Rittenhouse, and Pikesville.

As a single barrel, there’s always going to be a certain amount of variation in the Henry McKenna 10, but the high quality of these has been very consistent. I found this particular bottle at the back of the shelf of a local store, and it turned out to be from a batch that was distilled in 2002. I was excited to check it out.

On the nose are notes of freshly cut wood with a very small hint of char (like laser-cut wood), mixed with warm new leather that’s been sitting out in the sun. I got notes of dried apple and black cherry too. The palate starts with medium sweetness, combined with herbal spices and cinnamon notes that provide a pleasant dose of heat. All of this is layered on top of a lovely base of damp oak. The finish is long, spicy, and on the dry side, with red and black licorice, barrel char, and burnt sugar. Echo of coconut toward the end. Impressive.

This was a good barrel indeed, and it reminds me why I always come back to this great bourbon, especially given its price point. McKenna 10 can compete with many bourbons on the market these days that are twice or even three times the price. Let’s hear it for Heaven Hill–and hope they keep this little gem just the way it is!

Cheers, friends! – JTR

Buy Henry McKenna Bourbon at Mash + Grape

Rittenhouse Rye Review

Distiller: Heaven Hill. ABV: 50%. Age: 4 years. Mashbill: 51% rye, 37% corn, 12% malted barley. Price: $20-25.

What’s Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse Rye doing with a 1960 Chevy Apache 100 pickup? One unpretentious American workhorse deserves another.

Don’t let anybody tell you there are no great whiskies left under $25. The Rittenhouse is one of the gold-standard ryes, and is a spectacular value. It has a somewhat hot nose at 50% ABV, then hits you with a flood of creamy, toasty, brown sugary goodness on the palate, with plenty of spice.

It’s made from a mashbill of only 51% rye, which is the minimum for the category, and the balance of the corn and malted barley make it rounder and darker than the Willett 2- or 3-year-old or the many MGP-sourced bottlings out there (Bulleit, Dickel, etc.). But I’d have it as a sipper any day of the week, and there’s nothing I’d rather have in a Manhattan. Period.

The Rittenhouse’s older brother, the Pikesville Rye (same juice with 2 more years of age and 10 more proof points), won Jim Murray’s rye whiskey of the year in 2015. But if you can’t track that down, just get yourself two bottles of Rittenhouse for the same price. You’ll be glad you did. – BO

Elijah Craig 12 Bourbon Review

Distiller: Heaven Hill. ABV: 47%. Age: 12 years. Mashbill: 75% corn, 12% rye, 13% malted barley. Price: $25-35.

It’s with a tear in my eye that I belatedly post this review on one of my standby house pours, the Elijah Craig 12-year-old. The distiller, Heaven Hill, has just confirmed (as of January 2016) what many of us long suspected: it’s discontinuing  the 12-year-old in favor of a no-age-statement version that will be a mix of juice from 8 to 12 years old.

In a world of supply crunches, skyrocketing prices, and vanishing age statements, the EC 12 has stood apart less in terms of taste than in terms of value and consistency. It’s got a classic, straight-down-the-middle Kentucky bourbon profile, warm and familiar as a favorite pair of slippers. The price has been right, the proof is just high enough for some oomph, and it’s right in the sweet spot for bourbon maturation.

Nose of s’mores, vanilla bean, and shoe leather.  Sweet, full, and warming palate with a creamy mouthfeel. A bit of the baking spice of a Wild Turkey, some toasty tobacco notes of a Buffalo Trace, and enough of the sweet corn goodness to hint at an Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. As well-rounded and satisfying as a $25-30 bourbon can be.

I feel like the EC 12 has never quite gotten its due from the enthusiast community, though I have no doubt it’s going to fly off the shelves now that we know it’s on the way out. Heaven Hill assures us the NAS won’t be far off in terms of profile–we’ll bring you a profile just as soon as we can–but we’re still sad to see this one go. Enjoy it while it lasts, friends! -BO

Buy Elijah Craig 12 Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

Parker’s Heritage Collection Malt Whiskey Review

Distiller: Heaven Hill. ABV: 54% Age: 8 years. Mashbill: 65% malted barley, 35% corn. Price: $100 (MSRP, frequently marked up)

The 2015 Park Parker’s Heritage Collection Malt Whiskey from Heaven Hill is the ninth annual release in the PHC series, and it’s a bit of an oddball.

It drew some mixed opinions from bourbon lovers unused to malt whiskies, as it’s distilled from 65% malted barley and 35% corn. But as a lover of numerous American malt whiskies–and don’t let anyone out there tell you there aren’t good ones–I enjoyed this quite a bit.

It’s a rich coppery color in the glass–almost strawberry. The nose is hot at first, with stronger corn notes than I expected, then cinnamon and sandalwood. With water, a mint note emerges, then stewed pears and marshmallow fluff.

The palate is rich with oak and tons of spice, recalling Heaven Hill’s McKenna 10-year-old Bourbon. Salty butterscotch, then more of that mint. With water, I got a fragrant wood note–almost potpourri–that resembled, oddly enough, the Ichiro’s Malt Mizunara Wood. Full, viscous mouthfeel, with Christmas spice, butter, and black pepper on the finish.

Cheers to Heaven Hill for throwing a curveball for a strike, and thanks to fletcher_whiskeydog for the sample and the beautiful photo! -BO

Pikesville Rye Review

Distiller: Heaven Hill. ABV: 55%. Mashbill: 51% rye, 39% corn, 10% malted barley. Price: $50-55.

Being a sucker for Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse Rye–a delicious, $25 standby on the low-rye side of the spectrum (51%, the minimum for the category)–I was curious to try the recently released Pikesville Rye. It’s essentially a 6-year-old version of the 4-year-old Rittenhouse, at 110 proof rather than 100.

I liked it quite a bit. Spice, graham crackers, honey, and creamy vanilla on the nose. That’s the corn for you. Palate has green tobacco, clove, ginger, and roasted walnuts. Finish is long, spicy, and sweet. Very good.

But it’s twice the price of Rittenhouse. Is it twice as good? Better said: Would I take a bottle of this over two bottles of Rittenhouse? Maybe not.

But for rye fans already paying $50 and more for sourced ryes from non-distiller producers like High West, Whistlepig, and others? It’s a must-try. If you can find it, that is–Jim Murray just named it the second-best whiskey in the world in his 2016 Whiskey Bible. Happy hunting…

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Pikesville Rye online at Mash + Grape

1970s Cabin Still – Group Review – Part II

Yesterday we brought you Part I of a very fun group review of some 1970s dusties, organized by Josh from The Whiskey Jug. Together with Josh of the Coopered Tot, Steve (Sku) of Sku’s Recent Eats,  Aaron of It’s Just The Booze Dancing, and Patrick (a.k.a “Pops”) of Bourbon and Banter, we started with a side-by-side of current the Old Crow, made by Jim Beam, and a 1970s National Distillers’ bottling.

Today, we’re on to…

Part II – Cabin, Still?

In the 1960s, (Old) Cabin Still was a respected brand of the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, brought into the fold by Pappy Van Winkle. But in 1972, as Josh Feldman tells in a great Coopered Tot post, tragedy struck:

Then a huge corporation, Norton Simon, that had been clumsily dabbling in bourbon, found themselves in a jam with a bunch of bad whiskey they couldn’t sell, so they bought Stitzel-Weller so they could gradually dump the boondoggle failure whiskey into their bottom of the line Old Cabin Still brand.  This ruined the whiskey – effectively murdering the brand.

Continue reading 1970s Cabin Still – Group Review – Part II