Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Hotaling & Co.
Distillery: Sourced from Lawrenceburg, Indiana (MGP)
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: Blend of bourbons aged 4 years, 11 months and 6 years, 8 months
Mashbill: Blend of two mashbills:
94%: 4 Years, 11 Months: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
6%: 6 Years, 8 Months: 60% Corn, 36% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Color: Medium Amber
Price: $40 (2023)
Hirsh is a brand with two distinctly different “feels” - its modern-day feel and its original feel. The brand originates from A.H. Hirsch, an investment banker who invested in the Schaefferstown Distillery in Pennsylvania. A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old was produced at that distillery, which was also known as Shenk's and later as Bomberger's before becoming what it is today, Michter’s Distillery. As of this writing, the original old bottling of A.H. Hirsch Reserve has an average price of around $8,000 per 750mL bottle according to Wine Searcher.
Hirsh’s modern-day feel is one that focuses on adventure and the outdoors, and is centered around a modern-looking bottle design that showcases accessible whiskeys. According to the company’s website, “In 1974, when A. H. HIRSCH first imagined his now legendary bourbon, he set the gold standard for thoughtful American whiskey. Today, HIRSCH continues to pursue whiskey as an explorer might consider uncharted territory. We believe the world is full of possibility, there’s always room for discovery, and craft is best balanced with experimentation. With obsessively discerning selections, HIRSCH continues to blaze trails for the adventurous.”
The Horizon is Hirsh’s flagship product, which is comprised of blends of different bourbons with different ages and percentages that vary by batch. The bottle in review is from batch AHHO920. Exact mashbills, ages, and percentages are disclosed on the bottle’s label.
It takes only one inhale to realize the nose is sweet, light, and approachable. In fact, it takes a deeper inhale and concentration to pull anything specific beyond the initial general impression. Very light summer fruit, a hint of vanilla, and oak hesitantly come forward. In one regard, the nose lacks complexity and intensity, but at the same time it doesn’t overpower with even a trace of unwanted heat, making an immediately good impression that feels impossible to dislike.
Like the nose, the palate refrains from even the slightest hint of heat, but flavors intensify enough to make the bourbon more interesting. Familiar caramel and vanilla lay the base, with hints of oak, tobacco, and custard underneath. Light but flavorful, it’s very approachable and sets this bourbon up to be a crowd-pleaser.
A splash of spice finally lands in the finish, tapering in and out slowly over the course of the medium length finish. Traces of caramel, vanilla, and oak mingle in, layering a touch of depth but there are no surprises. Vanilla and caramel hold beyond the dissipation of spice. Like the rest of the sip, it’s pleasant, approachable, and even-tempered, but doesn't strive for anything more.
The A.H. Hirsch brand is a tale of two eras. Surprisingly, the modern-day feel takes a hard shift away from the legacy brand’s heritage, with just a small reference to the name but otherwise very little continuity. Given the fact that bourbon brands often take any opportunity they can to capitalize on any history related to their brand, it’s an unusual position in the marketplace.
Whether you chalk it up to unadulterated brand honesty or simply that the marketing folks sat down at the table to formulate the best go-forward brand positioning. The fact is, few will associate the new Hirsch with the old Hirsch, and that seems to be intentional, right down to a completely different bottle design compared to the old one. And to that end, it makes evaluating the whiskey in the bottle today a more straightforward matter.
The bottle contains a blend of two MGP bourbons. The exact blend and age of the component bourbons varies by batch, and Hirsch is very transparent about what’s inside the bottle, detailing the exact ratio, ages, and mashbills right on the label. The resulting combination of flavor profile and proof point is appealing to the masses. In fact, the thought that kept streaming through my mind as I tasted it was how approachable this bourbon is. It’s not complex, doesn’t move too far in any one direction, and leaves little to dislike. It’s slightly unique because it’s a blend of different bourbons, but in the end, being different isn’t what this bourbon is striving for. It’s approachable through and through, and that’s its calling card.
One of the main things Hirsch The Horizon has going for it is its $40 price point. There are plenty of MGP sourced brands out there of a similar age that eclipse the $50 price point, and as new whiskeys are released (from many distilleries) they’re often targeting a higher price range. Bourbons such as Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon ($30, 92.5 proof), Penelope Four Grain Bourbon ($40, 80 proof), and Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon ($50, 88 proof) are MGP centered. I often recommend major Kentucky bourbons such as 1792 Small Batch ($25, 93.7 proof), Elijah Craig Small Batch ($26, 94 proof), and Larceny Bourbon ($27, 92 proof) to new(ish) bourbon drinkers, based on their price, consistency, accessibility, and the style of bourbon they may convey that they enjoy. Hirsch The Horizon is a very approachable sipping bourbon, and at $40 it’s fairly priced. It’s not going to WOW anyone per se, but at the price point it’s an easy buy recommendation for anyone looking for this particular style.
Hirsch The Horizon may have roots tied to the brand some might recognize from years past, but the modern-day version starts with an adventure-forward marketing spin that’s backed by a whiskey that’s accessible, approachable, and affordable.
Not every bourbon is supposed to break barriers or set records. Sometimes, a bourbon just needs to be solid and accessible. Hirsch The Horizon seems to have that goal in its crosshairs. A blend of two MGP bourbons that may vary from batch to batch both in blend percentages and ages of bourbons in the blend, while maintaining the 75% corn mashbill component as its core backbone, it offers a modern look and bit of detail right on the label for those who seek it out. While it’s a fairly average bourbon overall, its combination of drinkability and price point is what makes it notable. As a result, I plan on recommending it to those seeking an affordable, easy-drinking bourbon on a go-forward basis.