It’s been seven years since we visited with Old Hickory, an old, revived brand from Nashville’s R.S. Lipman that bottled various MGP whiskeys for a song. Now Old Hickory — Andrew Jackson, by the way — is moving upmarket with this, Hermitage Reserve, named in honor of Jackson’s estate near Nashville.
What’s in the bottle? MGP whiskey made from the unusual 99% corn, 1% malted barley mashbill, bottled at full proof after 10 years in barrel. According to the company, the majority of the whiskey is actually 13 years old. It’s not billed on the label as a bourbon, because at least some of the maturation is done in used barrels — 18 year old ex-bourbon barrels, to be specific. The company does its bottling in Silverton, Ohio.
It’s an odd duck of a whiskey, though not unappealing on the nose, offering a doughy, grainy quality that doesn’t exactly connote its high corn composition, perhaps because the high proof presentation ensures things are quite racy. Notes of black pepper and cedar offer an aggressive frontier quality, with a light dusting of barbecue smoke to add a more savory edge.
The palate is sharp and boozy, with a vanilla-heavy sweetness that coats the mouth like an oil slick. Notes of banana chips, burnt popcorn, and toasted hazelnuts don’t ever gain much traction, thanks largely to the heavy barrel char quality that dominates the experience and gnaws at the back of the throat like a cheese grater. There are moments where some of these elements work together and showcase a hint of something intriguing — and this is infinitely better and more balanced with a healthy dose of water — but either way the finish is much too sweet for my taste, almost saccharine.
Your mileage may vary.