Since my fascination with bourbon started a couple years ago a lot of developments in the industry have popped up around me here in Washington, D.C. Specifically, a new crop of craft whiskey distillers have launched in the District, and as the popularity of bourbon has grown, so too has the local supply. One of D.C.'s own, Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distillery, which opened in 2015, has already earned high praise from the spirits world with it's sherry- and cognac-finished bourbon, winning the Double Gold medal and was named the Best Special Barrel-Finished Bourbon at the 2016 San Fransisco World Spirits competition.
The nine-year-old bourbon is an MGP/LDI-sourced whiskey aged in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso Sherry and Cognac casks before being carefully blended together, recreating the style of the original Jos. A. Magnus Bourbon of the late 1800’s. The story about how the contemporary Joseph Magnus bourbon came to be is actually quite remarkable, starting with a 100-plus-year-old heirloom bottle of bourbon that was procured, tasted, and researched by the family and a handful of bourbon industry experts.
Nancy Fraley is a professional “nose” who is the owner of Nosing Services out of Berkeley, California. She is an international and domestic consultant for both major industry and craft distillers for quality assessment and custom blending. She is also the director of research for the American Distilling Institute, creator of the American Craft Whiskey Aroma Wheel, and a teacher of classes on Olfactory and Sensory Analysis for Craft Distillers. Fraley has a Master’s Degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism from Harvard University and is a graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law, with a concentration in International Human Rights.
Tasting Notes: Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon
Vitals: The base of this whiskey supposed to resemble the old bottle found by Turner in the closet. From there, a triple-cask finished spirit was created via “a marriage of bourbon aged in white oak and finished in Oloroso Sherry, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, and Cognac casks.” It’s 100 proof and costs about $80.
Color: Shiny bronze, amber, dark roasted wheat, Chex mix.
Nose: Citrus, chocolate-dipped oranges, paint thinner, hot asphalt.
Palate: The orange on the nose comes through on the palate, bright yet smooth. I definitely taste the cognac finish. Normally I’m not a fan of cognac—I find it a little harsh—but this isn’t at all discordant. A non-smoky caramel char emerges, then finishes warm and toasty. Definitely warming like a higher-proof whiskey should be, but it tastes like lower proof. A compliment.
Tasting Notes: Murray Hill Club Bourbon
Vitals: This came out in July 2016, and is a blended bourbon made from whiskeys ranging in age from nine to 18 years. More specifically, 11-year-old bourbon makes up the majority of the blend, followed with an 18-year-old bourbon and a nine-year-old light whiskey. It’s 102 proof and a bottle costs about $80.
Color: Toad-in-a-hole toast.
Nose: Caramel popcorn, blueberries, currants, hot chocolate with a bruleed marshmallow on top of it, oil paint, pine cones.
Palate: The nose is sweet, but on the palate this has a savory, tingly, spicy quality. Although it’s a bourbon, it reminds me more of a rye. Black pepper. Vanilla. This is more alcohol-forward than the Magnus. Longer flavor profile, tip of my tongue and lips burn a touch.