The label on this squat bottle of bourbon looks like it was created before anyone in the market started caring about the contents of their bottles. It informs me that the liquid is from a single barrel, without giving a bottle number, barrel identifier, date, year, or even batch number. It also reveals that it is bottled at the very random 44.45% ABV and that it was distilled by Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Aaaaaand… that’s it. Straight Bourbon? Guess not. There isn’t even a whimsical story about Hancock’s secret recipe blah blah which is I suppose a bit of a blessing.
To the Internet! Hancock’s is made using Buffalo Trace’s Mashbill #2, which is high-ish-rye (12% or so rye, undisclosed) and which is best known as the mashbill for Blanton’s. Hancock’s President’s Reserve is named after Hancock Lee who cofounded Leesburg, Kentucky and who has no apparent historical tie to bourbon at all. Oddly, Buffalo Trace doesn’t acknowledge the existence of this product on their website, despite it regularly going out of stock at the few places that carry it. I was lucky to pick up a bottle for $45 before it sold out here, and I’ve seen it advertised for around $50. If you see it significantly higher than that – avoid it… the store is gouging because of its relative rarity.
Of course, as this is a single-barrel bourbon without any distinguishing marks on it, your next bottle could easily come from a different barrel altogether, and be altogether different. Where there’s risk, there’s reward! (Sometimes.)
Nose: Meltingly sumptuous fruit notes of mango sorbet, kiwi, and Red Delicious apples. Floral notes of honeysuckle and damnit-I-don’t-know-flowers-but-they’re-in-there. Clover honey, fresh hay, and a hint of marzipan. The aroma keeps evolving as I nose it. Now coconut cream pie, now plum wine, now pineapple juice. Wow.
Palate: Thin body. Mai Tai (high-end fruit punch, I guess?), fresh banana, and black tea precede a mild to moderate tongue burn. Which – I expected more! – doesn’t seem to evolve much on the tongue.
Finish: Long. Lemon verbena, tobacco leaf, slightly bitter barrel char, pencil shavings (oh God I sound like a wine snob), and corn pudding. The finish doesn’t evolve much, but it does definitely linger.
With Water: Several drops of water wake up some extra fruit notes of tropical persuasion. I dunno… passion fruit? The palate is a little livelier, the finish fruitier. I’d definitely recommend trying this with some water after a few sips neat.
Overall: Excellent. I didn’t know what it was at the time I tasted, but damn is it tasty. The aroma – especially – goes on for days and makes this some of the tightest-packed fruit-forward bourbon I’ve ever smelled. For $45 this is an experience that is not worth passing over. If you can find it and you already like bourbon, get it. It’s really not like anything else I’ve had, even from Buffalo Trace. If you can’t find it, don’t fret – another batch will be along eventually… just don’t pay $120 for it online. It’s not worth that.