My wonderful stepdaughter Chelsea found a bottle of Rock Hill Farms yesterday for me. I haven’t seen a bottle of this in years. This used to be a top shelf bourbon but it was pretty available, until say 2010. Since then, I haven’t seen it or even heard much about it. However, there is apparently a renewed interest in this bourbon, and in the Bourbonr Facebook group, Mark Howard posted the following meme, saying Rejoice, Behold The New King:
Since I got my bottle today, my stepson Jack photoshopped this for me:
And, Mark is right about the hype around this bourbon. There seems to be a lot lately, and possibly because some must have been just released. This is a forty to fifty dollar bottle of really good bourbon. Actually, great at that price point – one you buy to share with friends on a special or not so special occasion. The good stuff, as we call it.
However, I checked pricing on the internet, and apparently it is now being sold at 10 or 12 times that price. One interesting note – while this has never won World Whiskey of the Year or even Bourbon of the Year from Jim Murray, the two bottles he reviewed were at 95+, and he said this is one of the sexiest bourbons ever in his Whiskey Bible. Now, it is Jim Murray and he says and does some weird stuff every now and again, but many folks give his recommendations a lot of credibility, and I have to confess, I buy a Whiskey Bible every year and use it for reference. He definitely recommends this one and has for some time. So, this bourbon has some old hype, but is the new hype warranted?
So, Rock Hill Farms was released starting in 1990, based on the same mashbill as Blanton’s and Elmer T. Lee, but with barrels pulled from different warehouses and bottled at a higher proof, 100 proof. The bottle keeps with the Kentucky horse theme as Age International did with Blanton’s, and was another move by that distillery in the premiumization of bourbon.
From when I was able to regularly get bottles of this years ago, I remember this being a soft and velvety bourbon as far as the flavor profile. But, back then, I’ll be honest, I generally was taking top drawer bourbon with rocks and a little water – yes, it has been that long since I had a bottle of this.
In any event, you have to admit this is one of the prettiest bottles for bourbon from any producer.
This bourbon is a beautiful amber, with some slight mahogany flecks in it. Really gorgeous film and legs on the swirl. On the nose is very traditional bourbon, with vanilla, some fruitiness, a hint of oak. On the palate, allspice, vanilla, brown sugar, cherries, with a creamy mouthfeel. On the finish, rye spice and oak mingle with and then subdue the other flavors. I really can’t get over how creamy this bourbon is on the palate, and moreover how much the flavor is enhanced by chewing on it. This is one of those bourbons you just keep rolling over your palate and the wonderful flavors keep building. This bourbon has zero business in a cocktail, or with ice, or water.
Really a complex and nicely done bourbon that at the $40-50 price point is definitely worth buying a bottle. If you love Blanton’s and Elmer T. Lee, you will really love this bourbon. Even if you aren’t particularly fans of those, this bottle is still worth getting at retail.
I also have to say that the 100 proof being higher than Blanton’s or Elmer T. Lee (except for Blanton’s Gold which is just now becoming available in the U.S. and Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel, which is available only in export markets), really adds to the flavor of this particular mashbill. Other than warehouse location, the higher proof is probably the biggest contributor as to why this particular higher rye mashbill bourbon from Buffalo Trace is my favorite of the bourbons from that mashbill.
There are many bourbons that are now overhyped. This one is not one of them at a $40 to $50 price point, and I would certainly pay $60 or $70 for it, to be honest. It is definitely better than Blanton’s, but I think that was the intent all along when it was introduced thirty years ago in such an ornate bottle by that same distillery before the bourbon boom began.
And yet, my step-daughter paid less for this than I recently paid for a bottle of Blanton’s.