The potential to find whiskey brands we’re unfamiliar with has reached staggering heights. If shopping a big box store like Total Wine or Liquor Barn doesn’t demonstrate this, then a quick glance at Comingwhiskey will. One could compare a liquor store to a library, given the sheer volume of bottles whiskey-curious drinkers could spend time looking into. For some, it would all be for the sake of making a somewhat informed decision. I’d consider myself decently knowledgeable when it comes to recognizing bottles and understanding labels, but I’d be lying if I said my awareness was comprehensive.
One of my more recent first-sightings arrived when looking for a budget scotch or Irish whiskey. I came across one with an attractive price point and decent age statement to boot: Hinch 10-Year Old Sherry Cask Finish. Turns out the $27.99 price tag was a mistake (retails closer to $50 or so), but the store honored the price. The details on the bottle seemed reasonable enough: 10 years old and finished in Oloroso sherry butts for at least 6 months (the website states at least one year).
But who (or what) is Hinch?
Turns out it’s a recently established (2020) brand based in County Down, Ireland, taking its name from Ballynahinch, meaning “town of the island” in Gaelic. The two key figures behind the brand are entrepreneur (and Hinch chairman) Dr. Terry Cross OBE and now-former Hinch distiller Aaron Flaherty, who has over 15 years of industry experience, including time with Bushmills. Given the distillery’s recency and lineup of aged products, they obviously source, but we can only guess where from. The bottle I purchased is the oldest option in their five-bottle Time Collection, effectively making it their flagship whiskey. It’s bottled at 43% ABV, aged in ex-bourbon barrels from Kentucky, and the sherry butts used for finishing are obtained from Jerez. Like most Irish whiskeys, Hinch is triple distilled.
Nose: Enters on a fairly standard and somewhat metallic note. Honey and golden fruit notes characteristic of many Irish blends. Delicate layers of butterscotch and brown sugar offset by earthy, dark fruit tones from the sherry butts. Prune and dehydrated apple come to the forefront while mild, florally vanilla and walnut aromas sit in the background.
Palate: Light. Butterscotch and brown sugar lead before overripe Honeycrisp apple and dates or prunes make their presence known. Has a bright, honey and lemon-like essence with a touch of that metallic quality from the nose.
Finish: Short-medium length and mild-mannered. Earthy and slightly dry with hints of vanilla. Honeyed black tea also comes to mind.
This is familiar territory. Most of the characteristics I expect from an Irish blend are present in Hinch 10-Year: light profile, balanced sweetness, a touch metallic, you get the picture. “Safe” is the word that naturally comes to mind. It’s also well-crafted and more elegant when compared to the more ordinary bottlings from bigger names in Irish whiskey, which is reflected in the stats and price tag. Proofed-down Irish whiskey doesn’t tend to be particularly expressive or flavorful, a trait Hinch 10-Year shares in stride. As such, I found a quick side-by-side to be helpful, with Jameson Black Barrel and Teeling Single Grain being put to task.
It was in this comparison that Hinch seemed to flourish with a softer, more luscious texture and flavor profile. I wouldn’t say it comes across like single pot still, but its underpinning feels consistent with decently aged Irish whiskey. In fact, Hinch include a video on their site describing the 10-Year with the aforementioned Aaron Flaherty, and he said some of the malt whiskeys in Hinch 10-Year were up to 18 years old. I’d say what’s more striking is how the final product balances its primary maturation with the finishing component. The presence of sherry is noticeable without feeling heavy-handed which, as a consumer of primarily American whiskey, is a breath of fresh air.
What this ultimately translates to is a quality product that’s easier to appreciate than outright enjoy. Perhaps I’m unfairly biased towards single pot still options, given their particularly buttery and at-times dynamic personalities. Hinch 10-Year offers a satisfactory and even somewhat elevated drinking experience for the right drinker, yet I find myself struggling to call out any compelling qualities beyond its level of balance. Consequently, I have little inclination towards replacing my bottle when the time comes. That may be selling it short, but in today’s competitive market, standing out is key.