Nose: Black Maple Hill has a wonderful, trusting nose on it. The big orange citrus opening welcomes all. Hints of corn and honey develop as more air mixes with the bourbon. Traces of oak and spice hide in the background. Deliciously sweet aroma.
Palate: And then, you taste it. The sweet nose completely disappears, and a very dry corn flavor takes over. It’s quite shocking how different the nose and palate are from each other. It was something I wasn’t expecting, and that’s not necessarily a good thing in this case. Some rye spice develops on the mid to heavy back end.
Finish: The 95 proof makes Black Maple Hill an easy bourbon to sip. Very little heat allows the bourbon to make its mark without the burn. The flavor is not complex like a Pappy, making that common comparison between the two seem unfair. There aren’t a lot of fireworks with this one. The oak and rye dominate. The finish gets to the point quickly and doesn’t linger too long. Surprisingly, traces of alcohol flavor become more prominent as air mixes with the bourbon and overshadow much of what this bourbon had going for it.
Uniqueness: This is easily one of the “hot” bourbon finds of the last few years. Much of this started in the early 2000’s as the Lawrenceburg Black Maple Hill were bottled by "Pappy" Van Winkle. The older, age-stamped Black Maple Hill bourbon and ryes have become legendary even in that short amount of time. That hype has spilled over to the non-Van Winkle producing NAS orange label bottles of Black Maple Hill making them even hard to find. The question is, “is the orange label deserving of hype?”
What we have is a rumored 8 year bourbon from a non-distiller producer who’s barrel origin is not disclosed. We don’t even know the quantity of CVI Brand’s output, so one bottle could be different from the next as they source from different producers as one “batch” runs out. Black Maple Hill is a straight-up bourbon that has it’s own specific flavor like any good brand has., but is it special? Not really.
Value: If you remove the hype and take Black Maple Hill for what it is, it has a hard time standing up to other $40 bourbons. It certainly has an interesting flavor that separates itself from other bourbons in its price range, but here is a case where interesting doesn’t always mean better. It’s an OK bourbon that’s priced a little on the high side. Don’t get caught up in the hype, Black Maple Hill isn’t worth the inflated prices people are selling it for on the after-market.
Overall: The first few times I had Black Maple Hill I flat-out hated it. It was in my top five of most hated bourbons. As I sipped it again for this review, I’m found more things to like about it. It has an extremely pleasant nose but the palate and finish just can’t match the bar the nose sets. Black Maple Hill is interesting, but the stark contrast from the sweet nose to the dry palate, to a developing alcohol flavor despite its low proof, make Black Maple Hill a pass in my book.
To sum it up: Interesting nose, Boring finish, Over-hyped
-Eric - Reviewed: 3/2014
4 - 4