A Tale of Two Bourbons


I haven’t had a lot of experience with bourbon. I’ve had dozens of rums over some 5+ years, but I’ve only had experience with three bourbons, a small batch Four Roses of which I had 1 glass (was good, but apart from its sweetness I don’t remember it much). Then there are these two pictured, a Henry McKenna 10 year single barrel, and Elijah Craig small batch, both produced by the Heaven Hill Distillery Company headquartered in Bardstown Kentucky. Production happens in Louisville KY at the company’s Bernheim distillery. Wikipedia tells me this company is the seventh largest whiskey supplier in the U.S., and has the second largest holdings of bourbon in the world! It is the largest independent family-owned producer of whiskey in the U.S. My McKenna bottle has a bottle number (2099) and barreling date (10-6-05) on its label.

I don’t really know how to describe and review bourbons as compared to rums as I’ve had so little experience with them. Both of these are similar in color (the H.M. is a little lighter), a medium amber much like a 5-10 year old rum. Swirled in the glass they both produce thin legs, the E.C. a little thicker than the H.M. but the latter’s legs run more slowly. On the nose there is a little alcohol, and they are not as fruity as many rums, but the E.C. has a deep brown sugar aroma, while the H.M. is lighter in sugar notes with a bit more alcohol and scents I cannot place on the nose. The E.J. is 47% ABV and the H.M. 50% so not much difference there.

As for flavor, the H.M. has some kind of ripe fruitiness I cannot identify. I can identify a sort of smokey flavor. The E.C. has a family resemblance (perhaps something “bourbony” that I just don’t understand yet), but it is definitely sweeter than the H.M. That sweetness obscures its smokiness but it is still there. The H.M. has a cleaner less layered flavor while the E.C. is much richer with warm notes I cannot quite identify other than its sweetness. Both seem to be very good bourbons. The after taste of the E.C. is a little longer and much sweeter than the H.M. Neither ever becomes bitter. I don’t know for sure, but I think I did pretty well for my first two bourbon selections. Would love to hear comments from my readers who have had some experience with these and others like them.

The cigar by the way is a Cinco Maduro made from 5 different maduro leaves -yes, even in the filler. These were developed by a guy who calls himself “Island Jim” and is the same guy responsible for the very delicious “Leaf by Oscar” blends. According to the story these were I.J.’s first blend. He ordered 200 cigars for himself, but the factory made a mistake and made 200 bundles! I.J. took what he could afford and the rest were left in an aging room at a Rocky Patel factory for decade or more until they were rediscovered by accident! They are very good, rich, sweet with complex flavor layering like the E.C. bourbon!  I do not know if there are any left, but mine came from Rodrigo Cigars, so you might look them up and see if there are some still for sale.