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Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon Review

Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon, 47.5% abv (95 Proof), $35/bottle

Color: Light Amber

Nose: Very prominent corny twang, sourdough, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut, and barrell char/oak. There’s a funky quality to it – somewhat different. Reminiscent of the pungent corny nose of George Dickel No. 12, but without the anchoring dried fruit and spice aromas/depth.

Palate: Again, a heavy corn quality – almost a sour corn flavor too. Caramel and candy corn sweetness emerges with honey, vanilla fudge, maple candy, and even a malty quality. Some spice (rye?) and oak asserts itself reasonably well from mid palate on through to the finish. I would love a little more spice to cut through some of the corny quality. Overall it tastes a little younger than I would have expected.

Finish: A medium length finish with candy corn that is lifted by smoky toasted oak.

Overall: This was a curve ball for me. There’s some great qualities to this whiskey, some really nice things going on. I enjoy the cornyness, but the fact that it tasted a little raw knocked it a few points for me. But overall it is very solid whiskey pushing towards very good. While in this price range there are better bourbons to be had, this has a high interest level.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.9 (Good/Solid)

31 Comments

  1. Greg says:

    Jason – Some of the KBD labels (Black Maple, etc.) can vary from year to year depending on the whiskey source. I’ve had good and some that are average. I have a Rowans Creek open right now that’s just ok to me. Not a bad pour but has enough weaknesses that I overlook that bottle for others I like better. If you were to line up Black Maple Hill from various years, your experience would vary between bottles.

  2. Makes good sense Greg. It’s been a couple years since I’ve had what was then the 8 year old I believe. I think I made an assumption that was what I was getting here since they’ve gone away from an 8 year old age statement. Just guessing, but I’d say this stuff was 4-5 years old in flavor. It may very well have been older, but if so it has been aged very gently. The depth of flavor just wasn’t there. It had some really nice qualities for sure but certainly raw. To me the best KBD product has been Noah’s Mill and the the Willett Family Reserve. But like you mentioned with BMH, the Willetts have all been different as well given their barrel program.

  3. lawschooldrunk says:

    Do KBD make rowans creek as well?

  4. lawschooldrunk says:

    never mind. upon watching the review again, I heard what I missed the first time.

  5. Michael says:

    I agree with this review; when I first tried this whiskey I rather liked it. Over time, however, I started feeling that the corn and vanilla sweetness was a bit too pervasive and dominant (I came to bourbon and rye after years of drinking scotch, after all). There’s still usually a bottle of it in our house just cause it’s so different from everything else, but I don’t pour it as often as I used to.

  6. Texas says:

    I pretty much agree with what you said, but my bottle did not seem as young as 4-5 based on color and taste. Seemed like at least 7. Different, but good. OTOH After spending more time with the Pure Kentucky XO, the color and taste both point towards 4-5 yo.

  7. Michael, Greg pointed out something worth noting. There’s variance here and bottles are going to differ from bottle to bottle. It’s very likely if we put yours and the one I have together we may have two totally different products that we are trying to compare. I think it’s good whiskey for sure and worth staying in your cupboard, especially if you like the way it tastes. Taste is such a subjective thing. I do reviews I know, but I also know that what you taste might be totally different. In fact I’m thrilled you brought it up and gave me the idea to review it. Lots of online retailers sell the heck out of it, so it’s solid stuff. Cheers!

  8. My age guess may be way off – no real way of knowing. But it just tastes younger than I expected it to.

  9. This is one of my favorite bourbons. It’s a staple on our bar at home. Not to mention that I just adore the label. It’s a smooth swallow. I agree about the grain. Very candy corn on the palate but I can also see the oak all the way through the drink. It’s a good bourbon for a beginner. The sweetness helps.

  10. Annie, fantastic point! So you’ve found the sweetness really helps to ease you into it vs. something that’s maybe a bit more spicy on the front end. I can definitely see that for sure. Appreciate the comment Annie!

  11. sku says:

    Nice review Jason. I haven’t tried this BMH yet. There is a lot of controversy about how serious KBD is about reopening the Willett distillery. For years, they’ve been saying they are working on it, but some people don’t seem to think they’re serious about it. Personally, I’ve never liked the idea of a company that calls itself a “Distiller” but doesn’t actually distill anything.

  12. Greg says:

    Sku – I spoke with Drew at KBD back in Sept while visiting KY and they are getting close to firing up the still. They made a conscience decision to not take on debt to get distilling faster. All the build out has been done on a cash basis from what I understand. I’ll be visiting KBD again in April and will check with Drew to see what progress has been made. My take is that they are very serious about getting the distillery up and running but the path they chose to get there was the more drawn out one.

  13. Steve (Sku) I agree on that front. Very misleading. This is one thing that sort of miffs me about the “old guard” of bourbon insiders. I’ll refrain from mentioning names, but it’s rare for that group to touch the discussion of KBD. High West and others are fair game, but KBD is left off the list.

    For the record it shouldn’t be interpreted that I don’t like what they or any of these folks are doing. Quite the opposite, I’m an outspoken proponent for sourcing, blending, or having them distilled for you. They’re producing better stuff than most of the micros pumping out 6 months old whiskey (or younger)….and at a better price. But why nobody comments on KBD as prominently as they do others is beyond me.

    Greg, that’s fantastic information. Good to know that they are close to getting things off the ground up there. Keep us posted when you visit and find out more.

    As an aside, and I’m sure many on this thread have noticed, both Steve (SKU) and Greg operate fantastic websites with a boatload of great information on whiskey. Steve’s site is RecentEats and Gregs is Bourbon Dork. Both are linked on my site and I subscribe to both via RSS feed. I always learn something I didn’t know prior. Thanks for doing great work gentleman and thank you for taking the time to comment here!

  14. Greg says:

    My pleasure Jason. Thanks for the kind words.

  15. Texas says:

    Frankly, coming from the world of single malt scotch, even amongst that people that are really distilling the product, it is a bit misleading. E.g..Old Charter, well there is not really and Old Charter Distillery anymore even though the labeled says distilled by the Old Charter Distilling Co. Many, many more examples of that. I just don’t get it.

  16. sku says:

    Thanks for the plug Jason. I agree that there need be no shame in sourcing and bottling. There certainly isn’t in Scotland, and there, the bottlers make it very clear what they are doing and even say on the label which distillery the bottling is from, which is pretty much unheard of in the US.

  17. Michael says:

    I think I’ll always keep this BMH around just for variety. Too much of even the best bourbons tends to make them less special, so I think rotating a variety of different types helps. Speaking of too much, if anyone here lives in NYC, I have tracked down a couple of stores that have the scarce (and forever getting scarcer) Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17yr and 18yr. I think these are some of the best bourbons I have tried (wheated or otherwise), and people should give them a shot while they are still available.

  18. sam k says:

    The Black Maple Hill is $41 in PA. What do you think of it at that price point, Jason? My favorite “out of the mold” bourbon is Johnny Drum , not available here at all…gotta get it on the road.

    Tex, I have no problem with the Old Charter kind of thing, since it is a real distillery, just operating under more than one company name, maybe just to preserve the lineage of the brand as opposed to outright deception. I don’t think anyone would be turned off if it said Buffalo Trace on the label.

  19. At $40 I give Black Maple Hill a pass. Too much other stalwarts out there to grab at that price.

  20. sam k says:

    Yep, that’s what I was expecting. Thanks for the consistent good work, and it’s good to see you’re getting such diverse responses from the crowd!

  21. I must say I wish there were greater transparency in the world of bourbon sourcing. And I would love to know how the conversations go down between a Heaven Hill (for example) and an outfit like BMH (for example) who wants to buy select barrels of their stock and remarket it for double the price Heaven Hill might get on their own. The model you see w Scotch is great – the consumer knows what they’re getting and can better determine whether or not it’s worth the asking price.

    One more aside – BMH’s packaging drives me nuts trying to distinguish their primary bottling from special bottlings (like their 16yo) – my eyes aren’t bad (yet) but it’s like a Where’s Waldo trying to figure that out!

  22. I agree. I think the backlash has been so great on those putting out products from sourced whiskey that few step up there and announce it. In contrast, over in the UK, distillers drive tankers of spirit (aged or new make to be aged) right up to other distillers doors and drop it off. The brokered whiskey business over there is so common and it’s understood. We’re not there yet. Part of it is because we only have so many distilleries putting out product in the US. I believe Scotland has about 105-110. Our country, which is loads bigger, has probably less than a dozen distilleries putting out 90+% of the whiskey in this country. Those figures are loose, but I would bet they are close.

    Hopefully we’ll get there.

  23. Texas says:

    I am hoping that when Buffalo Trace releases the new improved Old Taylor that they distill (looking forward to this since it seems they are really trying to duplicate the old recipe) that they make it clear it was distilled at Buffalo Trace….then maybe say something like they were following the original Old Taylor method and recipe.

    On the original subject, I had some more of the BMH last night (I think there is likely a big variation in batches). I really like it because it is so different than other bourbons, and definitely has a Scotch vibe to it.

  24. Greg says:

    Texas – I think BT is trying to follow the Old Taylor recipe as much as possible, right down to the use of white corn which is very intriguing. It will be interesting to see how the sweetness of the white corn affects the finished product. I’ve read tasting notes on the white dog and for the most part, they were positive.

  25. Texas, I definitely think variance can be really high here. Your own individual experience always prevails.

  26. Mike L says:

    I was skeptical when my local specialty broker convinced me to try this at $49.99. Now I think it was a steal. As noted, taste is very subjective, and this whiskey rings every single chime for me. I agree with the poster who is reminded of Dickle Ivory, which I also enjoy very much. I’ll hunt for a more affordable source, but I’m hooked.

  27. Mike Wilson says:

    Hey man, I cannot believe any bourbon enthusiast would call Rowan’s Creek soso. You simply do not know bourbon if that is your position. All the 3 sisters from Kentucky that draw from the same lime stone well are the finest bourbon available. If you are looking for excitement go get some smoky scotch or Knob Creek, for a sweet drink go Canadian, for a sissy drink get a blend, and if you want the purest cleanest crispest Bourbon try one of the three sisters from Kentucky -Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill or this one Black Maple Hill. You cannot find a finer Bourbon with the true bourbon taste if you tried. Rowan’s and Noah’s are by far the gold standard, this one I’d say silver standard. Remember fella’s it is Corn Corn Corn, not grain. It has it’s limitations but it also has a loyal following by guys like me who know nobody does whiskey like the guys from Ken-tuck-y, especially the smart ones who age it 12 years or better like Noah’s and Rowan’s.

  28. Mike Wilson says:

    Just to add, some of you are mentioning high price points, I get mine from Hitimewines.com, it is 10 dollars to ship I think up to 10 or 12 bottles. $31 for this one, $38 for Rowan’s and $51 for Noah’s. Plus they have a great selection of Whiskey. I can’t find the stuff I like in my town, but Costco also has some good bottles from timer to time.

  29. JFo says:

    I revisited this post after having a drink of Black Maple Hill last night, just to see how others find this stuff.  As with most of my bottles, I’m moving very slowly through this one, and I’ve developed a very strange relationship with it.  Some days I truly love it, and other days it does nothing for me.

    Yesterday, I had lunch at a bar, and I spotted an unopened bottle of Pappy 15 on the shelf.  Having never tried it, I gave in.  Unreal, and I knew it would be.  Sip, sit and marvel for three minutes, and repeat.  Then, last night, with stars still in my eyes, I poured some Black Maple Hill (though I have no idea why), expecting nothing after something so great.

    Magically, I loved it.  I don’t get it.

  30. James says:

    I actually adore what KBD does. I think it is high time someone shook the bourbon world out of their dusty Arm chairs. That being said, BMH is truly a gem. One of the best bourbons I have ever had. There may be batch variations, ect… Because I’m never too far from Jason with my taste profile, but the drink of this I had I did side by side with Pappy 20 yr and it blew the king’s doors off.

  31. Richard says:

    You mentioned there are better bourbons to be had in this price range. Which ones? I’d love to try them.

1 Trackback

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Pyle, lawschooldrunk. lawschooldrunk said: RT @jmpyle: Latest #Bourbon review: Black Maple Hill Small Batch. Quite a corny twang to this one. Enjoy. http://ow.ly/3J0n8 [...]

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