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View Full Version : Henry McKenna (Freak bottle or inexperienced taster?)



plaid_emu
07-14-2008, 15:49
I'm from SW Ohio and recently went on a weekend trip last month to West Virginia for some whitewater rafting and to take in the local history. One of the pleasant surprises I ran into was Godfather's liquor store near Beckley. It was only like a quarter mile from our hotel so I took a couple trips.

I managed to snag a W.L. Weller Centennial from Louisville (last bottle on the shelf), Fighting Cock, Old Whiskey River, Heaven Hill (black label), and Henry McKenna.

There's a helluva lot more choices once you get out of the beautiful police state of Ohio. Maybe some of these are available here, but not in my area.

Anyways I'll cut to the chase:

I was really impressed with the Henry McKenna. Amazed actually. Sure it's not the best or most flavorful Bourbon I've tried but I couldn't believe I only paid a little under $10 for such a yummy and clean tasting Bourbon. I've noticed a kind of funky corn flavor that's usually present with lower shelf Bourbons. For example Evan Williams, Old Crow, Rebel Yell, Old Grand-Dad etc.

Is Henry McKenna always such a good value? I'm thinking I maybe got a freak bottle, but I'm also not as experienced as some of the veterans here. The reason I ask this is because I'm going to Bourbon's Bistro next month for my birthday dinner and while I'm down in KY I was going to buy several bottles because I don't think I can get it here.

Any past experiences you have to share would be most helpful.

OscarV
07-14-2008, 15:58
I managed to snag a W.L. Weller Centennial from Louisville

That could be the "snag" of at least the decade. Good going!

plaid_emu
07-14-2008, 16:02
That could be the "snag" of at least the decade. Good going!

Ha! Thanks! That's what I've been reading here so I've decided to keep that one unopened, sealed in the box and tucked away for a most special occasion. :grin:

mozilla
07-14-2008, 16:26
my 2 cents...

look for 750's or liters of HH or Barton Bib's. I know I say this to everybody....but it really is a good deal. Look for Bottled in Bond from the city of Bardstown. They are all under $15 and come in every age possible. If you make it all the way to Ky for bourbon...don't come home with 80 proofers.

I know $15 sounds low....but it's not what you pay...it's the flavor.

bluesbassdad
07-14-2008, 16:31
p.e.,

You may think the following question is facetious, but it's not.

Did you first taste the H.M. while you were still on vacation?

It's widely agreed that one's surroundings can influence perception of bourbon. I've noticed that both rodeos and blues dives make whatever I drink taste better.

I'm surprised at some of your entries in the "funky corn" list. I have a hard time distinguishing H.M. and its stablemate, Evan Williams black label. Old Grand-Dad is very different than either, to my taste buds. Then again I've never had the low-proof OGD, only the BIB.

As to your main question regarding a maverick bottle, I'd say no. Heaven Hill distillery turns out hundreds (thousands?) of cases a day. For the lower-shelf bottlings it's nothing but dump, fill, seal, box and ship -- case after case after case.

There is (or was?) a Henry McKenna Single Barrel, whose bottling required human hands at each step, but even an average bottle of it was excellent. (In fact it was my favorite Heaven Hill bottling.)

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

BourbonJoe
07-14-2008, 19:15
There is (or was?) a Henry McKenna Single Barrel, whose bottling required human hands at each step, but even an average bottle of it was excellent. (In fact it was my favorite Heaven Hill bottling.)

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

But that was yesterday..and yesterday's gone.
Joe :usflag:

plaid_emu
07-14-2008, 19:43
p.e.,

You may think the following question is facetious, but it's not.

Did you first taste the H.M. while you were still on vacation?

It's widely agreed that one's surroundings can influence perception of bourbon. I've noticed that both rodeos and blues dives make whatever I drink taste better.

Believe it or not that thought crossed my mind.

I actually waited until I got home to research a little more about what I purchased before opening them. I brought along a couple familiar favorites for the hotel room (a pint of Jim Beam Black & some little 50 ML Maker's mark).

I've got almost half a bottle of the McKenna left that I'm slowly savoring until I can make it back down to KY. And just to make sure I'm not crazy, I've been taste testing it against the other seven open bottles I've got.

I'm seriously digging it. Just a nice light and lovely pour. I'll be real disappointed if it's not consistent.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Henry McKenna. I've read about the single barrel online but I doubt I'll be lucky enough to find a bottle.

plaid_emu
07-14-2008, 19:57
my 2 cents...

look for 750's or liters of HH or Barton Bib's. I know I say this to everybody....but it really is a good deal. Look for Bottled in Bond from the city of Bardstown. They are all under $15 and come in every age possible. If you make it all the way to Ky for bourbon...don't come home with 80 proofers.

I know $15 sounds low....but it's not what you pay...it's the flavor.

Thanks for the tip. I'm definitely going to take your advice and try some BIB from a few different sources.

So far I haven't found a sing bottle of ANYTHING BIB in OH.

bluesbassdad
07-14-2008, 22:54
Thanks for the tip. I'm definitely going to take your advice and try some BIB from a few different sources.

So far I haven't found a sing bottle of ANYTHING BIB in OH.

I thought I might be able to find an official listing of what's available in OH. I failed.

During my search I found this reminder (http://www.com.ohio.gov/liqr/docs/LIQR_Listing-Manual.pdf)of just how burdensome the state regs can be.

I see reference to a form that appears to be necessary in order to offer a new bottling in the State. However, I see nothing regarding a published list. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. (http://www.lcc.ohio.gov/)

Yours

plaid_emu
07-15-2008, 05:39
I thought I might be able to find an official listing of what's available in OH. I failed.

Are you looking for this?

http://www.liquorcontrol.ohio.gov/dolc.liquor.pricelist.txt

bluesbassdad
07-15-2008, 14:05
Are you looking for this?

http://www.liquorcontrol.ohio.gov/dolc.liquor.pricelist.txt

Yes!

And scrolling into the bourbon section I see the following:

0100B OLD GRAND DAD 100 $ 17.55 TO $ 17.80 $ 18.50
OZS. PER BOTTLE: 25.4
PROOF: 100.0
AGE: 4YR

I believe that's an example of a BIB, and one worth trying.

Some states have listings of inventories by store, IIRC. If Ohio has that, then you are well on your way to obtaining one of my favorite, lower-priced bottlings.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

callmeox
07-15-2008, 19:33
OGD BIB is a common sight in liquor stores in Ohio, though there is no website available to check stock like in other states. In a pinch, you can call the ODLC and they will check stock on items for you over the phone. Be prepared to tell them which county and city that the store resides in.

The state of Ohio owns all of the booze in the liquor stores in the state, so asking the store owner to order in a case of something from the list published by the state so that you can get one bottle isn't stiffing the store with extra inventory. Any time that I've asked a store owner to order something for me, they have done so without hesitation. They usually get a couple of warehouse deliveries a week, so the wait shouldn't be long.

The OGB BIB is easily discernable from it's lower proof sibling by a large BONDED across the top of the label as well as the orange screw cap that it wears.

It's one of my favorite budget pours.

plaid_emu
07-16-2008, 10:14
This site is great! You guys are really helpful and I appreciate that.

Today I dropped in on "Air City" Liquor in Dayton. They had a pretty darn good selection in one place for this area. I saw Old Whiskey River which I'd only ever seen out of state.

I picked up a family size bottle of JTS Brown (BIB) for $29.00. Never seen it before around here. Man is this stuff surprisingly good. Reminds me a lot of Fighting Cock which I like too.

Once again I come home and find out it's another Heaven Hill label. So far, many of the Bourbons I really like seem to be HH brands.

bluesbassdad
07-16-2008, 11:01
This site is great! You guys are really helpful and I appreciate that.

Today I dropped in on "Air City" Liquor in Dayton. They had a pretty darn good selection in one place for this area. I saw Old Whiskey River which I'd only ever seen out of state.

I picked up a family size bottle of JTS Brown (BIB) for $29.00. Never seen it before around here. Man is this stuff surprisingly good. Reminds me a lot of Fighting Cock which I like too.

Once again I come home and find out it's another Heaven Hill label. So far, many of the Bourbons I really like seem to be HH brands.

Heaven Hill has acquired many labels over the years. You may find this list (http://www.straightbourbon.com/brands.php?choice=distillery)of interest. Note that it can be sorted in other ways.

BTW Old Whiskey River is controversial here, more so than other HH bottlings. I've tried two bottles and found it undrinkable (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?p=10603&highlight=willie#post10603). By that I mean I'd quit drinking if it were the only alcohol available. A few people agree, but not many.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

plaid_emu
07-16-2008, 14:06
BTW Old Whiskey River is controversial here, more so than other HH bottlings. I've tried two bottles and found it undrinkable (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?p=10603&highlight=willie#post10603). By that I mean I'd quit drinking if it were the only alcohol available. A few people agree, but not many.

Thanks for the list. That'll help next time I'm attempting to blindly pick something from another distillery besides HH.

As far as the OWR goes.....Wow. Seems kinda harsh compared to my limited experience with a single bottle. But I honestly feel the same way about Echo Spring, Old Crow and Old Grand-Dad (80). So far I only had one of each listed above.

I think Jim Beam Black is 5 X better than Old Whiskey River and few dollars less.

callmeox
07-16-2008, 21:07
If you want to try something else that's available in Ohio and not an HH brand, pick up a bottle of Buffalo Trace. I think it's around 20 bucks now and it's a darn fine pour for the money.

Jono
08-22-2008, 20:22
I too am quite impressed by Henry McKenna...a terrific find in KY thanks to this thread....very glad I purchased it...it is indeed "yummy"....a perfect way to end an evening...a desert bourbon...corn sweet, yet with complexity to the body...some spice...(I wonder what the rye content is)...and a very smooth finish.....being only 80 proof.

MJL
08-27-2008, 13:54
I first tasted Henry McKenna 25 years ago after walking and climbing along the ridge line of Mount Mitchell in Western North Carolina. After a long and tiring walk and a meal of canned beans I relaxed with a bottle of McKenna and some Padron cigars. At the time both were cheap and I was a poor undergraduate student. The memory of that evening is engraved deeply in my mind. Sleeping out in the elevation cooled night with clear stars, wonderful cigars and the fragrance of that corn liquor did not mean much to me then but I have not been without a bottle of McKenna since then. It is actually hard to find in South Florida so I always make certain to pick up a big bottle when I find one out of state. I have better bourbons but the memory of that one holiday hike still compels me to keep this particular drink around too.

CorvallisCracker
08-27-2008, 14:02
I first tasted Henry McKenna 25 years ago after walking and climbing along the ridge line of Mount Mitchell in Western North Carolina. After a long and tiring walk and a meal of canned beans I relaxed with a bottle of McKenna and some Padron cigars. At the time both were cheap and I was a poor undergraduate student. The memory of that evening is engraved deeply in my mind. Sleeping out in the elevation cooled night with clear stars, wonderful cigars and the fragrance of that corn liquor did not mean much to me then but I have not been without a bottle of McKenna since then. It is actually hard to find in South Florida so I always make certain to pick up a big bottle when I find one out of state. I have better bourbons but the memory of that one holiday hike still compels me to keep this particular drink around too.

A wonderful memory and description, making for a wonderful first post. Thank you.

Welcome to SB.com!

BourbonJoe
08-27-2008, 20:20
I agree. Great bourbons and great experiences just seem to go together. Thanks for sharing your experience. I also welcome you to the forum.
Joe :usflag:

MJL
08-30-2008, 07:12
A wonderful memory and description, making for a wonderful first post. Thank you.

Welcome to SB.com!

Scott, thanks for the welcome and kind comments. As a historian by trade I have become familiar with the concept of sense memory both in a professional and personal manner. People experience the world through their senses. The brain stores sense memories even though the conscience mind may not be aware of them. Experience the smell, taste or sound again and your brain takes you back to the initial memory. Liquors stimulate smell, taste and sight. These are powerful senses. The smell of whiskey, even mediocre whiskey, the taste of whiskey, even mediocre whiskey, the feel of of whiskey running past the taste buds into the throat, even mediocre whiskey can trigger memories of times, people and events past. That is what McKenna does for me.

I understand McKenna is a mediocre whiskey; not gut rot, but not great. That does not matter. I can almost smell the trees up on Mount Mitchell, and can clearly recall the tanginess of the blueberries and wild strawberries I picked that day and ate for desert with the McKenna. It is the sense memory that I enjoy that links me to pleasant times and places. Do I drink McKenna daily? Oh, heck no but when I want to go back to that mountain I sure do. After Katrina hit my area of Florida we didn't have power for days. The heat and humidity were just unbearable. I smoked a Padron 6000 and drank some McKenna and I swear it cooled me down just like the cool mountain air did that night in North Carolina.

CorvallisCracker
08-30-2008, 10:32
People experience the world through their senses. The brain stores sense memories even though the conscience mind may not be aware of them. Experience the smell, taste or sound again and your brain takes you back to the initial memory.

I smoked a Padron 6000 and drank some McKenna and I swear it cooled me down just like the cool mountain air did that night in North Carolina.

Indeed. The associations one makes with particular sights/sounds/smells/tastes can be very compelling.

When I was a kid I acquired a glass A&W root beer mug, which I still have. For years I always drank only root beer from it (not necessarily A&W, but always root beer). A few years ago I put some Coke in it. It tasted like root beer.

I've tried this several time since, and it happens every time. Weird.


Yes I wash it. It's only my bourbon glasses I don't wash.

Jono
09-01-2008, 19:45
"I understand McKenna is a mediocre whiskey; not gut rot, but not great."

I certainly enjoy it and would not consider mediocre at all...but individual tastes vary of course. I would not hesitate to recommend it as a great value buy.

callmeox
09-01-2008, 19:57
My understanding is that the more senses that are involved with a memory, the more vivid the recall and the longer the memory is retained.

I think that it is really cool that you can associate the situation on the mountain with the bourbon that you enjoyed, even today. Once in a while while I'm out and about, I'll catch a whiff of the perfume that my first serious high school girlfriend wore. When it happens, it is definitely a vividly stirring memory. :grin: