Henry McKenna was once an affordable bottled-in-bond bourbon that rapidly sold out when it won best whisky in the world at the San Francisco Spirit Awards. It went from affordable ($30s US), to gone, to now being difficult to find for under $50 US.
There’s bound to be some variation between bottles because this is a single barrel pick, but the tasting notes seem consistent, and the makes (Heaven Hill Distillery) have plenty of barrels to work with. It’s the same mash bill as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams, but this whisky has more volume from oak extraction. It’s all about where it’s been aged in the warehouse.
Looking at scores from around whisky reviewers, this is universally enjoyed at a rating somewhere between 89 to 92. That range is perfect for this whisky. There’s plenty of flavour, complexity, and excitement to keep the palate interested. It’s a terrific buy at $30. At $50, it’s a pretty descent buy, but there’s a lot more competition at this price point and your personal preferences will vary based on what you enjoy.
Like with most Heaven Hill products, the name of Henry McKenna has little traceability back to the distillery. This one is named after an Irishman whiskey maker that immigrated to the US and continued to make whisky, but used local ingredients (like corn and rye). So basically, he did the same thing everyone else did. From a bottle and marketing perspective, I thought this to be too gimmicky when I first saw it in photos, but admittedly in person it’s a great looking bottle.
This is also Heaven Hill’s oldest bottled-in-bond product. It showcases their wonderful stocks of aged whisky. It’s right up there with Elijah Craig Barrel Proof as far as great whiskies available from the distillery.
Henry McKenna 10 Year Old Bottled-in-Bond #4397
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery
Category: Bottled-in-Bond, Straight Bourbon
Nose: Dusty quiet nose, some caramel, some herbal notes. The caramel comes through perfectly and brings with in the herbal richness for a wonderful combination. There’s plenty of oak spice on the nose, anise, and dried fruits.
Palate: A terrific hit of spice, caramel, and a dry dry finish. The herbal note is of cardamon and that’s sweetened with boozy cherry bitters. The caramel note is intense and a standout. The complex notes are sandwiched between a caramel top layer and a buttery base, so those elements like anise and spice are nicely brought to the forefront through the finish. I’d assume much of the spice note came from the oak, but there are floral dill-like notes that come through toward the finish, so rye is definitely taking part here.
Conclusion: A surprisingly rich whisky. The nose is quiet, the caramel notes are lovely. The anise hits the palate up front, and this is a nice combination of oak spice and rye grain spice. This is aged just right. It’s worth all the hype, but with the price having gone up and stocks down