Bourbon: Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve, 92 Proof
Distillery: Who knows? It’s sourced. When it comes to Hirsch, Anchor Distilling Company is a Non-Distiller Producer (“NDP”). And Anchor isn’t telling. (Style points deduction.)
Smooth and subtle.
Balanced vanilla, cinnamon and caramel.
Medium and very pleasant, but not complex.
The older offerings with a Hirsch label – the real thing labeled “A.H. Hirsch” and which you can’t find or afford – get all of the attention. And so far as I can tell, when the Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve does get attention, it has ranged from lukewarm to outright pummeling, with the notable exception being the recent review from my friends at Fork & Stave (which gave it a 3 out of 5; read it at http://www.forkandstave.com/hirsch-small-batch-reserve-bourbon-review/).
No doubt the Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve can’t hold a candle to the fabled A.H. Hirsch 16-year and older releases that I’ve only read about. It’s simply not the same bourbon that was distilled in the spring of 1974 at the Pennco Distillery in Schaefferstown, PA by Adolph Hirsch, a former Schenley executive.
Many of the reviews that I’ve read on Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve criticize it for not being up to par with the older genuine A.H. Hirsch bourbons. But what is? And should anyone really expect it to be when Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve sells for about $35.00, compared to the reported astronomical prices for whatever is left of the A.H. Hirsch? I can’t compare it to the A.H. Hirsch bourbon, so hopefully my clean slate helps.
Or maybe Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve is criticized because it’s from a NDP which happens to own a famous name brand, and is trying to make a buck from heritage that it doesn’t really have. Fair enough. (And see http://sippncorn.blogspot.com/2013/09/one-hundred-years-ago-secret-sourcing.html for how the courts might have looked at this 100 years ago.) But as many others have proven, sourced bourbon can be awesome.
When you look at Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve against its price-range peers, it’s a top-contender. It also, somewhat to my surprise, was the unanimous favorite in the very first Sipp’n Corn blind tasting event when paired with Four Roses Small Batch and Maker’s Mark, and it tied with Four Roses Single Barrel in the second blind tasting event.
Overall, Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve really strikes me as a beginner’s bourbon. Maybe that’s what some aficionados really find offensive about it. It’s smooth, very drinkable, and not overly complex. There are plenty of other less expensive bourbons that new bourbon fans should try (like Maker’s Mark, Four Roses “Yellow Label” and the terrific W.L. Weller 12-Year, just to name a few), but Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve is also a fine place to start, and it’s great to keep in your home bar for a relaxing drink or for friends who don’t consider themselves bourbon fans (yet).
Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale: 3.5
The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Wouldn’t even accept a free drink of it.
2 – Would gladly drink it if someone else was buying.
3 – Glad to include this in my bar.
4 – Excellent bourbon. Worth the price and I’m sure to always have it in my bar.
5 – Wow. I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.