By Father John Rayls
In 1837, a young Irishman named Henry McKenna completed his immigration to America by settling near Fairfield, Kentucky. He brought with him the generations-old family whiskey recipe, and established his distillery about 10 miles from the current distillery site owned by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. McKenna put his personal knowledge of whiskey to work to make an outstanding example of barrel aged bourbon, long before the barrel was taken for granted as an expected part of the process.
Fighting Cock, Elijah Craig and Evan Williams share the same mash bill with Henry McKenna, which is to say it’s their rye rather than wheated mash bill, but there really is something special about this particular spin on their staple Kentucky Straight Bourbon recipe. This is a 100 proof, 10 year old, and Bottled in Bond to, in my opinion, a nearly perfect example of what most bourbon can be. It’s flavorful, aromatic, beautiful to look at and potent. Did I mention economical too? It really covers all the bases and does it very well.
The looks begin with a beautiful bottle, including personally marked labels detailing the barrel number and the date barreled, filled with a brownish copper whiskey with brass highlights I always like those special, personal touches. The label has an old appearance to it, nodding to the distillery establishment in 1855.
It has the same inviting look in the glass. The legs are long and lasting. The bourbon creates the notion that it is a light syrup or some thin honey waiting to be consumed.
I have to say that this is a favored whiskey to nose. It’s a complex experience with multiple levels. The first level is moderate with oak and oatmeal, but the next levels bring the spice with some slight burn. The spice may actually be the source of the burn rather than the high alcohol content. A sweet cinnamon aroma seems to drive the nose, but the oak is always present with notes of fresh fruit, vanilla and butterscotch. There are multiple waves on the nose if you patiently wait for them.
The taste begins with a luxurious mouth-feel. It’s a beautiful light coating of the mouth and tongue. Most of the action stays directly on the tongue, but you get some significant action on the roof of the mouth as well, and it all stays in the mouth rather than moving to the throat or chest.
The taste is filled with oak, burnt sugar/toffee and vanilla, and it’s something you shouldn’t rush. It’s just too delicious. The cinnamon stays in the background initially and then leads directly to the finish in force. The finish is long and spicy. As good as the rest of this experience really is, the finish may be the best part. It only reluctantly eventually fades away after a long, long satisfying experience.
Make no mistake, this is a really good bourbon. More than that, McKenna 10 Year Old has become my new winner in the “bang for the buck” competition.
Expect to pay somewhere between $25.00 and $35.00 online for Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey.