Last week I shared the results of The Bourbon Fellowship Bottled in Bond Blind Tasting Bracket Challenge (or TBFBiBBTBC). The beauty of a blind tasting is that label bias and our deeply rooted opinions about what we like (or think we like) take a back seat to what we actually taste at that time. As the saying goes: any given Sunday any NFL team can be upset. In this case, any given Thursday any bourbon can come out on top.
As a reminder, the results found New Riff defeating Henry McKenna in the finals. To add a little more depth to the results, a couple of our guys have offered up reviews of the runner-up and the champion. Drew Crawley will cover Henry McKenna for us and Mark Krebs will share about New Riff.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled in Bond
Henry McKenna bottled in bond was once a somewhat hidden gem of the bourbon geek community. Long touted for its accessible price and availability, it was historically a consistent recommendation for those looking to make the transition towards the finer side of the bourbon spectrum. The 2018 Edition of “The Minnick Effect,” made McKenna one of the most sought after expressions today and has lead to widespread shortages even here in Louisville. 2019 will likely see more of the same as Henry McKenna was named Whiskey of the Year at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Notes of dried cherry, Bartlett pear, and candied apples. Somewhat one-dimensional even after 20 minutes in the glass.
Enters with standard notes of vanilla and dark caramel, slowly dissolved into more complexity with notes of dark chocolate and black pepper.
The fruit makes a return appearance with the pear notes, some cedar and dry spice reminiscent of clove.
All in all, as with all single barrels, there will be some variance from barrel to barrel. While this particular barrel was not my personal favorite, I have had barrels in the past that were absolutely outstanding. Additionally, the fact that Heaven Hill is able to consistently put out 10yr single barrels, within the restrictions of the bottled in bond act I might add, encourages me to keep buying McKenna in the years to come. If you can find this product for less than $40, I highly recommend you pick one up for yourself.
Bio: Drew lives and works in Louisville Ky with his wife Kaylee. During the day, he works for Old Forester focusing on VIP experiences and single barrel selections. Nights and weekends are dedicated to leading worship at his church. When not working, he enjoys bourbon as a hobby, reading, playing music with friends, and the occasional cigar!
New Riff Bottled in Bond
New Riff bottled in bond, unlike Henry McKenna, is a relative new kid on the block in the bourbon community. The New Riff Distillery, founded by Ken Lewis in 2014, released its first distilled bourbon, New Riff bottled in bond, in the fall of 2018 with a commitment to bottled in bond and non-chill filtration. At 4 years old, it’s based on a mash bill of non-GMO grains of 65% corn, 30% rye, 5% malted barley, and with an MSRP of around $40, it has quickly found a place as a daily drinker for many bourbon enthusiasts.
Nose: Butterscotch, baking spices, dark fruit, and undertones of spearmint.
Palate: Cinnamon, caramel, vanilla, young oak, and rye spice.
Finish: Medium finish, slightly tannic (likely due to the young age), with caramel, vanilla, and pepper.
Although the New Riff was personally my third favorite bourbon of the bracket behind Old Bardstown bottled in bond and 1792 bottled in bond respectively, it managed some impressive wins over Early Times bottled in bond (6-1), Jim Beam Bonded (6-1), and Henry McKenna bottled in bond (5-2) en route to becoming the bracket’s overall winner. With an MSRP of around $40 it’s definitely worth picking up a bottle of the bottled in bond or even a single barrel. This ‘New Riff on an old tradition’ will be sure to impress bourbon drinkers of various experience levels.
Bio: Mark Krebs is an IT professional, husband to one wife, father to three children, drummer, Louisville Cardinal fan, and all around slightly above average guy. He’s not much for long walks on the beach, but does enjoy a hike every now and then. Mostly he just prefers drinking bourbon and smoking cigars with good friends.
Thanks to Drew and Mark for sharing their thoughts on the finalists in our challenge. Next week the NCAA tournament will wrap up and I’ll wrap up this blog series when I discuss my own personal bracket results and provide a review of one of the other bourbons we tasted. As always, thanks for reading and please share with your friends and leave feedback if you have something to say.Kevin Rose