Bourbon Review: Henry McKenna

Henry McKenna Single Barrel is a lesser-known bourbon and one that I haven’t had in my collection for very long. It’s an extra-aged bottled in bond single barrel bourbon. It is distilled and bottled by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. (Notice in the photo that Lynn’s beloved roses are in full bloom – just in time for the Kentucky Derby!)


Here is a little history from their website:

In 1837, a young man from Ireland known for his remarkable whiskey-making skills, came to America with his family’s whiskey recipe that had been passed down for generations. Young Mr. McKenna settled in Kentucky and discovered the uniquely American drink known as Bourbon. McKenna instantly took a liking to Kentucky whiskey and set out to create a better Bourbon using his family’s recipe. To ensure the highest quality, he insisted that his Bourbon age in oak barrels before bottling. From this process, highly unusual for the time, emerged a remarkably smooth Bourbon boasting a distinctive character.

This is a high proof bourbon without the normal bite you would expect. It has a wonderful aroma delivering a lot of spice and caramel. Some say mint, but I didn’t experience it (guess I should try it again tomorrow). The mint apparently comes from the yeast that Heaven Hill uses. You can really smell the oak in it as well.

I was very impressed with the first sip and it kept delivering flavor with different nuances of taste and experience. The bottle I have has a label that says, “Hand selected by the Staff of Hi Times Wine Cellars.” I am guessing you would get about the same great taste with any bottle but this one was selected by them.


If you have read a few of my posts you know I am a packaging geek. This bottle is very tastefully done. In describing the bottle, the brand says, “Commensurate with its status as a super-premium single barrel product, it features an antiqued strip stamp and a booklet neck hanger that tells the story of Henry McKenna, and explains the terms ‘single barrel’ and ‘bottled-in-bond.’  The face label also graphically emphasizes the ‘Aged 10 Years’ and ‘Since 1855’ statements, and has an area where the specific barrel number and ‘barreled on’ date for each bottle is hand-written.”

I would highly recommend you try a bottle. I was pleased first sip to last. If you haven’t been to Heaven Hill make them a stop on your hike of the Bourbon Trail and get a bottle from the source.

Aged: 10 years
Proof: 100
Color: Deep Mahogany
Price: $24.99 for 740mL at Hi-Time Wine Cellars

My Bourbon Mecca

You might be a fan of a special store, techies and my kids love the Apple Store. My wife, a big fan of Nordstrom. Me – I love to shop for bourbons. My go-to store is Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California. I love to go there and browse for that new release from a favorite distillery, or just to look for something I’ve have always wanted to try. I love to look at the selection, packaging and graphics.


Hi-Time Wine Cellars is my bourbon store of choice because whatever I am looking for they have. The same is true for most any liquor and wine. They have it, and if they don’t they’ll get it for their customers.  I was there a couple days ago to pick up my 2016 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Bottle (read my write up about its release here).


I was wandering around the store looking at all the bourbon, scotch, and whiskey (whisky if you are an import) on the shelves. There is so much rich history and life in those bottles. Many began their journey 15, 20, 23, even 30 or more years ago.

While there I spoke with Keith Hanson their liquor buyer. His knowledge of the industry and their inventory will blow you away. On another occasion I spoke with Holden, who was helping someone get a 20-year-old bottle of Pappy out of the case. Both Keith and Holden are great to work with.  In California we have a 3 tier system. The stores have to buy from a liquor distributor, who has bought the product directly from the distillery. Young’s Market is one of the distributors Hi-Time deals with for many of the brands they carry.

Now back to the Pappy. Not only do they carry new bottles but they do purchase bottles from collectors for resale. I took a few pictures but unfortunately through the case they are not the best. If you need that special bottle for a client or best friend, this is your place (for a price).


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention they have an equally awesome selection of Champagne. A few years ago Lynn and I stayed at a little Maison in Ludes, France called PloyezJacquemart. While there we had the opportunity to try their champagne and fell in love with it.  Hi-Time carries the champagne and they are one of the few in the US who have it, so we are also regular visitors to restock on this special champagne.

Ever since getting more into bourbon, and bourbon collecting, Hi-Time has become my go-to place (my bourbon mecca). For those not located in Southern California, I highly suggest finding your go-to bourbon place. While this is hard for people living in places with state controlled liquor stores, there still is definitely a utility to developing a relationship with your local state-run store. The managers, just like at a store like Hi-Time, will let you know when new products are coming in or there is something you shouldn’t pass up!

Bourbon Review: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve

For those of you who are not history buffs, 1792 is the year Kentucky became a state. Kentucky was part of Virginia until it became the 15th state. If you do love history you have to love the simplicity of this bourbon’s name. Simply put: 1792.


The following history was taken from Caskers’s website:

In 1876, John D. Willett, one of Kentucky’s original bourbon aristocrats, transferred his interest in the Willett & Frenke Distillery to his son-in-laws, Benjamin Mattingly and Thomas Moore. Mattingly and Moore continued to operate the Willett & Frenke Distillery together until 1881, when Mattingly finally sold his stake in the company to a group of investors.

In 2012, at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, 1792 tied Pappy Van Winkle’s 23 Year Old Bourbon with a score of 95 points.

This is a very good bourbon with plenty of spice to make it interesting.  It has a sweet smell and taste to it. It’s definitely different than many other bourbons on the market. I read a lot of older reviews and the reviews get better every year. I have only been drinking it for a few years now and I have enjoyed it from the beginning (as you can see, my current bottle is almost gone!). At $24.99 this is real delight. I got my last bottle at Hi-Time Wine Cellars where you can find just any bourbon you desire.


Here is a nice video for 1792 that Barton Distilling put out in January:

Aged: 8 years
Proof: 93.7
Color: Amber
Aroma: Spice, Sweet Vanilla
Taste: Pepper, oak
Price: $24.99 at Hi-Time Wine Cellars

Bourbon Review: Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The first time I saw Duke I thought, “I have to try it.” I always find unique Bourbons at Hi Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California. A couple years ago, I spotted Duke and bought a bottle. It seemed like a good week to try it. The Academy Awards were last week, and Duke was just sitting there on my bar cart waiting to be opened.


I love the oval bottle with The Duke on the label. The top edge of the bottle has “Monument Valley Distillers” molded into the bottle. It has a classic red label over the cork that says its 88 Proof. The red label ties into the red DUKE name printed on the label. And, of course, on the back of the label it says: A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. -John Wayne


Their website says the following about the bourbon:

The Style of DUKE Bourbon was inspired by bottles from John Wayne’s personal whiskey collection, preserved for over 50 years and only recently discovered. Meticulously blended to reflect The Duke’s preferred whiskey flavor profile from tasting notes left behind during the time he was planning his own distillery. Distilled the old-fashioned way; hand crafted in small batches and aged in new hand built heavily charred American Oak barrels. A selection of 5 to 10 year old whiskeys are chosen barrel by barrel and blended by hand before the DUKE Bourbon reaches the bottle, and ultimately, you.

Now, how is Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey? It’s spicy and smooth but with a kick. Would you expect any less from The Duke? I was pleasantly surprised not knowing what to expect. Ethan Wayne, John Wayne’s son, created this spirit using the notes, writings and spirits that had been saved from his dad’s past. It was always John Wayne’s dream to create his own whiskey.

The nose is spicy but soft. I get a lot of vanilla when I smell it, and I get the caramel I seem to smell with all the bourbons I taste. I guess I just love caramel! The taste gives those same flavors with a hint of smoke. The finish is medium and soft on the palette.

I know when it first came out it was a little scarce but I am seeing it in more stores. I would suggest this is a bottle to have on your Bar Cart for the classic look, and ode to John Wayne.

Age: 5-10 year Blend
Proof: 88
Color: Cinnamon
Aroma: Vanilla, caramel
Taste: Spicy, vanilla, smoke
Price: $29.99 at Hi Time Wine Cellars