Henry McKenna is another of Heaven Hill’s brands, and probably one of its least well-known—and some would say it’s one of the best secrets in bourbon. It’s made with the 75% corn/13% rye recipe that is also used to make Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. It comes in two iterations, something called Henry McKenna Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey—which goes for just over $10 in these parts—and this Bottled in Bond version, which goes for just less than $30. I’ve never had the one with the longer name and the lower price—I’m not sure how old it is or how it compares to the similarly priced Evan Williams. The Bottled in Bond version, however, sticks out in the contemporary bourbon landscape like a thumb that is destined to be chopped off without warning: what I mean is that it is sold in single barrel form, at 50% (as all Bottled in Bond bourbon has to be), and most shockingly, it is 10 years old. The regular Four Roses Single Barrel, by comparison, is not only more expensive, it bears no age statement.
A number of stores seem to put out private selections of the Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond. The bottle I am reviewing is not one of those. I can tell you, though, that it is from barrel 1763, which was put away in 2004.
Henry McKenna, Bottled in Bond (50%; barrel 1763; from my own bottle)
Nose: Rich corn with caramel and some rye spice. Gets richer still as it sits with some tobacco, leather and some dried orange peel popping up; with more time there’s some plum sauce too. Water brings out even more of the fruit and tobacco and there’s quite a bit of toffee too now.
Palate: Fruitier on the palate (orange) but otherwise pretty much as promised by the nose. My only complaint, and it’s a minor one, is that the mouthfeel is a bit thin. Gets oakier as it goes but not tannic at any point and not at all out of balance. With more time it get more herbal (mint) and there’s some pine too. Hmm water’s not quite as good to the palate: the oak does get a bit too pronounced now.
Finish: Medium-long. The oak emerges here but the fruit is still around. Gets spicier as it goes (cinnamon). As on the palate with water: the oak becomes a bit tannic at the end.
Comments: Man, this is good. Perfectly balanced between oak, corn and fruit, this is a wonderful sipping bourbon and would probably make an excellent Manhattan too. A little more textural depth and this would be up there with far more storied bourbons for me. Still, it’s great stuff and incredible value; and it’s very much a single malt drinker’s bourbon.
Rating: 87 points.