I received another request from Cap’n Jimbo for a review of a bargain whiskey, so I stopped in at Total Wine & More and picked up a bottle of Heaven Hill’s Mellow Corn for $10.49+tax… definitely a bargain price. Being a bonded whiskey (or bottled in bond) means that it’s aged at least 4 years and bottled at 50% ABV.
Isn’t corn whiskey called bourbon, you say? Actually, here is a good explanation of the differences, but I’ll highlight them for brevity. Bourbon is distilled from a mash of at least 51% corn, while corn whiskey is at least 80% corn in the mash. Bourbon is also aged in charred new oak barrels, while corn whiskey is aged in un-charred new oak or used oak barrels. That’s the law! So, on to the whiskey….
The nose is a bit hot with a definite corn aroma… corn husk, sweet corn as well as caramel, honey and mild tobacco. It’s not very different from some bourbons that I’ve had and water doesn’t seem to change things much.
The taste is initially sweet, then transitions to a slightly woody and peppery finish. Making a brief appearance after the initial sweetness are caramel, honey, fresh cut grass and a bit of cigar box in the background that’s hard to pick out initially, but is more apparent after a while. The finish is slightly bitter, tannic, leathery and starchy along with the aforementioned spiciness. The finish lasts a while, but the lingering components are mostly starch and wood. A drop of water subdues the flavors a bit and kind of muddles them together, but they last a bit longer. The finish becomes less starchy, but the bitterness and woodiness remains with a bit more spice than before. More water makes the flavors retreat, but the spicy and starchy finish remains leaving what some might call a mildly harsh whiskey.
It’s not bad, but it’s no winner either. If I were looking for a whiskey around $10, I would buy a bottle of Evan Williams White Label Kentucky Straight Bourbon (also bottled in bond). It’s usually $11-12 and is a much better whiskey than Mellow Corn. Another option is Tom Moore Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon (only 1.75l here) at about $20, which amounts to a lower price per ounce, or Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond (haven’t had this one, so I’m just basing this on recommendations from others). If you’re willing to spend a bit more, then try Old Grand Dad 114 for less than $20… it’s quite good. If corn whisky is really what you’re looking for, then the next best alternative that I know of is Balcones Baby Blue for about $45… not exactly a bargain, though.