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Review: Henry McKenna Single Barrel (BIB) Bourbon

Happy New Year all. Once again I deeply appreciate everyone’s patience with me the last 6-8 months. Posts and reviews have been sparse, and I’m working hard to get things rolling on Sour Mash Manifesto. Thanks for sticking with the site.

Now, let’s get 2014 started off with a new review of a Heaven Hill brand, Henry McKenna Single Barrel (10 year old) Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Whiskey. Henry McKenna was said to have brought his family’s whiskey recipe from Ireland in the 1830′s, and established a distillery in Kentucky in 1855. Heaven Hill procured the Henry McKenna brand from Seagrams and began producing this whiskey in the mid 90′s. Let’s take a further look shall we?

Henry-McKenna-HMSB-copyHenry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled In Bond Bourbon (10 Years), Barrel #1025, 50% abv (100 proof), $30/bottle
Color: Deep Amber/Russet
Nose: Caramel, golden raisin, rustic corn, vanilla, root beer, and firm oak.
Palate: Classic bourbon flavors of caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, golden fruits with some spicy zip (cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper). Sturdy oak backbone provides some structure. Concentrated, sharp with a beautiful mouth feel.
Overall: This is a satisfyingly delicious bourbon – straight forward in delivery, and rich with rustic character. There’s a healthy dose of spice and heat on the palate to give this bourbon a little pop as well. If you enjoy the Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage dated releases – this 10 year old Henry McKenna has similar DNA, albeit with just a tad less finesse and grace. Outstanding value.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Very Good)

46 Comments

  1. Rock says:

    Great to see you back at it, Jason.

    I tried the HK Single Barrel back before Christmas and didn’t really care for it. I DO like the Evan Williams Single Barrels. The HK, to me, lacked a LOT of grace and finesse. It definitely has more rye kick and burn than I like but that is why they make lots of different varieties. To each his own!

    Welcome back!

  2. Todd says:

    Welcome back! Always enjoy the reviews Jason

  3. Kelly says:

    Glad to see you back reviewing!
    Your site is one i always turn to when looking for something I haven’t tried, ot to get an opinion on new releases.

  4. SCmayor says:

    What do you have planned for the site?

  5. jtedesco says:

    Glad to see your back up and running, looking forward to some more reviews.

  6. Peck says:

    I’ve only had a couple bottles of McKenna over time, but in my experience theres a short-lived but very nice sweet spot in its breathing time where it gets some great fresh corn husk notes to it that makes the sweetness come out and feels almost like a dessert whiskey.

    Even without that really outstanding period though, a 10 year, single barrel, bonded bourbon of this quality for the price is outstanding.

  7. Chris says:

    Welcome back Jason….glad to have my “goto” place for bourbon reviews back on the map!!

  8. Tony says:

    Thanks for another great review. SMM was my first stop in my bourbon education and I always enjoy hearing your insights! Great review.

    I’ve passed McKenna BIB so many times never knowing what to expect. I think it may be time to find out for myself and see how my notes match up to the great J. Pyle!

  9. Greg says:

    Jason – was getting ready to call in the dogs….glad you’re back in the saddle. Hope you’re well. HM for me has been a hit or miss proposition. I’m headed back to KY in April and we’re scheduled to taste through some HM barrels and see if we find anything we like. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  10. Josh says:

    Great to see you back. You’ve been missed!

  11. Andrew says:

    A 10 year expression of the HH White or Gold label BiB bourbons or even the EW White label BiB?

  12. Ray O says:

    It’s great to see that you’re back. I’m sure you’re back logged on the whiskeys you want to review, but I hope to see your comments on the George Dickel “Hand Select” offerings in the near future.

  13. Ray O says:

    It’s great to see that you’re back. I’m sure you’re back logged on the whiskeys you want to review, but I hope to see your comments on the George Dickel “Hand Select” offerings in the near future.

  14. Rick says:

    Welcome back Jason. Any video reviews in the works?

  15. Storcke says:

    Andrew, while reading Jason’s description I had the same thought: that sounds like Evan Williams BIB (White Label) but aged six more years. But I notice Jason graded the EWBIB at 8.9. Do you still prefer the EWBIB, Jason?

  16. Great to see you back. I’ve always been curious about this one, but I think I will have to indulge if it is anything like EVSB.

  17. paul michael says:

    Jason, whenever you’re gone so long between reviews i start to get the shakes. Please don’t do that to me.
    I haven’t tried Mckenna but there’s one thing that I find very curious about this expression. Why would they bother to make this a bottled in bond offering? It seems terribly redundant to do so given that it is 10 years old (easily the minimum four for BIB), is single barrel (so we know its made from the same season of distillate), and is of course bottled at 100 proof.

  18. Texas says:

    Good to have you back Jason. I have had the McKenna 10 year Single Barrel. I also had a bottle of Old Ezra 7/101 at the same time (it’s HH juice as well). I actually preferred the Old Ezra. The McKenna was just too hot, too astringent. The Ezra was less hot, with more flavor. Both still beat EWSB by a country mile….

  19. Jeff says:

    I need a new bottle…maybe I’ll pick this one up!

    Welcome back, by the way, I’ve missed you!

  20. JB says:

    @Texas: Curious as to which EWSB you had and what you didn’t like about it. Thanks in advance.

  21. GQuiz says:

    Welcome back from the witness protection program. Nice to have you back. What are your thoughts on Stagg Jr?

  22. Texas says:

    JB, I have had three vintages of the EWSB..can’t remember which ones but that would have been like 2009-2011 time frame. They weren’t bad, just very watery and just too subtle. I like subtle, but not in bourbon. They really just kinda tasted like weak apple juice with a few spices thrown in. My first EWSB I liked better than the other two..but as I branched out in bourbon I cam to realize EWSB was pretty flavorless (or weak flavors) compared to others.

    If they bottled it at 100 proof it might make a big difference.

  23. JB says:

    Texas- fair enough and thanks. I like the 2002 and 2003 quite a bit, especially for the $$$, and hear that the 2004 is richer but no question it would be improved by being bottled at higher proof. Have you ever had any of the barrel selections from retailers like Randall’s? They tend to be more distinctive than the standard issue bottling, in my experience.

  24. Bmac says:

    I either have the most twisted tongue in the history of bourbon tasters or luckier than a Scottsman finding a stash of 100 year old Scotch in their basement. My bottle oh Henry McKenna was a delight. Now, my HM is older with the cheesey copper wire wrapped around the top. My EWSB is the vintage 2000 release. Compared between the two, the HM is sweeter, more oily, delicious. The EWSB is harsh, all spice and no sweet. You have to endure pain before you can extract any goodness from the EWSB. The HM offers it’s goodness with little effort and not anywhere near the burn as EWSB. Just my two and a half point five, six opinion.

  25. Texas says:

    JB you mean Randall’s the Houston grocery chain? The ones near us only sell beer and wine…that is the one in Clear Lake

  26. JB says:

    Texas – sorry, I meant Randall’s the liquor stores in the St. Louis area. They do the barrel purchase thing now and again – most recently from Four Roses, Angel’s Envy and Evan Williams.

  27. DBMaster says:

    Yup, still checking in on Mr. Pyle every now and then. What a strange coincidence this is. I picked up my first ever bottle of HM BIB last week and have been enjoying it. It’s a bit light on mouth feel and somewhat high in alcohol nose, but very solid and sweet. I add about 3/4 teaspoon of water, agitate, and let it rest for five minutes. The sweetness rises to the top and a bit of the alcohol burn subsides. A ten-year-old BIB whiskey is indeed a rare beast. Just another experience to add to the portfolio.

  28. Andrew says:

    Handpicked barrel selections now available at K&L for those who can purchase from CA.

    http://spiritsjournal.klwines.com/klwinescom-spirits-blog/2014/2/6/first-wave.html

  29. Texas says:

    Oh, OK. Thanks JB.

  30. JB says:

    Thanks for that, Andrew. I’ll be out in San Francisco next month and am ordering some of each of those selections from K&L to pick up while I’m there. They do a great job and for the money ($26.99) I’m really looking forward to getting them.

  31. Bob Bauer says:

    LOVE the comparison to Evan Williams Single Barrel because it gives so much information in that single sentence. Hope you do more of that Jason.
    It continues to amaze me how similar.my experience is to your reviews (except 2013 Old Forrester Birthday which was good, but not great to me…which is OK ’cause you changed my life with your Wow review of Bookers!). Thanks for your wonderful blog.

  32. lasersailor says:

    I finally got through my HM 10 and found it a struggle for the first half of the fifth as it was so hot. To my surprise it calmed down by the second half and it was more enjoyable, especially with a splash of water. Or maybe my taste buds adjusted…

    In comparison, I just opened an Elijah Craig 12 and it is immediately more enjoyable to my palate — Heaven Hill juice without the heat or overtly rye taste that challenged me with the HM 10, and at a comparable price here in California.

  33. GQuiz says:

    Jason, check out the great bourbon article in Fortune. Never thought of Makers as a Super Premium.

  34. JB says:

    @GQuiz – anybody who claims that Makers is Super Premium is proving that they know too little about Bourbon to be taken seriously on the subject.

  35. Brandon says:

    Hey Jason, I was wondering if you had any plans to get back to doing youtube reviews? I really enjoy them as well as your blog.

  36. Patrick says:

    Its been some time, but there are some exiting bourbon/Tennessee whiskies out. I would like to hear your opinion on those. The George Dickel single barrel releases 9 and 14 year are something I would love to hear your opinion on. But of course we do have many other releases in the past year.

  37. JB says:

    Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?

  38. Bocephus says:

    Let go while we’re young!

  39. Gamehawker says:

    Tap, tap…

    Is this site working?

    It seems like the time between each review gets longer and longer.

  40. Bocephus says:

    All my rowdy friends have settled down…and gone home!!

  41. Southron says:

    Gentleman And Ladies(?),
    I have confirmed information that Jason’s absence is due to his abduction by aliens! They were interested in his knowledge of bourbon and they poked and prodded until they soaked up all his expertise. Upon his return to earth he was immediately taken to Area 51 by our government where he is being interrogated and tested for who knows what. Sadly he being fed only bread and water and forced to drink Rebel Yell! We must keep him in our prayers.
    By the way, the story of AAA 10 year no longer being made is false. Our government is hiding the fact the aliens (as a result of all the poking and prodding) beamed all the bottles up to the mother ship.
    I’m am forming a group to protest Jason being held against his wishes. Our motto is Free Jason, unless you’ve got something better.

  42. Josh says:

    3 reviews in 8 months? I know that it’s free but…c’mon. Just pull the plug already. It was fun while it lasted but clearly your heart isn’t in it. It makes me sad to keep seeing – nothing – when I come back here, especially considering the once-realized potential.

  43. Patrick says:

    I hope it isn’t a health related problem. But for the love of everything that is sacred don’t leave us with Henry McKenna as your last review!

  44. Matt L. says:

    He’s said multiple times that his obligations as a father prevent him from posting reviews like he used to. I, for one, commend him, as that is vastly more important than this hobby of ours. We miss you Jason, but you’re doing the right thing! See you when we see you.

  45. Ray O says:

    Jason, I hope that all is well and that you can make time for posts in the future.

  46. Ray O says:

    Jason, I hope that all is well and that you can make time for posts in the future.

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