Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Armagnac, Sherry, and Cognac Casks
Company: Jos. A. Magnus & Co.
Distillery: Sourced (from undisclosed distillery[ies] in Indiana)
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: NAS (Website states a blend of Joseph Magnus Bourbon and an 18 year old bourbon, which is then finished in Armagnac casks)
MSRP: $175 (2020)
Jos. A. Magnus & Co. is the second iteration of the Magnus brand. Originally started by Joseph A. Magnus in 1892, the company focused on producing whiskey until Prohibition took hold. Afterwards, the brand was revitalized when Joseph Magnus’ great grandson discovered a few unopened bottles bearing the family namesake. Re-established in 2015, the company now focuses on blending and finishing techniques initially employed by Joseph Magnus.
Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon was developed by Nancy Fraley, a Master Blender and widely revered whiskey and rum consultant. The finished bourbon was created with the intent of pairing it with a cigar, notably including Armagnac, Sherry, and Cognac finishing - three spirits known to pair well with cigars. It is a very small batch product, with the bottle in review being bottle 360/373 from Batch 24.
Rich dark tobacco notes pair with baking spices and seasoned oak. A swirl of the glass reveals clove, dark roast coffee, and dried dark fruit notes. A slight nuttiness is present but fleeting. The proof makes itself known with an ample amount of heat, but it doesn’t overpower the other scents. Overall it’s rich and intriguing, inviting you in for more.
The sip hits with a potent punch of flavors. Clove, tobacco, and seasoned oak form a foundation. These flavors combine with a robust mix of spice, with rye and baking spices being the most prominent. Dark berries mingle in, offering a slightly sweet addition to the sip. Complex and savory overall, the palate is quite robust and enjoyable.
The finish immediately shifts to becoming quite dry, offering trailing flavors of cocoa and tobacco amidst a leather note. Charred oak and leather taper in, but it remains savory versus sweet in overall delivery. Long and complex, it’s a suiting pairing for the nose and palate that precede it.
Cigar Blend starts with a base of high aged whiskeys ranging in age from about 11 to 18 years old. Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend includes the standard Joseph Magnus bourbon which is triple cask finished in Armagnac, Sherry, and Cognac casks, adds an additional high rye (36%) bourbon, and then finishes the entire blend again in Armagnac casks. This product is curated by Nancy Fraley, one of the industry’s most highly respected Master Blenders. The flavor profile varies from batch to batch, but the company’s ultimate goal is to create a blend that pairs well with a cigar.
Batch 24 succeeds in reaching that goal, with a savory, almost tobacco-inspired sip. The combination of various finishes combined with a high 124 proof, creates a robust and complex bourbon that offers an unusual flavor profile, but doesn’t veer too far from still maintaining a “bourbon” backbone. The resulting combination of flavors and finishes is unusual in the industry, and such a unique finish and blend is rarely attempted with such high aged bourbons.
I have yet to see Joseph Magnus bourbons on the shelves locally, and because batches of Cigar Blend are so small, I have rarely seen it online either. Its asking price of $175 is unexpected, but at the same time not entirely surprising. Given its relatively high age, multiple barrel finishes, and insanely small batches, this ongoing release product is also very limited. Batch 24 is particularly suited to cigar pairing, and I would assume other batches are as well. In that regard, it’s a limited release with a unique and developed flavor profile that I can understand how some could become enamored with.
However, such small batches combined with a high price tag will not be worth the risk for many. This whiskey maintains its bourbon backbone, but does deviate quite significantly from a traditional bourbon flavor profile. The company website also does a poor job of distinguishing batch to batch qualities and flavor profile for consumers burying them in their blog (hint hint Jos. A. Magnus & Co.), which I believe is important for such a high cost brand that seems to have an incredible amount of thought and effort put into each batch. To that end, the price is steep for a bourbon you don’t quite know what you are going to get, though the effort is there and the flavor profile is going to be unabashedly unique.
Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon is a high end finished blend that achieves what it sets out to, but comes in at a steep price and significant variation from batch to batch.
Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend is a really good bourbon. It offers a barrage of unique traits which culminate nicely into a unique flavor profile that, at least with Batch 24, seems to accomplish exactly what the company sets out to do. Unfortunately, the company’s website and marketing information do little to showcase this bourbon, and as a result miss the opportunity to better educate consumers on this intriguing product. I feel a lot could be gained by sharing more information about the creation of this product and batch variation more readily with consumers, and of course making it easy to find! While I can easily say I like the batch reviewed, it is somewhat difficult to recommend a future batch at such a high price and with such a drastic difference in flavor profile from batch to batch. An expensive risk that could go either way.