It seems that people generally covet what they know they can't get. Rittenhouse Rye, for example – a standard grade mixer that people now hoard like winter food rations. The great whiskey shortage we're currently experiencing has devastated brands and customers alike. Unable to secure their favorite bottle of brown water, people are no longer buying single bottles when they see their brand on the shelf – they buy cases! When people buy cases, the whiskey sells faster. When the whiskey sells faster, other people think they're missing out on something. When people who think they're missing out suddenly find themselves getting in, they tend to tell other people about it and cult consumerism explodes. That's what happened with Pappy Van Winkle and look where that got us. Now we've got raffle systems and insane Ebay prices to deal with.
While not nearly as romantic as the Van Winkle legend, Black Maple Hill is slowly becoming the next "must have" Bourbon, mostly for the reasons I mentioned above. I'll get customers in the store asking about it, I'll tell them they should grab what they need now, other customers overhear the conversation (mostly because I have a loud voice), and all of a sudden I'm selling Black Maple Hill to people who didn't intend on buying any. It's exciting to feel like you're getting in on something special, but there's nothing really special about Black Maple Hill. It's a quality, everyday Bourbon that currently has trouble sourcing enough supply. What it does have, however, is the makings of a cult whiskey, and that's exactly what's happening. Here's the magic formula:
1) It has a wonderfully romantic label, much like the Van Winkle's with Pappy smoking the cigar. The sketch of the Kentucky forest, the script writing, the rustic look, etc.
2) It has a fantastic name. Most people think Black Maple Hill is a place or a distillery. What a magical place that must be! It makes you want to go there and drink Bourbon, surrounded by the eponymous maple trees.
3) It's contents are unknown. No one but the blenders know how old it is or what it's made from. All we know is that it tastes good.
4) It's now becoming difficult to get due to supply shortages and that makes people want it even more!
The truth is that Black Maple Hill is neither a distillery nor a place of origin. It's an independent label owned by my friend Paul Joseph in San Carlos, down the road from our store. He's got a garage full of other booze too (Murray McDavid, Alchemist, etc.) and every month or so I'll stop by to see what's new. Paul pays Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (Willett, Vintage 17, Pure Kentucky, Noah's Mill, Rowan's Creek, etc.) to make this blend for him and then he slaps the label on it. So, in reality, Black Maple Hill is a Bourbon that's blended in Kentucky, but owned by a nice man on the San Francisco peninsula.
There have been some other BMH bottles besides the standard Bourbon formula. Older ryes and older Bourbons were once available, but lately it's been tough just getting the regular expression – which is all that exists at the moment. Because Paul gets his Bourbon from KBD, he has no control over his own supply. Worse yet, KBD doesn't control their own supply either because they don't make any whiskey (although they did just recently begin production). The reason the Black Maple Hill is in short supply right now is because Bourbon is in short supply, and when you're third on the totem pole, you just have to wait your turn. It's an independent label purchased from another independent label.
Despite that fact that I'm ruining the mystique of BMH by telling you all this, I still really love the Bourbon. Paul is a super nice guy and I'm happy doing business with him. What I'm finding, however, is that people are dying for more information about where this Bourbon comes from and how they can get more. So here it is – the story of Black Maple Hill. A Bourbon made somewhere in Kentucky, sold to KBD, blended at their facility, sold to Paul Joseph, slapped with a romantic label, and distributed down the street from K&L in Redwood City.
We're currently out of stock, but we usually get about five cases every month or so. Make sure you load up when it's here because it never lasts long. Doesn't that just make you want it more?