I absolutely love finding some Willett distillate, especially when it's incognito. The Old Kirk sample is courtesy of @BarrelProofNerd and the Hirsch pick is a barrel select from Kappy's for the 1940 Barrel Society. I have no clue which I will like better as of yet as I haven't reviewed either of them previously. This should be an exciting match up!
Old Kirk Barrel # 6938
Company on Label: A.P. Hotaling & Co
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 72% Corn, 13% Rye and 15% Barley
Age: 6 years (9 months)
Further identification: This was the Frugal MacDoogal pick; Bottle 156 of 171.
Hirsch Selected Whiskeys Pick - Barrel KY-012
Company on Label: A.H. Hirsch (Bottled by Strong Spirits; Distilled in Bardstown, KY)
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 72% Corn, 13% Rye, 15% Malted Barley
Age: 7 years (9 months)
Further identification: Barrel No KY-012, Bottle 145 of 147, Barrel entry 62.5%, aged 7 years 9 months; Batch No on the neck is AHH0821.
Old Kirk Barrel # 6938 Review
Pre-Sip Nose: Musty and herbal forward on the first nosing. Distinct citrus. Something really funky going on here... I can't quite place it. Sharp clove note nestled deep into a thoroughly rich oak. Dark stone fruit feel trapped in the bottom of this glass - I have a feeling they will come out but this glass hasn't quite opened up just yet. Coming back to it I get the smell of wet woodchips that reminds me of my elementary school playground. My left nostril picks up faint smells of fall leaves, allspice, and tree bark - all of these things are incredibly muted still at this time. My right nostril picks up a lot of oak and something akin to wetland field full of cattail. Malty at times and rather uninviting and underwhelming on the early nose. Spicy pepper now with an aggressive swirl, suddenly quite intense in the ethanol department with only a faint citrus beginning to rise and poke through. Wow, this glass just completely awoke right before I was about to take a sip. Now there is a great leather note, molasses and smoky, dried cherries. There is still something almost like a skunked beer note that is lingering all throughout this glass that is making it hard to smell past it. Blood orange and cardboard now. I think it's time for a sip as this nose is just torturing me!
Palate: Immediately an intense medicinal cherry slides across my tongue. It's on the thinner side, but incredibly punchy. Cherry hots burn in a wave through my chest. That big spicy pop is something I normally like on a pour (i.e. Stagg Jr batch 14, older ECBP batches). Here it's mingled with a lot of black pepper, lemon zest, black tea, weathered oak, and clove. Subsequent sips build out the plum and raisin flavors. Later in the glass there's a solid caramel formed with some walnut dryness and malty, thick bread notes. My last sip is cherry forward with a short linger of molasses, pepper and oak. The mouth coating stays with you for quite some time but is mainly oaky in character.
Late nose: After a sip a synthetic strawberry and much more oak is apparent. Oh, a lovely transition to a smooth marshmallow now. What an incredibly fickle pour! Lovely sweet perfume scent now with Spring flowers just coming into bloom. There's the slightly sweeter, good-enough-to-drink Pinesol note now finally as well. Coming back to this there's something that reminds me of an arts and crafts bin - maybe it's crayons or paint, but it's there. Such a strange experience through and through with this one. There's definitely not anything really bad going on with this pour, but I do feel like the matchup is what is not letting this pour shine. Before the last sip of this glass things are still quite mellow in the aroma intensity, but there is some faint molasses and vanilla. The empty glass smells of barbecue rub, charcoal, cherry pits, and a compost pile.
Hirsch Barrel KY-012 Review
Pre-Sip Nose: Incredible creamy marshmallow up front. Syrupy cherry juice. Crème brûlée. Oh my this smells absolutely delicious. Incredibly rich vanilla and toffee forward profile that is unbelievably smooth in the nose. On deeper pulls from my left nostril I find rich cherry, plum and dark chocolate. The right nostril is higher flying butter, caramel and level oak. The creaminess continues to dominate with caramel and that unique Willett Pinesol note I would recognize absolutely anywhere. Chocolate dipped oranges smell delicious here. Mmm, the oak presents quite seasoned here. Like 3 year old split wood ready to go into the cast iron wood stove. There's a bit of ashy lingering smoke in the depths. Always prevalent throughout the glass is that marshmallow and citrus/cherry combination.
Palate: My first sip was a large one which was surprisingly manageable. Rich orange peel, vanilla ice cream, a thick coating of caramel and a chocolate drizzle on the linger. Taking a sip of this takes you on a journey; it makes your mind wander and your tongue sing. Lovely depths of dark chocolate, earl gray tea, honey, and lemon. Fuck, that's good. Like really fucking good. Cherry is definitely still one of the dominant flavors on this, with a small chest hug for 135.3 proof. There is a slight nuttiness to the linger, which is incredibly long. Prunes, raisin and a slightly drying blackberry now. The tingly effervescences tingles my gums thoroughly. I love a pour that shimmers like this. It's like when light sparkles off a body of water under a bright moonlight; there's just something magical about it. Nearing the bottom of the glass this continues to have a lovely citrus medley alongside syrupy stone fruit. They balance each other quite well here. The last sip is bittersweet, but this review has taken a ridiculous amount of my time tonight as I have savored and explored both of these pours. Awesome intensity with some zesty stings on both sides of my tongues as the citrus Pinesol note waves over my tongue in incredible intensity. This is one of those shock and awe pours. It has certainly left me amazed and humbled. Honey, tangerine marmalade, a hint of tobacco, and cinnamon are a perfect send off to this pour.
Late Nose: Smoky now, with honey sweetness coating the edges of the glass. The Pinesol note has subdued in citrus intensity and started to favor a more savory caramel, pepper and ground cherries. Butterscotch and that beautiful, beautiful marshmallow note returns again. Back to citrus. Kind of a 'bouncy' aroma experience, but it is going between all great notes. Trending towards some more earthy tones now, I'm getting topsoil, sawdust and something like a thick comforter. Kahlua coffee liqueur is very creamy coming back to this from the Old Kirk. Fun aromas through and through that are both comfortable and exciting. The empty glass smells of dry wheat grain, honey, match tips, balsam wood, vanilla and a light ash.
Final Ranking: Hirsch KY-012 > Old Kirk Barrel # 6938 by a long shot; this one may make a few more appearances in the future