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Whiskey Review: J. Henry & Sons Wisconsin Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bellefontaine Reserve

Among the hundreds of craft American distilleries, a handful set themselves apart by taking things a step further than merely fermenting, distilling, and aging their products: a few are not just grain-to-glass, but farm-to-glass distilleries that do most to all of the above with grain grown onsite. I got the chance to tour one such distillery, Whiskey Acres, near Chicago, last summer. J. Henry and Sons in Dane, Wisconsin, is another.

Making bourbon this way offers distillers an extra dimension of control: while the corn in almost all American whiskey is commodity yellow dent corn, distillers who grow their own grain have access to other varieties. All the whiskey made at J. Henry, for instance, is a University of Wisconsin-bred red corn. Wheat and rye are also grown on the farm.

The farm itself has been in the family for three generations, since 1946. About nine years ago, according to the Waunakee Tribune, owner Joe Henry got the idea to start turning the corn he was growing into bourbon. J. Henry doesn’t actually distill their whiskey onsite, instead outsourcing that part of the process to a distillery in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

All their bourbons are aged at least five years; this one, Bellefontaine Reserve, was aged five and a half years in new oak, then an additional eight months in ex-cognac barrels. The actual juice is the same as their Wisconsin straight bourbon, made with a mashbill of 60% corn and unspecified amounts of wheat, rye, and malt. All the grains except the barley are grown at the farm.

Tasting Notes: J. Henry & Sons Wisconsin Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bellefontaine Reserve

Vital stats: 60% corn, 40% wheat, rye, and malted barley; aged 5 and a half years in new oak, finished 8 months in used Cognac barrels; bottled at 51.72% ABV; retails $65-85 in the Wisconsin/Chicagoland area or online.

Nose: Strong caramel and vanilla at first, layered over confectioner’s sugar, butterscotch, and buttery oak. As it opens up, I get some warm allspice.

Palate: Quite warm and spicy on the palate, with more caramel, red fruit and black pepper. It’s big in a way that comes almost as a surprise after the fairly sugary nose. Fairly hot, with good body. Some faint dried fruit on the finish. Wood and cherry Jolly Rancher linger.

The Takeaway

Summary

This is a good bourbon, with enough spice to balance out the caramel sweetness and a nice, mouth-filling texture. If anything, the finish falls a little flat, but I'd still sip it happily. It's hard to tell what the cognac finish adds; I'd be curious to try this side-by-side with one of J. Henry's other expressions.

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User Rating 3.5 (2 votes)
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About the author

Katelyn Best

Katelyn is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. She's a regular contributor to the Whiskey Wash with an affinity for the unique and weird side of whiskey.