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Henry McKenna


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With John Lipman's help, I finally found a bottle of Henry McKenna Single Barrel for $27.75. I had to travel to Bardstown, Commonwealth of Kentucky to find it. It was worth the trouble. Quite smooth with a little spice and most of the regular telltale flavors of a Heaven Hill bourbon brought forth in a polite manor. This one does not come out and grab you like an Evan Williams 7 year old, but neither does it lay back and achieve it's smoothness by sacrificing bourbon flavor. Ten years old is not too long in the barrel for this one, no smokiness, and just the right oak flavor. Not too hot either, refereshing for a 100 proof.

Overall, enjoyable and balanced, a whiskey that I wouldn't mind growing old with together. $ 5 more expensive than the equally impressive but different Evan Williams single barrel. Chalk up another winner from Heaven Hill. Any comments from the group?

Mark A. Mason, El Dorado, Arkansas

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Heaven Hill whiskeys seem to benefit more than others from long aging. The best value of the bunch is the standard Elijah Craig, a 12-year-old that's usually under $15.

--Chuck Cowdery

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Agreed that the Elijah Craig 12 YO is one of the best bourbon bargains out there and in general about Heaven Hill whiskeys standing up to (and some would say needing) longer aging than usual. In fact, on a recent trip I found an unusually cheap bottle of Elijah Craig 18 YO Single Barrel and decided to give it a whirl. I was a little scared of the 18 years dulling this too much (see Pappy 20 and 23 YO), but oh, boy, was I wrong. Beautiful soft spice cake notes on the nose, tough but luscious classic bourbon flavor with just the right hint of sweetness on the palate which dries to a nice, long coffee-ish finish. One of my favorites, and I'm mad at myself for taking so long to get around to it. The Elijah Craigs are definitely the best of Heaven Hill's offerings (Malt Advocate awards to the contrary).

Ryan Stotz

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  • 2 months later...

"Malt Advocate awards to the contrary"? Hey, Baldy, I don't recall giving any awards to any Heaven Hill whiskies (hmmmm... may be an oversight there). You must be thinking of "the magazine of Paul Pacult," Spirit Journal. Now, MA reviews, that may be different.

Anyway, now that the defensive and contentious stuff is out of the way, I'd just like to chime in and note that I think the EJ 12YO is both luscious and incredibly bargainific, and I gift newly bourbon-aware friends with it frequently. "Like Jim Beam, do you? Here, let me ruin you." Golly God, it's good. I find the new Buffalo Trace bourbon to have a similar juiciness, and I love it, too... When I can find it. DAMN Sazerac for playing their whiskies so close to their chest!

Lew Bryson

Hirsch Reserve 16 YO: Real Pennsylvania Bourbon

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Unfortunately, your socialistic state also prevents out-of-state companies from shipping liquor to consumers. You might want to try the Liquor.com or Drinks.com websites, as they use systems that involve in-state licensees.

--Chuck Cowdery

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  • 4 weeks later...
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I know that this message is a bit late, but I just received a bottle of the Henry McKenna Single Barrel for my birthday from a friend. I must say, that for a 100 proof bourbon, it is very smooth. Don't get me wrong, it'll definitely keep you warm on a winter night, but it doesn't burn. The aging mellows it enough to make it quite palatable.

DirtyCowboy

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What's most amazing to me is the difference between the single barrel and the regular-issue Henry McKenna. While I've really never met a bourbon I didn't like, the latter comes about as close as you can. It's not that it tastes BAD, mind you; it just has absolutely no distinctive features at all. You might as well be drinking Kessler or Seagram's 7. The single barrel, on the other hand, is astonishingly different and full of character. While it's not my favorite whiskey by any means, it certainly commands my respect. By the way, the product in the current Henry McKenna crock jug (special reserve) appears to be different from either the standard or the single barrel and is quite good in it's own right. Has anyone had the honor of tasting the original (non-Heaven Hill) Henry McKenna? I think it was available up to the early '70s and there might even still be some around (attention Mark and other bourbon sleuths). Also, do you suppose any old Henry McKenna stock (heavily mixed with Heaven Hill, perhaps) might make up some of the current "designer" bourbons, the way Willett product is rumored to?

-John Lipman-

http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

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I am quite confident that Heaven Hill obtained only the Henry McKenna name from Seagrams, not any whiskey stock. However, Seagram only sold Heaven Hill the U.S. rights to the brand. If you buy Henry McKenna outside the U.S., it is actually Seagrams whiskey, made at the Four Roses plant in Lawrenceburg. That may actually be what is in the crock, which in my mind I associate with Seagrams, not Heaven Hill. It is possible that Heaven Hill obtained some of these from Seagrams for U.S. distribution and it was probably more economical to buy the crocks full rather than buy them empty and fill them with Heaven Hill's version of McKenna.

I have a few bottles of genuine Fairfield McKenna (the distillery was in Fairfield, Kentucky). It has been some years since I opened one, but I recall it having a pronounced vanilla flavor. Fairfield McKenna was, and maybe still is, one of those things, like pre-Beam Old Taylor, that you can find from time to time back in a dusty corner of some old liquor store where it has literally sat for 20 years. Jim Kube, a collector who has dropped from sight in recent years, was the master at finding stuff like that. After he had bought all he wanted from a particular store he tipped me off and I got the rest. Also picked up some Michters pot stilled "Sour Mash Whiskey" (i.e., neither bourbon nor rye).

--Chuck Cowdery

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Damn!

Lew finally posts after God knows how long, and I'm asleep at the wheel! I gotta agree with you on the Elijah Craig 12YO Lew ... I think it's wonderful stuff for the money. It has a peculiar flavor though, reminiscent of camphor? I would have said mothballs, but that would just be setting myself up for a thorough ripping.

Regards,

Jim Butler

StraightBourbon.com

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Chuck Cowdery wrote:

"Fairfield McKenna was, and maybe still is, one of those things, like pre-Beam Old Taylor, that you can find from time to time back in a dusty corner of some old liquor store where it has literally sat for 20 years. "

Time to do a fact-finding mission at some liquor stores :). Pre-Beam Old Taylor BIB was one of my favorite bourbons, and I would give a couple of molars to get a bottle or two. BTW, it doesn't have to be found in a dusty corner of some old liquor store; a friend of mine bought a house that had a stocked bar in the basement. The only whiskey there was a still sealed bottle of Frankfort Old Grand Dad BIB, distilled 1966 bottled 1970. My friend is not a whiskey drinker, so he gave it to me...I've gone through about half the bottle over the last four years :)

Michael Shoshani

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True enough, but browsing liquor stores is easier and cheaper that buying houses in the hope of acquiring a stocked bar. :-)

The gentleman I mentioned, Jim Kube, reputedly had cases of pre-Beam Old Taylor. Don't know what happened to him, he dropped out of sight a couple of years ago.

--Chuck Cowdery

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John Lipman wrote: "Mike... any chance that you might be at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival this September?"

Probably not. I am, however, planning on attending WhiskeyFest next Spring. It will be here in Chicago.

Michael Shoshani

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  • 2 months later...
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WRT EJ12 Jim wrote:"It has a peculiar flavor though, reminiscent of camphor? I would have said mothballs, but that would just be setting myself up for a thorough ripping."

I'm probably the outlier on this one, but my bottle of HMcKSB10 has an undeniably perfumy character, which isn't too far off of camphor. I had great expectations for this one given all the buzz and lengths to which folks have gone to get one. I know that in certain bottlings of single malt by Morrison-Bowmore I am extremely sensitive to a similar character, so it's not surprising that this hasn't shown up in the comments in this forum. Hopefully, the overarching perfume character will fade over time, but right now this bottle will sit on the shelf with an inch lower level than I bought it.

Jim, ever try Bowmore 12yr? Get the same camphor?

Cheers,

Bushido

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  • 1 year later...

<html>Here are my 2 cents on Henry McKenna 10 y.o. SB....

Nose: Vanilla, Cherries, candy nougat, oak, and a hint of peppermint.

Taste: Every drop is chock-full o' flavor. A kind of semi-sweet caramel balanced nicely by oak. Barrel char is evident but doesn't overpower in this 10 y.o.. That Elijah Craig camphor quality is there, but sweeter, more like candy-cane peppermint.

Finish: Spiciness sticks around and takes a bow on your tastebuds once the other flavors fade, leaving behind a tingling warmth.

A very good bourbon and reasonably priced ($21) for a Single Barrel. A great bourbon to warm your belly while sitting around the campfire on a cold autumn night.

JR</html>

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Thanks for bumping this thread and posting your tasting notes JR. I had forgotten that I had purchased a bottle of this stuff this past September at the Bourbon Festival, so I dug it out for a taste test.

Bottle 165 > Barreled on 11-19-90 > Bottled In Bond

Even though all single barrels meet the requirements to be labeled 'Botteled In Bond' the Henry McKenna is the only one I know of that is labeled as such.

The singel barrel McKenna has a classic amber color and has nice legs. In the mouth it is coating and has a medium body.

In the nose I have to agree with JR,s observations except the cherries. My bottle is musty, and has a very aromatic woodsy herbal quality. Vickie's nose says - "Gym class. Old sweaty socks in a damp locker room. Now get rid of it!"

The earthy herbal qualities show up center stage on the palate. Sassafras and maybe some bitter chickory - very medicinal. If you feel sick this bourbon might help you to get better.

The finish is a rough one. Not ragged mind you, but rough.

Henry McKenna Single Barrel costs more than Evan Williams Single Barrel and is nowhere near as good. Keep your pants on and buy some other bourbon.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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Hi Linn,

I read somewhere that to be 'Bottled in Bond' bourbon must be at least 100 proof. If so, then there are several single barrels that can't be labeled BIB:

Blanton's, Elijah Craig 18, EWSB, Hancock's Reserve, Elmert T. Lee, Benchmark XO, Black Maple Hill, Eagle Rare SB, Four Roses SB and Wathen's. All under 100 proof. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Cheers,

Omar

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You're right Omar. I was only thinking of the 'same season > same year > same distillery' rules. OK how's this - All single barrels could easily be bottled in bond if the distillers so desired.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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Linn,

I was a label machine operator for 7 years and not one time did I ever put a bond label on a bottle of bourbon or corn whiskey that was under 100 proof.

boone

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Hedmans Brorsa

<blockquote><font size=1>In reply to:</font><hr>

Even though all single barrels meet the requirements to be labeled 'Botteled In Bond' the Henry McKenna is the only one I know of that is labeled as such.

<hr></blockquote>

My bottle of Rock Hill Farms claims to be "Bottled in bond"

What is Maple Hill single barrel?

Best wishes,

H.B.

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OK BJBB now we're getting somewhere. Any singular barrel of bourbon four years old or older meets all the requirements to become a bonded bourbon if the distiller so desires. It's got to be bottled at 100 proof. Wild Turkey's excellent Kentucky Spirit actually exceeds the requirements by a single proof at 101, but cannot be labeled BIB. Buffalo Trace's Blanton's is bottled at 93 proof. Would either one taste any better at 100 proof?

Bottled in Bond was a useful badge of superior quality when it was enacted in 1897. Now one hundred-five years later Single Barrel and Small Batch bottlings have surpassed the BIB badge as the highest quality bourbons available. They have done so without any act of Congress or reams of new regulations from the B.A.T.F.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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Your Rock Hill Farms very well may be BIB. Over here RHF is only 80 proof, but I haven't had a bottle in a year or so.

I had a taste of Maple Hill (thanks once again to Mashbill) but do not remember the bottle (among other things) so I can't really speak to the matter H.B.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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One curious point about BIB. A BIB cannot be less than 4 years old but it can be more, e.g., Henry McKenna at 10 years. But a BIB must be 100 proof, no more, no less, so a 101 proof WT doesn't qualify.

A theory about WT. Back in the day, when BIB was considered "the good stuff," Wild Turkey didn't have its own distillery but bought whiskey from various distilleries, possibly mixing the product of more than one distillery and more than one season, which disqualified it from BIB. Rather than admitting that, they made it 101 proof and said that was the reason they couldn't be BIB.

Ultimately, WT probably did more than any other brand to make the brand, rather than the BIB designation, the thing people looked for.

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

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