By Father John Rayls
In 1927, The Hilhaven Lodge was created as a remote recreational retreat for its owner outside of nearby Hollywood. Former owners have included Ingrid Bergman and producer Alan Carr, and the current owner is director and producer Brett Ratner, best known for his Rush Hour films. Ratner partnered with Diageo to produce The Hilhaven Lodge Blended Straight American Whiskey, in a similar celebrity pairing as David Beckham and Haig Club.
It claims to conjure up Hollywood glamour and prestige from its heyday as you brush up against the biggest celebrities that played at the lodge. The idea is that you experience a long gone delicious lifestyle via the whiskey that carries the name. Unfortunately, yarns like that raise my cynicism, and as a rule what I want is simply a good tasting whiskey for the satisfying experience.
There is no denying that the bottle communicates elegance, and will enhance any whiskey shelf, if such elegance matters to you. The blended whiskey is somewhat surprising, as it is produced by combining three different whiskeys from three different decades. Reports indicate the sources as a bourbon from the 2000s, a Tennessee whiskey from the 1990s and a rye from the 1980s. It sounds really unusual and presents an intriguing opportunity.
Its appearance is a light orange/gold, with it being slightly darker in the glass. The legs are readily visible and are everywhere at once. The nose is light requiring repeated attempts to really get it. There is a very light alcohol aroma coupled with very light caramel all layered over some faint fruitiness. The spiciness just doesn’t show up here.
The expected mouthfeel/coating is absent as well. The liquid has a watered down mouthfeel, which gives just a slight nod to the legs that were a little misleading. Most of the action from this 80 proof whiskey takes place at mid-mouth, both upper and lower. Its light action and flavor has some faint caramel and fruit. It’s a lightly sweet flavor profile.
The surprise that took the rating to the B level is in the finish. It is a short to medium finish, but it’s where the rye finally makes an appearance. The spiciness asserts itself for a brief moment before quickly fading. It starts with a light cinnamon which transitions into some light pepperiness. This is a very simple easy drinking whiskey absent any complexity.
You may recognize some Bulleit and/or Dickel influence (Diageo products) here. The Hilhaven Lodge Blended American Straight Whiskey could be an easy starter whiskey for those wanting to try their hand in this arena. I would strongly suggest drinking this neat without any ice or distilled water. It’s simply too light to consume it any other way.
You can find it in the $50.00 range locally and online. It is an interesting concept and a somewhat unique experience.