The Rare Bourbon project was one of the last projects I worked on while I was archivist at United Distillers. The Bourbon was bottled in December of 1996 just before I was laid off and I was happy to get a bottle of the Bourbon later after it hit the market. This bottle was actually a gift from Howard Stoops.
The Rare Bourbon collection was originally intended to be bottles of Bourbon from distilleries that no longer existed, but then marketing got a hold of the project and they became simply revived old labels. The whiskey for the Henry Clay was some Stitzel-Weller Bourbon made in 1980 and bottled at 16 years old. It is very good Bourbon and you will occasionally see a bottle at Jack Rose Dining Saloon or some other bar that sells pours from old bottles. Be prepared to pay a lot for a pour because there was a very limited supply of these bottles.
Today I am joined in my tasting by two of my future nephews-in-law Matt Kohorst and Peter Reinert. These two are fairly new to the Bourbon experience and want to learn more and I am happy to help them learn. They saw this bottle in my collection and wanted to taste it. I happily agreed.
Henry Clay Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Age 16 Years Old
- Mike: Crème Brule’, apples and fine old leather with a hint of baking spices. As it sits chocolate notes start to come out.
- Peter: Rich caramel and honeysuckle flowers.
- Matt: Werther’s Original candies, apples and honeysuckle flowers.
- Mike: Rich caramel, milk chocolate, ripe apples and a hint of nutmeg and oak. A dried cranberry brings out the apple and turns the spice to cinnamon. A pecan brings out some citrus notes and vanilla.
- Peter: Red apple and caramel. The cranberry took all of the taste out of the Bourbon except oak. The pecan brought out cinnamon.
- Matt: Sweet butter and Honeycrisp apple with baking spices – nutmeg and cinnamon. The cranberry brought out smoke and oak tannins. The pecan made it very oak forward with apples, cinnamon and cocoa.
- Mike: Very long, starts sweet but dries out with some smoky oak. The cranberry made the finish shorter and drier with lots of oak. The pecan also made the oak come forward.
- Peter: The finish was dry with oak and cinnamon. The cranberry enhanced the oak and lessened the cinnamon. The pecan made it very spicy with baking spices.
- Matt: The finish was dry with oak, leather and cocoa. The cranberry added a little leather and smoke. The pecan finish was oak, pepper and shoe polish.
I paired this with a My Father “The Judge” cigar. The smoke brought out the chocolate fudge flavors in the Bourbon while the Bourbon added nice vanilla and spice to the smoke. As an added bonus we tried this bourbon with some semi-sweet chocolate chips. We all found it paired very well with chocolate bringing out a lot of caramel flavors and a hint of sweet spices.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller
June 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm
Is this one of the best bourbons I’ll never taste😅
July 29, 2018 at 8:44 pm
If you are in D.C. you might be able to get a taste at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, but be prepared to pay a hefty price for a pour.
June 10, 2018 at 2:47 pm
This sounds incredible.
July 16, 2018 at 4:57 pm
It is an incredible bottle. I wish I had a couple more.
October 19, 2020 at 8:44 pm
As Creative Director at New York package design firm Gianninoto Associates, I am proud that our late 1990’s label package design for United Distiller’s Henry Clay & Joseph Finch Rare Boyrbons brand lives on as a cult collectible today. John A. DiGianni (me!) Was elated to direct creative design activities on this intriguing project. The richly intricate, layered pack design truly is congruent with the Rare Bourbons concept and brand positioning.di
October 21, 2020 at 3:52 pm
Thanks for the contribution to historical knowledge.
March 5, 2021 at 6:06 pm
Thanks for responding to the Rare Bourbons post commenting on Gianninoto Associates/New York’s Henry Clay & Joseph Finch package designs.
March 9, 2021 at 9:05 pm
You can buy a bottle of this in the Leland Little auction this week. It’s not cheap.