You don’t hear a lot about straight corn whiskey, but when you do, there’s a 99.9% chance Heaven Hill’s Mellow Corn comes up. But don’t let this bottom-shelf Kentucky mainstay fool you. What it lacks in style and specs, it surely makes up for in utility.
Pour: Mellow Corn (Bottled in Bond)
Age: at least 4 years
Color: apple juice
Nose: vanilla, confectioners sugar, apple pastry
Taste: butter toffee, candy corn, spiked simple syrup
Finish: moderate length – caramel, light apple, faint oak char
Overall: I didn’t always think highly (or speak kindly) of Mellow Corn. What can I say? I was a jackass. Mellow Corn is a no-frills, sweet yet spartan, whiskey. It’s not complex. It’s not extraordinary. But that’s not the point. If you know, you know.
Rating: Hella Mella.
When I first ventured into whiskey, one of my early favorites was Angel’s Envy. The proof was approachable, the flavor was sweet, and the finish fared easy. But over time, I drifted away from Henderson’s neoclassic “bourbon finished in port wine casks.” A revisit is overdue.
Pour: Angel’s Envy
Age: not stated
Color: rich amber
Nose: brown sugar glaze, baked pear, toffee
Taste: vanilla, honey butter, Golden Delicious apple
Finish: moderate w/ caramel drizzle, confectioners sugar, faint white pepper
Overall: Don’t let my notes fool you – this is tastier than I remember. And while Angel’s Envy isn’t complex whiskey, it’s enjoyable whiskey. The port cask influence is just right – enough to add character, yet keep that character undeniably Kentucky.
Rating: Angelically simple.
Resurrecting a long-retired whiskey label isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s pretty damn common. But resurrecting a long-retired whiskey label and emulating a 122-year old bottle’s flavor profile, that takes talent and skill. Enter Nancy Fraley and Magnus’ Murray Hill Club.
Pour: Murray Hill Club (b. 19)
Age: NAS (reportedly 9-yr light whiskey & 11-18-yr bourbon)
Nose: creme brûlée, sugar plum, woody spice
Taste: vanilla bean, dark fruit, hints of cedar & tobacco
Finish: moderately long – sweet oak char, toasted caramel, leather
Overall: An impressive, well-crafted whiskey. Murray Hill Club is the best blended bourbon I’ve tasted to date – one that sets a new precedent for American whiskey lacking a straight designation. Complex and graced with elegance, it’s a triumph for Magnus.
Whisky Jewbilee (2012-2018) was a semiannual whisky festival organized by J&J Spirits, formerly known as the Jewish Whisky Company. Each gathering showcased a commemorative release, one of the last being a 25-year light whiskey distilled by Seagram’s (IN) in 1993. L’Chaim!
Pour: Whisky Jewbilee Light Whiskey
Age: 25 years
Color: metallic amber
Nose: fruity vanilla, orange Tic-Tacs, zesty citrus & spice
Taste: strawberry cheesecake, lemon creme, buttery oak
Finish: moderate length – iced animal cookies, caramel glaze, peppery jam
Overall: Unique is a word commonly used in spirits reviews. Hell, I’m guilty. Yet, that’s precisely what we have here. 2018’s Whisky Jewbilee Light Whiskey is an epic display of unique, beautifully offbeat character – a wild, intricate, elegant thrill ride.
High West’s Bourye, a limited edition bourbon & rye whiskey blend, has been around since 2009. Over the years, the sources have varied, including runs with Four Roses and Barton, though MGP remains the sole source since 2016. Speaking of which, I have a 2016 release to review.
Pour: High West Bourye (2016)
Age: NAS (9-17 years per High West)
Color: rosy copper
Nose: caramel apple, blood orange, brown sugar
Taste: fruity vanilla bean, dark citrus-spice, boozy punch
Finish: moderate length – beautifully rich oak, cherry pie filling, herbal tea
Overall: Likely the best bourbon & rye blend I’ve tasted. An incredible whiskey – mature and complex with a remarkably oily mouthfeel for 92 proof (ah, the wonders of NCF). High West’s 2016 Bourye was apparently overlooked, and it’s your gain in 2021.
Rating: Worth the hunt.
Joseph Magnus Triple-Cask Finished Bourbon is the flagship expression of Jos. A. Magnus & Co., a DC-based brand resurrected by descendants of the historic Cincinnati whiskey wholesaler. The talented Nancy Fraley, master taster, is responsible for each blend. On deck, batch 96.
Pour: Joseph Magnus Triple-Cask Finished Bourbon no. 96
Age: NAS (reportedly 12 years)
Color: rosy amber
Nose: chocolate raisins, nutty vanilla, blood orange
Taste: toasted brown sugar, ripe plum, pipe tobacco
Finish: caramel-brandy, black walnut, lingering smoky leather
Overall: Delicious. For a finished whiskey, Joseph Magnus maintains enough bourbon character to brandish its 12-year (MGP) origin. Not “over-sherried,” and gentle on the cognac influence, it’s notably complex, harmonious and balanced. Well done, Nancy.
Rating: Fraley’s Comet.