By April Manning
The Hirsch brand roots extend back to a distillery that is a now both a ruin and a National Historical Landmark in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. “Schaefferstown Distillery,” or Bomberger’s, has roots that run deep and it claims to be the first distillery established in the United States. It operated for more than two centuries in various forms, producing several brands, including Mitchter’s. The surviving still house, warehouse, and jug house date from about 1840.
Before the distillery finally gave up the ghost in 1989, investment banker A.H. Hirsch extended its lifespan for several decades. Hirsch’s timely investment would ultimately result in what is considered by many to be the finest expression of bourbon ever made, the legendary A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old.
Today, Anchor Distilling of San Francisco aspires to celebrate the Hirsch heritage through a range of sourced selections, such as the Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The source for this particular selection is MGP Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
A mash bill with 21% rye mixed with a 36% rye mash bill conveys the high rye content. Both mash bills use a Northern Europe rye and corn from Indiana and Ohio. The whiskey matured for eight years in oak barrels with a char #4 on the bodies of the barrels and a char #2 on the heads of the barrels before being bottled at 92 proof (46%ABV).
Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a pleasing caramel color and when poured, the usual scents of butterscotch and vanilla hit the nose. Then the fiery spiciness of the rye comes out with a left hook to cause the nose to, for a moment, pull back.
Being a high-rye bourbon it is not surprising to find that the initial taste describes a lively peppery zest tracing its way across the pallet. As the preliminary zing fades, a buttery suggestion similar to Jameson Irish Whiskey waltzes in to help smooth things out. This is a bold rye whiskey with character sure to be appealing to high-rye bourbon enthusiasts. I do not fall into that category, but to those who do…cheers!
I’ve seen it priced for between $47 and $52. That seems to be the national average, although some retailers have it marked down to $40.