Review: Hooten Young American Whiskey 12 Years Old

Review: Hooten Young American Whiskey 12 Years Old

Hooten Young is a new whiskey brand founded by Tim Young and former Special Operations officer Master Sgt. Norm Hooten who was famously part of the ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation. (Eric Bana played him in the movie.) But that’s in no way the most interesting thing about this brand because the whiskey in this bottle may be the most unusual American whiskey on the market right now.

That’s entirely by design according to Master Sommelier George Miliotes, who reportedly stumbled on the barrels when sourcing whiskey for the fledgling brand. For starters, the mashbill is a unique mix of 99% corn and 1% barley. Unlike typical American whiskey that is distilled to no more than 160 proof and barreled at no more than 125 proof, Hooten & Young was distilled to 189 proof, which is almost vodka territory, and it entered the barrel — a second-fill — at a whopping 140 proof. (Technically, this makes it a light whiskey.) After 12 years of aging, Miliotes describes it as a whiskey that is “relaxed and different and something new in today’s overcrowded whiskey market.”

On the nose, this one is indeed quite relaxed. Notes of soft vanilla bean, sweet oak, sawdust, and a bit of tinned pears form the core of an exceptionally gentle aroma. There’s a Demerara sugar component here, as well, that comes off almost like a lighter aged rum. Otherwise, the profile is rather in line with an Irish whiskey. That soft touch extends to the palate, which is nicely rounded and warming but light and a bit thin. There’s no real evolution of flavor here, either, as honey, baked apples, and split vanilla bean ride an easy wave into a lingering finish. Surprisingly, it’s at the very end where the barrel notes seem to peek out in the form of cocoa and cinnamon sugar. Simple and sweet, well-balanced and enjoyable, but it leaves me wanting just a bit more structure and depth of flavor.

92 proof.


Hooten Young American Whiskey 12 Years Old




Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.


  1. Charles Hooten on December 21, 2021 at 5:34 am

    I live this bourbon! I enjoyed it will seek it out again for a special occasion! Thank you!

  2. R. Brown on December 29, 2022 at 9:53 am

    I’ve tried both the 12 and 15 year versions of this bourbon while visiting Waco, Texas during an actual tasting. While the 15 IMO wasn’t too bad, I found the 12 not very palatable. Both were amazingly overpriced, but if people will pay I cannot fault them. Something to keep in mind, this is bourbon distilled by MGP. Hooten Young is not an actually distillery or even hold a real lineage of distillers. This is truly a upstart business off of their cigar brand upstart. Perhaps the cost is due to the fact you are paying Hooten Young as a middleman to get the actual product from MGP. A fair price for the 15 I feel should be around $50 with the $12 (even though I didn’t care for it) around $20-$20.

    • Marty O. on April 29, 2023 at 10:30 am

      Wow. Don’t like their bourbon; okay. As for the rest of the commentary; not so much…

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