Denis Lynch – Vine & Table Spirits Buyer– We are always on the hunt for great whiskey and the opportunity to bring exceptional barrels of well-matured bourbon to our customers is a primary focus for us. So when the opportunity presented itself to pick a barrel from the Joseph A. Magnus Distillery in Washington D.C., we jumped at it. Nancy ‘The Nose’ Fraley is the Master Blender who oversees the production of Magnus’s award-winning bourbons, so we knew we were in good hands when she sent a flight of sample barrels for us to taste. It was not an easy choice to make as there were some real gems within the selection, but in the end we opted for barrel no. 1109.
This barrel was filled in May of 2006 and the extended aging regimen has meant that the bourbon has had plenty of time to develop. One could be forgiven for thinking that this is an old Armagnac brandy, where mature oak and chocolate-covered Michigan cherries emanate from the glass along with notes of caramel, coffee, bitter dark chocolate, and cinnamon. The palate is rich and intense at first but then develops notes of tobacco, caramel, and forest fruits. The finish is gently warming, long, and spicy with notes of caramel, tobacco, and cinnamon bringing up the rear. For those who want a whiskey with a little less intensity (it’s 100.4 Proof) then I suggest a few drops of water, which really opens up this beauty, making for a soft and velvety sipper while bringing attention to sweet notes of butterscotch and crème brulee.
This is a fascinating bourbon that develops with each passing minute in the glass, to reveal new flavors and aromas and is a lesson in patience. It’s had almost 13 years in wood to tame the fiery new make spirit, and giving it time in your glass to truly express itself will give you hours of enjoyment!
Dave Helt – Vine & Table Spirits Buyer –In the whisky business there are few words as important as development. Minor variations in wood grain and char patterns can turn two barrels sitting side by side into completely different whiskies. Temperature variation and wind patterns mean the same recipe can develop completely differently from year to year. This is what makes a single barrel pick such an art. How do you find the perfect gem among rack after rack of barrels that expresses everything the whisky can be? I’d like to believe that this is an art at which Vine & Table excels.
Then again, there is a completely different sort of development that proves almost as important to your enjoyment. How does the whisky develop in the glass? Do new aromas and flavors arise as the whisky interacts with the air? Does the initial sharpness of fine spirit burn off to reveal an incredibly complex and mellow pour? Will the whisky I enjoyed on the first pour be as pleasing several minutes later, or even more so? It is in honor of both of these concepts of development that Vine & Table is pleased to present our first-ever barrel pick from Joseph Magnus.
When first poured the aromas of saltwater taffy and citrus dominate the nose. As the spirit settles the drinker will note the addition of strawberry shortcake, allspice, and leather, producing a highly complex and yet perfectly balanced nose. The flavor follows suit as every sip brings new flavor profiles to the palate. At various points I experienced spiced apple, crème brulee, cloved orange, and shortbread straight from the oven. This is a bourbon that deserves to be contemplated, savored, and most importantly bought.