The finish is the star of the dram. Incredibly long and bold, full of sweet and spice.
The nose comes up a bit short, lacking the boldness and complexity of the palate and finish.
Joseph A. Magnus is a young distillery with some old history. They are located in Washington DC’s distillery and brewing district, Ivy City, which is next to Union Market. There are the typical tours and tastings, but the distillery also offers an interesting “Dream Distiller Experience” which also pushes forth their craft inspirations.
The older history is based on the great-grandfather, the namesake Joseph A. Magnus, of one of the founders, Jimmy Turner. Turner found an old bottle of bourbon while cleaning out his parents’ home. While he knew that Magnus was a distiller, there was little proof until that day, a bottle passed down through the generations.
While learning more about his great-grandfather, he found some interesting clues. Magnus lived in Cincinnati and had some success as a distller, blender and rectifier (someone who acquires spirits and then puts their own mark on them). At one time, Magnus had over 20 brands, the most famous known as Murray Hill Club. Turner assembled a team to help with the research and they went on a search to find barrels of bourbon with the same flavor profile. The bourbon came from the MGP distillery in Indiana, which was the original site for the Rossville Union Distillery located only 26 miles from where Magnus lived.
Based on the taste of the original Magnus bourbon, they found it likely that it had been aged in sherry casks. Further proof of this was found in some old advertisements for sherry casks Magnus tried to sell when shutting down his distillery. This leads us to the standard Joseph Magnus bourbon that is also finished is sherry casks.
The bourbon under review today has no sherry cask finish, and is not a standard release Magnus. Instead, this is a single barrel chosen by our founders Bill Varnell and Chad Cadden from the stock at the Joseph Magnus Distillery in Washington, and bottled to their specifications – unfinished, uncut, and unfiltered. The barrel that they chose was just over 12 years old.
- Distilled in Indiana by MGP, bottled by Joseph A Magnus & Co.
- 12 Years old
- Unknown bourbon mash bill
- Bottled at full barrel proof 56.86% ABV (113.7 proof)
- Non-chill filtered
Nose: Mature seasoned oak lead the way on the aroma, but it is pleasant and not overpowering. Tobacco, caramel, and cinnamon round things out. At full barrel proof, there’s a fair amount of ethanol burn, but it is not detracting from the overall experience. With a touch of water added, some black licorice starts to dance around the edges of the aroma.
Palate: Rich. Caramel and tobacco dominate the arrival, before cherries, cinnamon, and butterscotch start to develop.
Finish: Fairly warm – surprising, given the relative lack of warmth on the nose and palate. It’s worth noting that this alcohol warmth is largely diminished with a few drops of water. The finish is long and lingering, full of tobacco and dark cherries. Sweet and spicy cinnamon, butterscotch, and just a touch of milk chocolate round things out.
Buying Recommendation: Must Try! Of course, being a private barrel pick, the exact same bottle will be a bit difficult to get a hold of, but my recommendation holds true for any non-sherry finished barrel proof Joseph Magnus bourbon. If you know anyone that has some, definitely try to get a sample. While it has some of the traditional bourbon flavors of oak and caramel, overall it’s got a unique flavor profile. Interestingly, a little water does not change much except limit some of the heat, but letting an ice cube melt really opens this up. (Ah! Ice! Sacrilege!) Chilling the pour definitely helps with the heat. Interestingly, a traditional Glencairn does not do any favors to this dram. Using a bigger glass like a Canadian Glencairn really allows everything to breathe more and really enhances the flavors. This is a great pour, but its retail price does it no favors. At $95, this is a bit expensive, but at $70 this would be a very good value in line with other similar barrel proof bourbons. It is a bourbon most comparable to the likes of Booker’s and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.