Joseph Magnus Review (and Barrel Selection Announcement)

Joseph Magnus

Today, we take a look at Jos. A. Magnus, with a review of the standard offering Joseph Magnus bourbon along with two “store pick” Magnus bourbons that we have picked up from Nasa Liquor in Houston, Texas.


The Monarch and Flight Club team up for a Joseph Magnus barrel pick!

That’s right, coming this fall is the “Joseph Magnus – Delano No. 4” pick, which will be available by the glass at The Monarch and by the bottle at R&J Discount Liquor.

Joseph Magnus single barrel

This pick will be one of the first super-premium store pick bourbons to hit the shelves in our market, and we are excited to help bring our community this opportunity.

What do we know about this selection?  To tell that story, let us begin with the selection process.  As we discuss below, Magnus is a sourced-bourbon product.  So for the selection of single barrels from Magnus, the distillery provides four samples from which to choose.   In our case, two of those samples were from Indiana (which we know to be MGP) and two were from Tennessee (which we know to be George Dickel).  A barrel number and state of origin were all that we were provided, although sources at the distillery indicated that the age on the MGP’s were typically around 12 years and in the range of 95-115 proof, while the Dickel’s were 9-10 years and around 110-117 proof.

We began the sampling with the two MGP’s head-to-head.  Truth be told, this is where we expected the selection to begin and end – MGP bourbons are hot right now, and many of the single barrels are truly exceptional.

Sample No. 1 (Indiana 1300):  The nose was sweet, with dried strawberry, kiwi and other tropical fruit, and overripe banana, and backed by musty wood and oak char.  The palate was soft with toasted oak and stone fruit.  The finish was a bit dry, marked by bittersweet chocolate.

Sample No. 2 (Indiana 1308):  The nose was again sweet, this time with some rich marshmallow, maple syrup and fig.  There was an apple crisp feel to the nose, with fruit and baking spice.  The palate began much like the nose, with a sweet introduction with baking spice, paired with a light black pepper.  The Finish was fruity and waxy, like red apple skin coated in brown sugar.

Sample No. 2 was an early favorite.  We decided to move on and compare the two Dickel’s side-by-side, and then pit the winners against one another.

Sample No. 3 (Tennessee 3):  The nose was robust with creamed corn, vanilla, traditional Dickel minerality (think Flintstone vitamins) and earthiness, with mixed berries and other fruit as this opens up.  Much of the nose was sweet in an almost Cap’n Crunch sort of way.  The palate introduced citrus fruits and pear skin, with a cider backbone.  A peculiar envelope adhesive flavor appeared.  The finish was light and peppery .

Sample No. 4 (Tennessee 4):  The nose was rich with chocolate, with a combination of flavors including a delicious mocha with marshmallows and Almond Joy candy bars.  The palate was robust with milk chocolate candy coating, complimented with something that we can only describe as tobacco cream.   The long finish contained yet again more lingering milk chocolate candy coating.

Admittedly, not one of us expected to be blown away by a Dickel barrel, but unanimously this was the favorite among the eight of us present for the tasting.  And even put  side-by-side with the favorite among the MGP, the Sample No. 4 dominated.   Sample No. 4 – or “Delano No. 4” as would be named – was one to write home about.

Joseph Magnus – Delano No. 4 will be available this fall.  Stay tuned!

Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Background

Jos. A. Magnus & Co. claims its start dating back to 1892.  But its roots are a bit different than the shop currently located in Washington D.C. that produces products such as Joseph Magnus Bourbon, Murray Hill Club Bourbon, and Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend.

The original Joseph Magnus was a pre-Prohibition distillery located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  It produced the likes of Murray Hill Club and many other brands.  While the history here seems a bit uncertain, it is believed that Magnus himself was merely a rectifier not a distiller, meaning he was a blender and not necessarily a distiller.   It would close its doors in the late nineteen-teens.  It would not reopen after the repeal of Prohibition, during which Magnus would pass.  

The story goes that Jimmy Turner, the great-grandson of Magnus himself, found a century-old bottle of Magnus in his mother’s closet.  Turner took that bottle and had it analyzed by a panel of experts, who helped recreate it using sourced bourbons finished in sherry and cognac barrels. 

Turner would use that product to open a distillery in D.C.   The current iteration of Magnus opened its doors in 2015.  That distillery produces gin and vodka, and has distilled whiskies that are barrelled away for future release.

The company’s flagship product – Joseph Magnus Bourbon – is a blend of various straight bourbons (itself not necessarily a straight bourbon because the component parts, while each straight bourbons, may not be of the same mash bill, or from the same state*).   The standard offering is blended and re-barreled in a mixture of Oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximenez and Cognac casks.

[*Under federal law, while a bourbon may contain a mixture of straight whiskies, for that final product to carry the designation of “straight” each component part must be whiskey of the same type and produced in the same state. ]

Magnus also offers a single barrel program unlike just about anything else.  Instead of merely selecting a single barrel bourbon and bottling it as most of barrel programs do, Magnus offers customers the opportunity to select a single barrel, and then post-selection finish that whiskey in either a Cognac cask, an Oloroso Sherry cask or a Pedro Ximenez cask (or, as we have done, elect not to finish it all).  After a few weeks to months in that finishing cask, and when the blenders determine its ready, its bottled and shipped.

Joseph Magnus

Joseph Magnus – Batch 10 (100 Proof) (NAS) (Sampled by Scott Hill and Jay Cary)

Nose: Dust, earth (potting soil and dried leaves) and funk; spicy dried oak; barrel char and thick-and-rich sherry suffer; salted caramel and light butterscotch; pepper spice; very fruity, with overripe stone and orchard fruit, orange, plum and black cherry. (4/5)

Palate: Creamy but somewhat muddied flavors; apple and pear pie filling; citrus; baking spice; vanilla and caramel; rye spice; light pepper; light raspberry, plum and other berry sherry fruits. (3.5/5)

Finish: Creamy finish with sherry fruit and a return of the sherry sulfur. No hiding from the sherry fruit and dry sulfur from the sherry. (4/5)

Overall: I can see this being polarizing. But for me, I love it. I like the sherry fruit and sulfur.  It is otherwise very rich and flavor.  (3.5/5)

Value: This is $100 and it tastes like it.  Quality stuff at a fair premium price.  (3/5)

“I can see this being polarizing. But for me, I love it.”

Joseph Magnus

Joseph Magnus

Joseph Magnus – Nasa Liquor Pick (104.26 Proof) (MGP) (NAS)  (Sampled by Scott Hill and Jay Cary)

Nose: Soft and delicate. Graham cracker; plum preserves; light salt and white pepper; spicy oak; vanilla; light potting soil; faint baking chocolate; apple; faint baking spice. Just too faint. (2.5/5)

Palate: Rye and pepper spice; baking spice; dry oak; candy chocolate; apple and pear cider; ripe but not overly sweet grape. Creamy. (3.5/5)

Finish: Medium-short; baking and pepper spice; dry oak; rye bread; chocolate. (3/5)

Overall:  There isn’t anything wrong with this one, but its just not exciting.  It has no off-putting flavors, but nonetheless it’s a bit underwhelming. (3/5)

Value:  Just comparing this to the other two, we are left a little under satisfied. (2.5/5)

“There isn’t anything wrong with this one, but its just not exciting.”

Joseph Magnus

Joseph Magnus

Joseph Magnus – Nasa Liquor “Tiramisu” Pick (115.48 Proof) (MGP) (NAS, but purportedly 11 Years, 2 months)  (Sampled by Scott Hill and Jay Cary)

Nose: Sweet and funky, with traditional “rancio” Cognac/Armagnac notes of earth and mushroom; baking spice; chocolate; vanilla; faint pepper spice and spicy oak; underlying overripe apples and pear. While this is not for everyone with the funk, it is for me. (4/5)

Palate: Rancio and overripe fruit; earth; rye spice; baking spice; chocolate; vanilla; sweet butterscotch. Warm and full bodied. (4.5/5)

Finish: Sweet rye spice; pepper; vanilla; cherry licorice that comes out of no where. Amazing transitions on the finish. (4/5)

Overall: This one is fantastic. In all ways.  If you like a funky bourbon, you may just love this. (4/5)

Value: Like the others, this comes in around the $100 point.  It is truly delicious and unique.  We are more than satisfied. (3.5/5)

“If you like a funky bourbon, you may just love this.”

Joseph Magnus

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