Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 review

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club special release batch 3

Distillery: Joseph Magnus (completely sourced from undisclosed distilleries)

Type & Region: Blended Bourbon, USA

Alcohol: 55.5%

Composition: Unknown

Aged: 12 years in virgin American white oak

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $180-200 MSRP

From the Joseph Magnus website:

“Batch #3 was finished in malt and cider casks, which means the 10 to 20-year-old bourbons have an abundance of single malt barley notes as well as apple aromas, skin tannis, and residual yeast from the original cider fills.”

 

Company Website

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 overview

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3, the third Murray Hill Club limited release. Since this is an extension of the standard Murray Hill Club, one of the main differences between this and Joseph Magnus Bourbon is that Murray Hill Club blends light whiskey (due to distillation to a higher proof than allowed for bourbon) with bourbon, making it a blended bourbon, while Joseph Magnus Bourbon is 100% bourbon. 

 

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 takes the standard Murray Hill Club to the next level with older whiskeys and finishing. Nancy Fraley kindly informed me that the Special Release is made by blending 2 barrels of 15 year old light whiskey with 10 barrels of 12 to 20 year old bourbon. That blend is then finished for 8 months in Virginia Distillery Company malt whiskey barrels that first held apple cider from Potter’s Craft Cider and Buskey Cider (finishing details courtesy of The Whiskey Wash). There’s a big focus on Virginia here, a big shift from batch 2 finishing in Pineau des Charentes – a French fortified wine. Let’s find out if all this old whiskey, unique finishing, and alchemy create an exceptional bourbon in this Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 review.

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 smell

Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 hits me with a mix of dark caramel, oak, a dark ripe apple and peach Calvados note similar to what’s in One Eight Untitled No. 9 Antoinette Single Barrel, vanilla, cinnamon, and this bright fruit and alcohol note. While I’m not that familiar with apple cider malt finishes, I do have some experience with Calvados, a French apple or pear brandy. There’s this winter-y note that I’ve also found in grape brandy that’s part eucalyptus, part pine, and part cold blast of air, as well as this ominous underlying darkness that’s part roasted oak, part cocoa, and part fire-roasted marshmallow. There are a lot of components to this nose. Speaking of the 110 proof, now that I’m halfway through the bottle and let the glass air out for 30 minutes, the heat is subdued and stays out of the way. It takes a while for it to open-up, so you have to be patient if you can because it was quite hot out of the freshly opened bottle.

 

The nose picks up after swirling with roasted caramel, grilled apples and pears, musty burnt oak, and clove. The apple cider malt whiskey finish is clearly present but moderate as best, with the cider outshining the malt. It’s still far from the intense armagnac notes from Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend that are just exceptional. When I think of malt whiskey (usually Scotch), I usually expect to find some chocoately notes from the roasted barley, but they’re absent here. Then again, Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 still smells great and has this thickness to it that I appreciate.

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3 taste & aftertaste

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Special Release Batch 3 starts off with honey, vanilla, oak, cinnamon, and that super ripe apple and funky buttercream that probably come from both the cider and malt. The flavors are rich and have some bite from the 110 proof.

 

After “chewing” I taste honey and apple sweetness with vanilla, more apple, pear, peach, oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, and heat. The oak definitely has a presence, but it’s really not all that roasted or oaky, which feels kind of strange since I’d expect it to have a more noticeable presence. Ripe apples come through more now with a little citrus. The cider manifests itself as a funky ripe apple and vanilla buttercream that I always associate with fruit finishes such as sherry, Armangac, or Calvados. The malt-specific notes are tough to find, but the apple notes are definitely there. The heat also isn’t bad at all for 110 proof. While the flavors and mouthfeel are wonderful and full all around, indicative of a very mature whiskey, there really aren’t that many varied notes in this Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Special Release Batch 3. It’s actually kind of one-dimensional, which is disappointing.

 

The finish starts with honey, apple slices, sugar coated dried mangoes, oak tannin, cinnamon, and mint. The fruitiness takes over in the finish with noticeable fruit peel and ends with a long-lasting dried peach. After “chewing”, there again is honey, apple, and peach fruit sweetness up front with accompanying oak, cinnamon and mint. Pear, peach, and mint with a light roastedness linger around for a while.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Top Shelf

First off, Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch Three is fantastic. It’s great from beginning to end with awesome honey and fruit notes, and an underlying brooding oak and spice for strong background, very much a “Top Shelf” bourbon. The fruit notes are clearly there and pleasant, led by ripe apples and peach that linger for ages on the finish in ways that are more cider than bourbon. The heat also is generally well controlled, at least after a few weeks of breathing in the bottle and 30 minutes in the glass. It’s clear that a lot of time and care was taken into making Murray Hill Club Batch 3 because it’s delicious.

 

Still, I’m disappointed with Batch 3 because it lacks that wow factor, influenced by my unreasonably high expectations from Cigar Blend and my reasonable expectations for a $180-200 Joseph Magnus special release. The base blend of whiskeys are great, but the finish doesn’t do enough to make it special. Virginia Distillery Company whiskey is young, so the much older Murray Hill Club whiskey just overpowers it. The cider part on the other hand has enough brightness and fruitiness to complement the darker blended bourbon, but it’s still too much of a bystander. The finish should have been longer to give the cider cask more time to do its work, not outrageous when Bardstown Bourbon Company is doing 18-20 month long finishes – for example the Chateau de Laubade Armagnac Finish. As critical as I sound, Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Special Release Batch 3 is worth trying if you have the chance and the means. That said, don’t fret too much if you can’t get this because it’s not a must have.

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