Hilhaven Lodge Whiskey has, to put it mildly, a pretty damn unusual and unique concept at its core: A blend between aged bourbon, rye and Tennessee whiskey, each sourced from a different decade.
Now, bourbon/rye blends are nothing particularly new, and it’s a flavor profile that has become more popular and common in recent years during the rye whiskey boom as a sort of middle-ground between the richness of bourbon and the drier, spicier profile of rye. But the addition of Tennessee whiskey in particular is unusual—it’s honestly the first time I’ve seen it featured in a blend like this. The whiskey comes with celebrity endorsement as well, that of Hollywood director Brett Ratner, in what seems like a bit of an odd partnership. But seeing as that endorsement isn’t going to factor into this review in any way, that’s all I’ll say of it.
At only 80 proof and a $50 MSRP, this stuff is presumably being marketed as premium sipping whiskey, and considering this, it’s hard not to expect a more intense or assertive palette of flavors. In reality, though, Hilhaven Lodge isn’t brash or grandiose so much as it is very easygoing and approachable. This whiskey simply isn’t trying to dazzle you with huge flavors.
On the nose, and especially in a completely blind tasting, one would likely peg this as a light bourbon, and one with a touch of spices. Light oak, cinnamon, nutmeg and warm snickerdoodle cookies are pleasant diversions on a very soft nose, with little to no hint of alcohol. It smells inviting, but not particularly complex.
On the palate, though, there’s a bit more going on than the nose would initially lead one to believe. Here it’s also very soft, with minimal alcohol heat or burn of any kind. Light caramel and vanilla mingle with light-to-moderate rye spice, with a slightly chewy nougat flavor holding things together. On the back end, there’s a bit of an unexpected herbaceous note that is not unpleasant, and a slowly building note of charred oak. Still quite light of body though, it drinks extremely easily, once again owing to the low proof.
On the palate, Hilhaven Lodge proves just complex enough to stake a claim toward being in a higher strata than cheaper whiskey in the same proof range. You wouldn’t want to drink this one any other way than neat—it would be wasted as a mixer, and it’s already so light of body that additional water or ice would dilute it beyond the point of enjoyability. In the end, it’s a little bit more refined take on “sessionable” whiskey, in the same mode that say, Jim Beam White Label is sessionable, albeit with a somewhat greater degree of complexity. Whether that means it earns the $50 price tag is going to be a matter of personal preference, but if you’re tired of drinking overproof monsters and want something agreeable, Hilhaven Lodge could be a fitting choice.
Distillery: Diageo / T.H.L. Whiskey Corp
Style: Blend of bourbon, rye, Tennessee whiskey
Age: No age statement
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $50 MSRP
Jim Vorel is Paste’s resident beer and whiskey geek. You can follow him on Twitter for much more drink-related content.