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Henry McKenna

NAS 40% ABV Henry McKenna Bourbon From Heaven Hill

3 082

@VictorReview by @Victor

12th Jun 2017


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

This is a review of the 40% ABV No Age Statement Henry McKenna straight bourbon whiskey, distilled at Heaven Hill. Henry McKenna had been an Irishman who emigrated to the US in 1837, moved onward to Kentucky in 1838, and opened his own distillery in Fairfield Kentucky in 1855. The McKenna family ran the distillery from this time, with the exception of the war and prohibition period from 1918 to 1934, until 1941, when the distillery was sold to Seagram's. Heaven Hill bought first domestic, then international rights, to the brand in the 1980s and 1990s. Within the USA the Henry McKenna 10 yo Single Barrel Bottled In Bond product is more widespread and more well-known than is this younger, more generic batch whiskey. Because this is Straight Bourbon without an age statement it is assumed to be 4 years old. I have been drinking bourbon, off and on, for about 45 years, and this is the first time I have ever tasted, or even seen, the NAS Henry McKenna Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This bottle was very recently opened and is 95% full

Nose: very strongly and deliciously spicy of rye grain, with a very lovely half honey/half caramel sort of sweetness. Scent of very pure oak is noticeable and just at the proper complementary level for very good balance. You can smell just a hint of the char. General intensity of nose is very good for a 40% ABV whiskey. This is an unexpectedly well executed nose for an inexpensive batch product. Water added bundled the flavours, raised the pitch, and lessened the complexity. Score: 22.5/25

Taste: both char and caramel are much stronger in the mouth than they are in the nose. This is much less refined and much more boisterous in the mouth than in the nose. Robust char and caramel is not my favourite approach to bourbon, but this is one which will appeal to those who like those flavours aggressively displayed. Hickory wood is intense here too. Water added merely diluted the whiskey and brought out more char. Score: 20/25

Finish: more char, caramel, rye spice, and hickory wood. Aggressive finish, with bitterness from the char hanging on for a very long time. Water added continued the water-added palate, with no improvement. 19/25

Balance: very good in the nose, adequate in the mouth. The best way I can describe this Henry McKenna Straight Bourbon is that this is the kind of bourbon which is likely to be greatly enjoyed by those who very much like most batches of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey. Score: 19/25

Total Sequential Score: 80.5 points


Strength: very strong flavours, despite this being bottled at 40% ABV. Score: 24/25

Quality: the quality of the individual flavours is good to very good. Score: 21.5/25

Variety: adequate variety of flavours. Score: 21/25

Harmony: there is wonderful harmony of flavours in the nose, but the total effect of the flavours on the palate is only in the range of fair-to-good. Why? Too much char adds a lot of bitterness and dominates the other, better-tasting, flavours. Score: 17/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 83.5 points


Comment: the bottom line for me is 1) I love the nose, but 2) the level of the char in the mouth is too much for me to enjoy this a lot. This is an inexpensive bourbon (even in the UK) which has aggressive flavours, but is lacking refinement

82 points is a composite critic's score. For my own drinking preferences this one would rate more like 75 points. Why the disparity? Because heavy char is a characteristic which bothers me a lot more than it bothers many other people. Had the palate tasted like the nose smelled, this bourbon would have rated near 90 points for me

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