You may already know I love my Hirsch Selected Whiskeys and their associations with great distillates. The clear parallels to my love for Willett make this a pour I find myself reaching for often. This same mash bill as some of those yellow label single barrels carried in 2021 is back again, but this time it carries an extra finish. 30 year old Hine XO cognac barrels were used to age this bourbon. It comes in a bougie box that immediately makes any shelf look fancy if you're into that sort of thing. I normally throw out 99% of my boxes but this is one I am keeping. I'm actually using one as a shelf riser in my whiskey study as the normal Booker's boxes I use were too tall to be able to hold up the ultra-tall Midwinter Night's Dram.
I've had more than a few experiences with this bottle already if you can tell from the fill level. I've enjoyed sharing this one with friends already. It carries a slightly steep MSRP of around $180 if you can find it - most of my local stores only have a few if any on hand.
The Hirsch brand website describes this release, saying:
The Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is an exclusive HIRSCH release finished in 30-Year-Old Hine Cognac XO barrels, in Bardstown, Kentucky. It’s rich, complex, and a well-rounded whiskey. This expression was brought from a collaboration between HIRSCH Selected Whiskeys and Hine Cognac.
HINE COGNAC Internationally acclaimed for its blends, vintage and extra old cognacs, the 259-year-old cognac house takes pride in its unequalled collection of exceptional cognacs dating back to the 1800s. For us at HIRSCH, this is a unique collaboration with one of the most prestigious Cognac distilleries.
54 barrels of our 6-year-old bourbon were selected to finish in 30-year-old XO Hine Cognac casks for 18 months, adding subtle yet noticeable character of Cognac to our bourbon. This unique expression has a mash bill of 72% corn, 13% rye, 15% malted barley. On the nose, it offers notes of dusty cherry and charred citrus with a palate of over ripe stone fruit, fresh raisin, soft heat, and finishes dry yet flavors continue to develop.
Well, you might be wondering what the heck I think about it by now... So let's jump into that part.
Company on Label: Hirsch Distillers Bardstown Kentucky
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 72% Corn, 13% Rye, 15% Malted Barley - a well established mash bill
Age: 7 years (7.5 is listed on the back label, though per their website that appears to include finishing time which is not traditionally how age statements work)
Further identification: This red label Selected Whiskey from Hirsch comes in a book style box with a magnetic latch; it released for the first time in 2022 under the batch number AHH0722; the back label states the French Cognac casks used are 30 year old Hine XO barrels
Nose: On first raising the glass I find chocolate tones up front. Pear, apricot and tart cherry follow closely behind. Bright florals dance clearly on a deeper inhale. Citrus, cinnamon and funk rise up well - hallmarks of the Bardstown, KY distillate. Overall things are light as traditional notes of caramel and oak fill most of the glass. Butterscotch hides out in some of the softer corners. At times this glass really comes alive with the white lily tones bubbling up in a bubbly splash of champagne. Troves of oak begin to fill my nostrils as I envision the vintage oak blanket chest I have always dreamed of owning for some reason. Time to dive in on a sip!
Mmm. Creamy, delectable and complete upon returning my nose to the glass. It continues to be very dominantly oaky in a way that doesn't say overaged bourbon which clearly demonstrates to me that it is an interesting effect of the Cognac cask influence. Ginger, black pepper and allspice have crept in late becoming slightly too spicy for my nostril comfort level. Deep inhales near the bottom of the glass produce rich notes of leather, orange creamsicle and resinous, savory brown sugar. The empty glass smells of Pirouline wafer sticks again alongside powdered sugar and honeydew melon.
Palate: Goodness that is quite effervescent as your first sip of the day. Chocolate covered cherries, dates and plum all hit the palate first before a wave of cinnamon takes over. The mouth feel is thick and nutty like a caramel apple grape dessert. Another sip is hefty again with the chocolate tones; this time it is Pirouline crème filled wafers hitting my tongue. It's surprisingly delicate once you get over the first shocks - I think the sweet, oaky Cognac has done well to subdue what can traditionally be quite a spicy cinnamon bomb on the tongue. The finish has improved approachability at the cost of some uniqueness & familiarity. It does well in this particular blend in that regard. Sipping along further I find honey sweetness, cardamom, saffron and creamy port wine. Shaking things up more pungent earthy tones begin to fall on my palate alongside some tobacco notes. The fruit has turned into more dried fruit, though it still is apricot and plum forward. It sizzles and rises comfortably through the mouth with a long finish of honeydew melon, cantaloupe and thick, chewy caramel. As I sit with this glass a good long while, I keep finding new things to love. It's been wholeheartedly enjoyable to drink all the way through. My last sip is a simple treat of vanilla frosting, clear Cognac silky grapes, and star fruit. Yum.
I have been absolutely crushing this bottle. Those who are looking for the full-blown Willett funk will definitely find that the Cognac finish has modified things somewhat - I think it's actually for the better, though your mileage may vary. I like this better than I've liked a handful of purple top releases, though there are definitely examples that can usurp this too. This may have seemed on the shorter end of a review for me. I'm quite tired! Hopefully it's early to bed for me tonight after this tasty dram. Cheers!