If you’ve been following the posts in The Bourbon Fellowship blog lately…thank you…you’ve read about our Bottled in Bond Bracket Challenge. If you need to catch up, you can do so here.
In the previous posts, I’ve shared the results as selected by our group. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t already read the previous posts, New Riff defeated Henry McKenna in the finals). Today, I’ll review the outcome of my own personal bracket, which is just one man’s opinion. Or is it?
For full disclosure, my first round tastings were not done blind. I’m still interviewing for an intern, so I had to set up the first tastings myself. The Final Four and the Finals were done blind with assistance from The Wife.
In the first round, there was only one that was close for me and that was McKenna over Old Bardstown. I confess to have a thing for that signature Willett profile, but McKenna was, overall, a better, more balanced bourbon. In the other three, E.H. Taylor trumped 1792. McKenzie mashed Jim Beam. New Riff rolled Early Times.
This Final Four was an interesting collection. On one side were two classic, universally-beloved bourbons: E.H. Taylor vs. Henry McKenna. On the other side of the bracket were two relative unknown newcomers: McKenzie vs. New Riff. (If you aren’t familiar with New Riff, you can find a review of it here. If you haven’t heard about McKenzie, I have my full review of it at the bottom of this post). Both matchups were very difficult decisions for me. Ultimately, McKenna measured a bit better than EHT and McKenzie made it past New Riff.
So we come to my Finals: McKenna vs. McKenzie. How did the Scots get invited to a bourbon contest anyway? A full review of Henry McKenna was posted in a previous blog post here. I’ll share my own review of McKenzie Bottled in Bond Bourbon now:
McKenzie Bottled in Bond Bourbon
McKenzie Bottled in Bond was released in late 2018 by Finger Lakes Distillery in New York. The bourbon is named after the family of Finger Lakes owner and founder, Brian McKenzie. McKenzie had the distinction of being the only non-Kentucky bourbon in The Bourbon Fellowship bracket challenge. It is also unique as it is the only wheated bourbon in this contest and the only wheated bottled in bond that I could find other than Old Fitgerald, which is now only available in limited releases.
The mash bill for McKenzie is 70% corn, 20% red wheat and 10% malted barley. The 20% wheat matches the highest wheat component of any bourbon on the market (Heaven Hill’s wheated mash bill is also 20%).
Color: This McKenzie is a beautiful, light copper color in the glass with a slightly darker appearance in the bottle.
Nose: There is an expected sweetness to this bourbon given the mash bill. To me the sweetness presents itself in fresh apple and caramel. I also note some oak on the nose.
Palate: The apple and the oak are still there. Some honey comes through with the caramel. Perhaps a little like a Bit o-Honey candy.
Finish: The finish on McKenzie Bottled in Bond is pretty unique to me. I get a bit of spice on the tip of the tongue and then a second wave of sweetness and spice throughout the mouth that stays around for awhile.
Overall, I really enjoy this McKenzie. I am admittedly a Kentucky bourbon snob, but I’ll look forward to what Finger Lakes has to offer in the future.
One Man’s Opinion
Ultimately, I picked Henry McKenna over McKenzie although I’ll make room for both on my shelf and in my glass. However, opinions are like bung holes. Every barrel has one and some of them leak. (I may not be getting that expression quite right).
I may have botched that expression, but it is true: everybody does have an opinion. Mine happens to line up with the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Fred Minnick as they selected Henry McKenna as Best Whiskey for 2019. Or you could say their opinions line up with mine, but that’s not important. Their opinions may be read by tens of thousands. Mine may be read by tens. However, if we distill this down to what is most important, there is one opinion on bourbon that should really matter to you: yours.
If you don’t like Henry McKenna, that’s alright. The Heaven Hill Distillery will probably survive and you won’t hurt my feelings or Fred’s (as long as you don’t tell him you like vodka). It is a great help to find people you trust to give you suggestions, but some of the people I highly respect in this industry don’t like some bourbon that I love. And that is just fine. Find what YOU like.
So, if you are new to bourbon be adventurous and be willing to try different things. Find some buddies and do blind tastings together. You may be surprised by what you really like. This holds true for those who have been around bourbon for awhile. You may be missing out on something good simply because of biases that you have developed over time. Also, if you are a whiskey veteran be an encouragement to the new guys and stop mocking people who don’t like what you think they should. Because, ultimately, no matter how important you think your opinion is, it may be as empty as a bung hole to everybody but you.
Thanks for reading this post. If you have an opinion on it, please share it in the comments. I promise it will mean more to me than a bung hole. If you do like what you’re reading in this blog, please share it with your friends. It is appreciated.Kevin Rose