December 1, 2012

Black Maple Hill Straight Bourbon - An Elusive Beast

Wifey's Love Affair with Hooch
My love of whiskey began in college.  But it wasn't love at first sight.  I began my college years as a cheap beer devotee, and over time, went from slightly better beer, to vodka and cranberry, to white russians (made with skim milk.  seriously.), and eventually to just vodka on the rocks or something straight up.  The latter was nothing more than about getting the most bang for my buck by cutting out the middle man (i.e. a mixer) and just going straight for the payoff.  Hey, I was broke and in college - you can't blame me.  But I was on to something - I actually liked the taste of booze.  And so it began.

Bourbon Epiphany
I've had some personally revolutionary moments in drinking over the years.  The first time I tasted Lagavulin, for one (more on that later).  But after a while, it seemed like I had tried it all.  Until I had Black Maple Hill Bourbon.  This bourbon is really unlike anything I've ever had.  It is beyond smooth and rich, with kind of a sweet note - or as much as a bourbon could be sweet while still being bourbon.  Its taste is complex enough to appeal to the most seasoned of drinkers, but could even be a newbie's foray into the whiskey drinking world.  Honestly, it's awesomeness is kind of hard to explain, and is only realized with your first sip that will more than definitely turn into an obsession.

An Elusive Beast
The weird thing about Black Maple Hill is that it's unclear on how this bourbon is made and where it's sourced from.  While there seems to be a lot of confusion about this, and the details are hard to confirm, the story is that whiskey is sourced from a number of different distillers and aged in a variety of barrels to create it's distinct and unusual flavor.  And here's another catch: Black Maple Hill bourbon is not easy to come by.  It's made in small batches, and combined with the mystery behind its creation, make it incredibly alluring to the booze loving public.  So if you see this delicious brew in your local bar or liquor store, give it a try!  The bottles are getting more and more expensive to fetch online, but it's an experience that makes it worthwhile.

Secrets Exposed!!
Update: We dug up a full expose from David Driscoll of KLWines (who would know a thing or two about this if anyone would!)

The truth is that Black Maple Hill is neither a distillery nor a place of origin. It's an independent label owned by my friend Paul Joseph in San Carlos, down the road from our store...   Paul pays Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (Willett, Vintage 17, Pure Kentucky, Noah's Mill, Rowan's Creek, etc.) to make this blend for him and then he slaps the label on it.  So, in reality, Black Maple Hill is a Bourbon that's blended in Kentucky, but owned by a nice man on the San Francisco peninsula.
Perhaps the mystery is finally revealed.  Though this doesn't explain why it's so damn good and where we can find a case!

A Whole Other Level of Awesome
Now if you thought that the Black Maple Hill Small Batch was hard to find, there is a whole other level of unattainable awesomeness going on with BMH's vintage bottlings.  A few years ago it was possible to walk into a liquor store and buy a range of Black Maple Hill single barrel expressions.  They had a 16-Year Bourbon that was absolutely off the charts.  And they also had a 23-Year Rye that was seriously one of the best bottles we have ever tasted.  Those vintage bottlings are almost completely gone, so if you do see anything Black Maple Hill with a year on it (11,14,16,18,20,23) buy it immediately.  You won't be sorry.  We actually have been bumping into some of these vintage bottles in our interviews with private collectors, so stay tuned for some drool-inducing reviews of vintage BMH.