These two estimable bourbons are the same dark mahogany color. Their noses are quite complex and do not betray their 96 and 91.6 proof. In fact, the noses are pretty subtle, by which I mean that no aroma blasts its way from the glass, but takes its time in emerging. There is no denying the oak, it will have its say in both, along with the prominent leather traces. The BMH has a bit more sweetness to offer (courtesy of the wheat recipe?) and the AHH grants the slight sharpness of rye. BMH also remains true to its name and discloses some nice traces of maple. Ever present is the oak, the oak, the oak.
AHH is dry and oaky to the taste, with mild sweetness. It tastes, and is, mature whiskey, with no predominating flavors, but all the flavors working out a complex and enigmatic melody. It is superbly sophisticated, self-assured, and sensuous. Its dark chocolate sweetness hums softly in the background and its spice never assaults, choosing instead to create a warming glow in the mouth.
BMH is also dry and oaky to the taste, but with more upfront and deeper sweetness. Its spice is quite subdued and fades quickly. It has some dark, ripe, cherries and a somewhat meaty kick to give it a more colorful palate. Like the AHH, I find a wee skosh of chocolate playing about in the background.
A little experiment is in order here. Since I find a penny's worth of chocolate in both these bourbons, I am going to have a taste of 85% chocolate and see how that affects the taste.
First a bite of chocolate, then the BMH. Since both are so 'dry' to begin with, there seems little direct influence between them, If anything the mouth feel is even drier and the introdcution of dark (very dark) chocolate probably improves neither. Since the chocolate is 85% and somewhat bitter itself this should not really be surprising.
First a bite of chocolate, then the AHH. Yes, well, a very similiar experience. I would call this a failed experiment, so I will try some semi-sweet chocolate, about three times as sweet as the 85% chocolate.
First some semi-sweet chocolate, then some BMH. Ah, new flavors fairly explode.......caramel, maple syrup, coffee, toffee, taffy, licorice, and the spice holds its own past mid-palate.
First some semi-sweet chololate, then some AHH. The Hirsch is not as affected by the chocolate as was the BMH, but there is some toffee, some coffee, and a wee bit of caramel. The spice in the AHH retains its vigor but tastes a bit more like strong, but sweetened, coffee.
I suspect that neither these bourbons, nor this post will be of much interest to many (if not most) BE folks. I can understand that stance. BMH and AHH are probably best viewed as specialty bourbons. Their qualities are not ones that are appreciated by everyone in the same way that say, raw oysters, are not appreciated by everyone. That they are way overpriced only contributes to the increased lack of interest in them for many ligetimate bourbon enthusiasts.
While I still consider them superb (if barely bourbon) whiskies, I understand better than ever before why many true bourbon lovers are not so enamored of them. In all honesty, they can lay no claim to being the 'best' bourbons, but they can lay claim to be very unique bourbons.
Ultra-aged, they have qualities all their own. Qualities that I enjoy. They are dry, subtle, sometimes almost delicate, closer to Cognac (my opinion), but these particular 'old' bourbons are not to the point of being so tannic that they are bitter.
Let us be clear here. Whether one prefers a sweet bourbon, a spicy bourbon, a delicate bourbon, a young bourbon, a rye whiskey, a Canadian whiskey, an Irish whiskey, a Scotch whisky...........or an 'old' bourbon never speaks to the quality or astuteness of the person drinking them or to her/his palate.
Where I think it is perfectly legitimate to place a stake in the sand is that the person under consideration has tasted and experienced all these various types of whiskey before throwing out a 'global' opinion on whiskey. To be an amatuer in whiskey tasting is in fact an honorable position. You are not required or expected to deliver yourself (and should not, if you can restrain yourself as I often did not) of detailed opinions that you think are informed.
While I can no longer hide behind the amatuer status, I certainly do not consider my opinions as superior to that of others (whose opinions are experienced) who prefer things I do not. Egos are ever in this mix, but the less they play a part the better. We have wonderful examples of unbiased folks on BE........Mike Veach, Chuck Cowdery, Gary Gillman, Bunghole (well, he is a Saint and MAY be beyond judgement in these matters, ever being excused on 'EXCEPTIONAL' grounds), John Lipman, Bourbon Joe, Bourbon HQ (aka Gayle, whose opinions are almost never spoken directly, but are revealed indirectly and are very well informed), delaware-phoenix (I love this smart lady who is a distiller her own self and is brilliantly self-taught), and let us not forget Chris, Brewer, and others who administer this site, and all the other relative newcomers (Vince, Birdo, etc., etc.) who make it work........ as well as many others.
Folks, I consider my self lucky to be in the company of these fine people. Bourbon loving, tasting, comparing, evaluating, writing about, talking about, and drinking has a long wonderful (sometimes tragic) history. You can be a part of it, right here!!
I owe a lot to this site and the wonderful folks who are my (never met in person) friends here............more than I could ever express in words!
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas