Mellow Corn, Bottled-in-Bond

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USA. (Distilled at DSP KY 31)988_437_Mellow-Corn
Style: Aged corn whiskey
Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Appearance: Dark straw, long thin legs.
Nose: Thyme, sage, corn masa, toffee.
On the palate: Full-bodied and soft. Sweet caramel, oak, alcohol, sugar cookies.
Finish: Hot and sweet. Caramel corn, alcohol, tarragon. Lingers and tingles.
Mixed: Use as you would a bourbon or American blend. Makes a very nice Old Fashioned. In a Manhattan and with Benedictine (4:1 ratio on the rocks) makes a mixer-forward but still well-balanced and, most importantly, tasty drink.
Parting words: Corn whiskey occupies its own odd little corner in the world of American whiskey. Before the rise of micro-distillers, corn whiskey was a niche product popular in Appalachia and with nerds like me. It is, by law, composed of at least 80% corn but unlike bourbon it cannot touch new, charred, oak barrels. It doesn’t have to be aged at all, but if it is used cooperage is, well, used.
Mellow Corn is the most widely distributed and probably best selling aged corn whiskey. In my mind it thus provides a benchmark for judging all other aged corn whiskeys. The only thing from a major producer that comes close to it is Early Times Kentucky Whiskey, which has a similar mashbill and is composed of whiskey aged in new and used barrels. Mellow Corn far outclasses Early Times. Comparing it to a bourbon is not helpful, in my opinion, because that’s not what it is. Mellow Corn is a corn whiskey and should be judged for what it is, not what it isn’t.
Before I finish, I should mention that I love the campy, mid-century label on this whiskey. Loads of praise to Heaven Hill for not updating the label on this one. OK, I’m starting to ramble. Mellow Corn BiB is recommended.

11 thoughts on “Mellow Corn, Bottled-in-Bond

  1. There are hundreds and hundreds of whiskies in the world that can’t match Mellow Corn BIB for taste and (dare I say it?) value. I don’t like to include money as a factor.
    All these new so-called “craft” distilleries should get a bottle of Mellow Corn BIB and find out where it really begins.

    1. Well said, O. I have a bottle of Balcones True Blue that I plan on reviewing soon. They’ve done a very good job with that.

  2. This is one of those odd bottles that frequently gets overlooked on my shelf, but amazes me every time I return to it. Well worth a try. I second the recommendation.

  3. I second Oscar’s comments, and I’d like to throw in a shout-out for Dixie Dew, another Heaven Hill Straight Corn. Because DD isn’t Bonded and HH can use a wider array of barrels, it tends to be darker in color and a bit richer in flavor than MC.

    1. Yes, I got a chance to try Dixie Dew in Chicago a few months back and it is a little richer and darker. IT’s another good one. It’s much harder to find, though. I have never actually seen it on a store shelf, even in Kentucky.

  4. Oddly, Dixie Dew is available in Alabama’s heavily restricted ABC stores, while Mellow Corn is not. I agree that DD is richer, but it lacks what I really love about MC–the brightest, most dazzling corn flavor I’ve ever tasted. It’s just fun to drink. It’s almost like a 100-proof soft drink. My bourbon snob friends can’t believe I drink it, but I just love it.

    1. I completely agree. Nothing better than some MC on the rock on a summer afternoon! It’s technically available in Michigan now, but I have yet to see it on the shelf.

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