Mention black Maple Hill to a committed bourbon fanatic, and also the odds are great you’ll acquire a response that arrays somewhere from exasperated come enraged. Introduced much more than 15 year ago, black color Maple Hill was as soon as a means to gain your hand on some very old and also rare Kentucky bourbons from pedigreed distillers in a mysterious, atmospheric package. Yet a pair of year ago, the whiskey in the bottle adjusted – and according come many, no for the better.

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The black Maple Hill brand was first introduced earlier in 2000, earlier before bourbon gained really trendy. It’s developed by CVI Brands, a non-distiller spirits importer and bottler based in san Carlos, California. CVI’s portfolio reads favor the dustiest, least-frequented ar of the liquor store: Cognac, Armagnac, calvados, grappa, fruit brandy, rum, mescal, and a grasp of Scotch brands, as well as the odd aquavit, gin, and also ouzo. Black Maple Hill is conveniently its most mainstream product.

For a long time, CVI brands sourced the bourbon native Kentucky. The beforehand Black Maple Hill releases were said to it is in (1) wheated bourbon indigenous Stizel-Weller and also (2) bottled by Julian van Winkle III himself. Later, bottling was stated to have actually been moved to Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, and also rumor has actually it the whiskey supplied came from heaven Hill. No issue – the miracle touch of the valve Winkle finger had conferred an irresistible desirability, and Black Maple Hill bottlings began to sell for countless dollars ~ above the second market.

But the skyrocketing need that inflated black Maple Hill’s prices would certainly prove to it is in its undoing – or at the very least its remaking. As the bourbon trend grew, it is provided of aged stock for their single barrel and tiny batch offerings, with period statements almost everywhere from 11 come 22 years, started to dried up. So black Maple Hill relocated to non-age statement, however even then, sourcing to be a struggle.

“As time went on, it came to be very, very challenging to gain the age whiskeys that we essential for the quality. Because that a while, ns was able to perform it native Kentucky, however not anymore. For this reason I determined to look roughly for one more source,” claimed Paul Joseph, owner that CVI Brands, in a recent interview v The Whiskey Wash.

Enter an Oregon craft whiskey distillery

Around the time the mainstream bourbon eight was obtaining steam, the Stein family members was finalizing preparations to open a handmade distillery in Joseph, Oregon, a tiny agricultural ar in the far northeastern part of the state. Stein Distillery was a new venture native a really old business. The Steins space grain farmers – largely wheat, but also rye and also barley – and also they’ve to be living off the land due to the fact that the 1890s. Worn down of being at the mercy that the commodity serial market, the Steins chose to go the value-added route, and also started producing vodka, cordials, and also whiskey in 2009.

Today, Stein is a local craft distillery ideal known because that its age whiskeys. Its conventional lineup contains straight bourbon and also straight rye, both in two-year-old and five-year-old expressions, and a combined whiskey. Every one of the grain is sourced from either the Stein homestead or, in the case of the corn, up the roadway from a cousin in Hermiston. Everything’s distilled and also aged onsite in full-sized barrels.

“As quickly as ns tasted the Stein bourbons and rye, ns knew I’d uncovered my source,” said Joseph. “The very first thing that recorded my attention is the they flourished their very own grain, therefore they have 100% regulate over the quality of their grain, and also it’s all neighborhood Oregon grain.”

“When ns tasted the product, it had actually a high quality to it, a continual character, which is very challenging to uncover in little distilleries. Ns think the people of Dan Stein’s ability; he yes, really knows exactly how to really placed together a finish product. And I think civilization that are knowledgeable around whiskey acknowledge the quality.”

So CVI presented Oregon black color Maple Hill in 2014, retaining the old-timey label yet subbing in a new, squat party shape. The the very same bottle shape as Stein’s branded release – which, incidentally, CVI represents in California. The Oregon black color Maple Hill releases don’t carry period statement, but Paul states they’re consisted of of casks between four and five year of age, and also each batch is usually around 180 six-bottle cases.

We reached out come Stein to talk about their relationship with CVI, however they declined to speak through us.


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Tasting Notes: Stein Five-Year-Old Rye

Vitals: 80 Proof, pricing roughly $50 right here in Oregon.

The Test: Stein Five-Year-Old Rye is tenderness on the sleep without gift retiring: floral and spicy, I choose up note of dark cherry, fragrant soap, unlit cigar, and also a faint pointer of wasabi. The odor is rather sweet, v a nice, mouth-filling wealth – surprising for a fairly low bottling toughness of 40%.

Creamy, buttery notes room complemented by an exciting stalky/grassy element, a little bit like eco-friendly bell pepper. Moderate spice throughout, through a how amazing long, sweet end up that ends on a wisp of climbed petals. Well-balanced and also appealing, I like this a lot.

Tasting Notes: black Maple Hill Rye

Vitals: 95 proof, pricing at least $70 at retail.

The Test: Here, we’ve gained a bigger, badder nose than the Stein rye, much more barrel-forward: an ext wood, an ext spice, less fruit and flower, through a generic cinnamon and also vanilla character.

On the palate, the rye personality is somewhat subdued (it could almost pass as a high-rye bourbon). Yes sir a funny burnt, grassy, resinous taste in the mid-palate, like burnt evergreen wood or the critical hit ~ above a mediocre bowl of weed.

I assumed water could even points out a bit, however instead it just seems to exacerbate the sappy, grassy flavor, including a small cinnamon and clove. Ns don’t love this – in fact, I favor the Stein-branded version.

Final Thoughts

While ns wish Stein’s releases were higher proof, I only prefer the black Maple Hill Bourbon end the Stein-branded analogue. That the four, Stein’s five-year-old rye is my favorite, and also the only one I’d shell out my own money for (as I have in the past).

As I listed before, the Oregon black Maple Hill release seem come be starting at around $70 a retail, however I also found some retailers marketing the stuff for $150 or more, i m sorry is one outrageous price for these whiskeys. A bottle of Stein’s good five-year-old rye, top top the other hand, costs about $50, a price I consider completely fair.

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While component of me think it’s really cool to showcase a handmade distillery on such a huge stage, I concern that the a situation of also much, also soon. The bourbon collector community is currently skeptical about craft spirits, and replacing a lover brand that super-aged Kentucky bourbon through non-age statement craft whiskey was nearly guaranteed come backfire. But hey, at least it responds come the previously levied criticisms that nobody knew where Black Maple Hill’s juice to be coming from?

In short: I favor Stein. Ns think their bourbon is alright, and also their rye is delicious. I like Maple Hill Bourbon come the Stein Bourbon, and the Stein Rye come the black color Maple Hill Rye, however I understand why hardcore fans are disappointed. Whether it is a sign that CVI has jumped the shark, or a sign that it could be time because that drinkers to expand their horizons beyond the overpriced, significantly hard-to-find super-aged bourbons that yore, is, i suppose, a matter of your perspective.