Joseph Magnus Bourbon review
Joseph Magnus Bourbon
Distillery: Joseph Magnus (probably sourced from MGP)
Type & Region: Bourbon, USA
Aged: Rumored to be 9 years old. Finished in oloroso sherry, Pedro Jimenez sherry, and cognac casks
Price: $80-100 ($12 for this 100mL bottle)
From the Joseph Magnus website:
“A marriage of straight bourbon whiskey aged in white oak barrels and finished in Oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and cognac casks.”
Joseph Magnus Bourbon overview
Joseph Magnus is a DC-based distillery best known for their Joseph Magnus Bourbon, the focus of this review. To cut to the chase, Joseph Magnus Bourbon is a 100 proof bourbon (probably sourced from MGP) and finished in oloroso sherry, Pedro Jimenez sherry, and cognac casks. While I know nothing about the lengths of the finishes or the percentage of the blend from each type of finish, I do know a little something about what the finishes themselves may bring to the bourbon.
Oloroso and Pedro Jimenez sherries are both intensely sweet fortified wines (the oloroso is a little less sweet) that often provide dark and dense grape, prune, honey, nutty, and sometimes savory and funky aged cheese characteristics. This is because the
grapes are initially sun dried to concentrate the sugars before being turned into wine and barrel aged for a number of years, with exposure to the air inside the barrel creating some of that savory and wacky funk. I’m not as well versed in cognac, but I do know that Armangac, a similar French grape spirit, can provide a lot of dark fruit, dried citrus, candied fruits, spiced ginger, and oak notes.
With that brief lesson in mind, let’s learn more about the whiskey itself in this Joseph Magnus Bourbon review.
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Joseph Magnus Bourbon smell
Joseph Magnus Bourbon quickly shows off obvious layers of dates, dried grapes, dark chocolate, the “rancio” aged cheese note, toasted walnuts, calvados-like super ripe apples and peach, honey, ripe orange, vanilla, and toasted cinnamon. Lest I forget, it’s all wrapped-up in an oaky and mature blanket.
It’s a long list, but the main takeaway is that the finishes add a lot of dark and ripe fruitiness plus a savory funk note that you don’t get in unfinished bourbon, making it very interesting (for me at least). The heat is a little stronger than I expect from 50%, but it’s not a problem. Having had Cigar Blend Batch 13 before Joseph Magnus bourbon, I can already smell the resemblance.
Swirling kicks-up the heat, definitely more than I expected. Still, I smell sweet funk from the lightly roasted caramel, prunes, densely sweet dried grapes, walnuts, vanilla, apple, pear, and this ever-present marshmallow scent. As dark as it is, it’s primarily driven by the dark fruit and sweetness from the finishes, but there still is some caramel, old wood, and lightly toasted cinnamon from the base bourbon. The brandy and cognac finishes are clearly influential and add a ton of welcome character.
You can argue whether finishing should be allowed in bourbon, but I’m honestly all for it.
Joseph Magnus Bourbon taste & aftertaste
Joseph Magnus Bourbon’s flavors aren’t all that different from the scents. I first get the aged brandy funky “rancio” sweetness of honey, ripe grapes, dates, vanilla, and apple. Oak has a bigger presence with toasted notes and cinnamon, and much less heat than there is on the nose.
“Chewing” gives me more of the rich and dense funky dried grape, prune, and caramel sweetness followed up with honey, vanilla, cinnamon, apple, milk chocolate, and mint. Milk chocolate is more pronounced this time as well, and underlying oak and cinnamon spice with a slight grassiness also make their way throughout the flavors.
To clarify the “funk” I keep mentioning, it manifests itself as an aged gouda cheese that adds savory “umami” components to the flavors. The finishes are very prominent and add extra layers of flavor that make Joseph Magnus Bourbon delicious.
That sweetness and funk continue into the finish from the sherry and cognac finishes, as well as honey, oak tannin, and vanilla that fade into apple, mint, and oak after a few minutes. Even after “chewing” the finish is still similar to before. It’s a very fruity finish with complementary oak dryness; and again, mint shows up after a minute, ending on an herbal and oaky note. Even at “just” 100 proof, Joseph Magnus Bourbon has so many flavors to find.
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Joseph Magnus Bourbon Rating
Continuing on my finished bourbon kick, I am glad to say that I really enjoy Joseph Magnus Bourbon. I’m a little biased though because I love sherry finishes / aging in general. I can really smell and taste the strong sherry and cognac influences in the various forward dark fruits, aged cheese-like “rancio” funk, and slightly stronger apple and peach that I don’t find as much in unfinished MGP bourbons (e.g., Remus Repeal Series 3). Put together, Joseph Magnus bourbon is fragrant and delicious, making me a happy drinker, but I am aware that not everyone likes these types of finishes.
As much as I enjoy all the many interesting layers, it still sometimes feels a little straightforward, very much like District Distilling’s Untitled No. 13 (also finished in sherry and brandy). There are a lot of great notes, but I always feel that there’s something missing.
It’s like listening to well-made 3.1 sound system (3 speakers and 1 subwoofer) but still yearning for the full IMAX experience. This isn’t so much a knock on the bourbon itself as it is me being spoiled by Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend’s added older bourbon and armangac finish that add even more dimensions.
Before I get too off track, Joseph Magnus Bourbon is certainly something worth buying if you are looking for a sherry and/or cognac finished bourbon, or even just something delicious to drink. It’s not cheap at $80-100, but if you are willing to splurge, this is one worthy of the price.
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I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.
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