For more on Hirsch and why the name might be confusing to bourbon aficionados of old, see my review of their Small Batch release.
This one, “The Horizon”, is meant to be a no-age-statement (sort of, see below) blend of MGP bourbons that anchors the bottom of Hirsch’s newly redesigned (in 2020) range. Currently the range is just Horizon and a Single-Barrel release, but no doubt the company has plans to add to that. There’s some marketing nonsense about looking forward to the horizon that I’ll just skip over and get to the only important thing: The back of the label and the website actually list the components! Good on Hirsch for the transparency, although they still could be a little more upfront about the source of their bourbon (MGP).
The Horizon is a blend of straight bourbons, mostly (94%) 4 year and 11 month-old bourbon with a mash bill of 21% rye, 75% corn, and 4% malted barley, plus a bare 6% of 6 year and 8 month-old bourbon with a mash bill of 36% rye, 60% corn, and 4% malted barley. The barley is in there to provide enzymes that kickstart fermentation. I’m not sure whether the difference between these two parcels of bourbon is enough to warrant such a skewed blend. Does 6% of a slightly different bourbon really make that big of an impact? Who knows, I’m not a blender. I do appreciate the information, though.
The bourbon is bottled at 46% ABV. Judging by the label, the parent company Hotaling & Co. is now bottling the Hirsch line in Bardstown, Kentucky instead of Ohio. So, now it’s a California company bottling an Indiana bourbon in Kentucky.
Nose: Opens with a HUGE note of black licorice candies, shoe polish, butterscotch, and fresh leather. After a rest in the glass, this settles into bubblegum, lavender, anise / cardamom, and robust oak. In short, spicy and herbal.
Palate: Syrupy body. The palate is pretty closely in line with the aroma notes, plus tart cherry, cranberry sauce, and cinnamon red-hots. Sweeter than expected, but not cloying.
Finish: Medium length. Remains sweet, with a touch of that licorice sneaking back in. Slightly bitter barrel char, tobacco, and assorted spice cabinet notes. Fades without evolving.
With Water: A few drops of water open up more of the bubblegum / fruit punch notes that I associate with cheaper corn whiskies. The water does make the palate more tart, which balances the sweetness nicely. This carries through the finish. If you’re finding your glass a little dull, try some water.
Overall: A very spice-forward bourbon with many hallmarks of rye-recipe whiskies. The black licorice upfront is a little overwhelming, but luckily it disperses into a more pleasant array of notes. No off-notes, and a nice balance of flavors. A bit more age would have deepened those oaky sugar notes like butterscotch and lessened some of the weird spiky herbal characteristics. Still, worth the price of admission and I wouldn’t turn down a pour.
Really, it’s a solid effort for the NAS expression at the bottom of a range. The price is a little elevated, clearly trying to compete with craft bourbons instead of established mass-market ones, but these days $35 isn’t overpriced for a bourbon anymore, so I guess it’s correctly priced.