A. H. Hirsch Reserve

The A. H. Hirsch Reserve is a legendary bourbon that has attained mythical status amongst whiskey fans worldwide. It is an incredibly rare and highly sought-after bottling. It came from just one small batch produced in the mid-1970s and was bottled in four releases during the early- to mid-1990s. The result is that A.H. Hirsch Reserve is one of the most collectable American whiskeys ever.

 

 

 

Front view of Schaeffer House in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania
Schaeffer House in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania

Style

A definition of style is tough due to the immense rarity of the whiskey. Few people have tasted it, few bottles are available and so much time has passed since its release. The bourbon was said to have notes of vanilla and toffee with the aroma of caramel and hints of oak.

 

Vanilla pods with flower head of vanilla plant
Pieces of toffee
Chunks of caramel
A bright oak cask

Production

The A. H. Hirsch Reserve is a straight Kentucky bourbon. Sour mash, part of the previous mash batch is added to accelerate the fermentation process. To be legally called bourbon the mash bill must be at least 51% corn. The remaining percentage can be made up of a combination of malted barley, rye and wheat.  The Hirsch spirit was distilled through copper pot stills and matured in charred virgin American oak barrels. All variants have been released at 45.8% ABV (91.6 Proof).

 

 


History

The 400-barrel batch that would become A. H. Hirsch Reserve was distilled in Spring 1974. The batch was commissioned by Adolph Hirsch and was distilled under contract at the former Michter's distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. This was founded in 1753 as Shenk Distillery and later became known as Bomberger in the 1850s. It remains one of the oldest existing buildings in the USA and has a National Historic Landmark designation.

The distillery closed due to bankruptcy in 1989. Hirsch is said to have commissioned the whiskey as a financial investment and sold the 400-barrel batch to the Kentucky-based Hue family. The family decided to bottle most of the whiskey almost immediately. The 16 years old expression appeared in late 1990 and formed the largest release, bottled under the name of Hirsch Distillers.

 

Casks Illustration
Casks Illustration

The remaining bourbon was left to mature longer in barrels and was released in three significantly smaller batches during the following years. This included expressions at 18, 19 and 20 years old - the final one being released in early-1995. Each had a wax seal - the 18 years old was gold and the 19 and 20-year-olds were red.

The A. H. Hirsch Reserve whiskeys now fetch some of the highest prices ever seen for bourbon. A bottle of the 18 years old recently sold at auction for over $40,000 US (£30,500). The brand also has a book written about it - The Best Bourbon You'll Never Taste by Charles K. Cowdery.