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Quixotic Spirits Rare & Mythical Bourbon: The Fire and The Rebirth Review

Quixotic Spirits Rare & Mythical Bourbon: The Fire and The Rebirth Review

I often get messages asking me where to find “the secondary market” that I frequently reference in my reviews. The people who want to know are new to bourbon and have started to realize that the bottles they really want to buy aren’t on the shelves. I won’t outright tell them, but I have hinted to a process on how find the secondary market in this article.

Regardless, there are many people who understandably don’t want to deal with the possibility of getting scammed on those secondary pages. So how would you find very old or unique bottles? More and more people are turning to European retailers like the subject of today’s review: Must Have Malts.

Must Have Malts – Global retailer and… Independent Bottler?

Must Have Malts has established themselves as one of the premier whiskey retailers throughout the world. They are based out of the Netherlands which affords them certain advantages that other retailers don’t have. You see, in Europe there is no mandatory three-tier distribution system. That means that retailers can buy alcohol from various sources (other liquor stores, a distributor or private collectors). Once they have possession, they take them back to their home base and sell them across the globe. If you want to know more, I outlined their whole operation in this article.

To find bottles like these requires employing special “scout teams” that are constantly canvasing Europe and Japan. Their team is well-versed in vintage spirits and authenticate them on the spot. They also have a few experts in the US that they can rely on for verification as well. To this day, I’ve never heard of a friend or acquaintance who has felt like a bottle they bought from them had been described incorrectly.

With so much knowledge and so many connections to the whiskey scene, it was only a matter of time before Must Have Malts went into the Independent Bottler game. After all, it’s about the only thing they hadn’t done in the world of whiskey at that point. I’m just surprised their first release wasn’t a single barrel of Bivrost Helheim Single Malt Whisky (this is an inside joke because Pim loves their whisky). Instead, MHM went big and bottled not one, but two bottles together for their inaugural release.

Quixotic Spirits: The Fire and The Rebirth

I’m not sure why the team at Must Have Malts decided to launch their brand with bourbon rather than something more regional, like Scotch, but I’m glad they did. Europe has a strange history with barrels of bourbon finding their way across the ocean where they’re socked away in secret locations to age for an extended amount of time. I’d love to tell you where those locations are, but I haven’t been able to find any of that out. However, there is one trait a lot of them share: they originated from Heaven Hill.

The Must Have Malts team managed to acquire two different stocks of bourbon for this release. The first 700ml bottle is called “The Fire.” And if you’ve spent any time in the enthusiast community, you should be able to fill in the blanks on this one… It’s a 24-year-old bourbon that was distilled in Kentucky by an “unknown distillery.” If you’ve been in the bourbon scene for a few years, you’d recognize that this shares the same specs as other bottles that have been released throughout the years. The MHM design, as well as the name on the bottle, all hint to a “Fire” that took place some time after this bourbon was distilled in 1994. You know where this is going… right?

The second 700ml bottle, titled “The Rebirth” shows a baby Phoenix rising from the fire/ashes. It’s a single barrel of bourbon that was aged for 13 years. Must Have Malts openly says this barrel is sourced from Heaven Hill. What’s not explicitly said is that 5 of those 13 years were spent aging in Scotland; which likely contributed to its pale color. I’ve had Heaven Hill bourbon that was matured in Europe before and this is actually normal. I don’t have an explanation for why it happens especially when it’s remained in its original barrel – but you can be assured that I’m researching the answer.

The two labels are complimentary of each other and give a tip of the hat and a wink to their shared lineage. A Phoenix descending into flames only to be born again from the flames. Quite symbolic, don’t you think?

Expectation vs Reality

An interesting decision was made to showcase how two bourbons – which may or may not be related to each other – can take on two totally different profiles if everything about them was done the opposite of the other. If the 24-year-old bourbon runs true to form, the age will completely change its style into something dark and tannic.

The 13-year-old bourbon looks like it was purposefully withheld from heat and climate variances. The interaction the liquid had with the oak appears to be minimal if we go by color alone. That means that oxidation and the flavors it generated during fermentation will be the main influences behind its character. So just how different are these two? It’s time to find out. I sampled them both neat, in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

“The Fire” 24-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Nose: I was expecting a lot of bitter oak and stale tobacco. Instead, I’m greeted with mostly sweeter scents like caramel, sweet cream butter and a Vanilla Latte. The tannins are softer and mainly center around oak and maple wood. There’s even melted chocolate in here, too. The nose is downright decadent and each scent is very enjoyable.

Palate: The mouthfeel is rich and mellow with a blend of melted Charleston Chews and cinnamon candies. The spice is a bit more prickly than I thought, but is still well-controlled. The taste of antique wood, conditioned leather and alkaline chocolate allows you to feel the full power of those 24 years in the barrel. But it is flavors like vanilla, candied cherries and nutmeg that add an extra dimension to the bourbon. Each sip is just as satisfying than the last.

Finish: The finish lasts for a long time while focusing on tannins like seasoned oak, barrel char and old leather. There is a coffee bean note that carries a hint of sweetness with it. Sweetness also comes from a sort of crystalized honey. The two most noticeable spices on the finish are nutmeg and allspice. Overall, the only thing it’s really missing are fruit notes – but seeing how it spent 24 years in a barrel, it’s not exactly unexpected.

Score: 8.3/10

“The Rebirth” 13-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Nose: The nose is lighter than expected for being 129 proof. I swear that there are some parts of it that almost remind me of a wheated bourbon. Sweeter notes like honeycomb, butterscotch and vanilla blossoms are the first to be recognized. There are more fragrant notes like fresh brewed black tea, jasmine and cedar that add a certain “lightness” to the nose. Strangely, the “heavier” notes never really materialize. I only find a bit of seasoned oak and Pledge Wood Cleaner. The nose also reminds me of a Single Malt Scotch in a lot of ways. Additional notes of orange citrus pair up with cinnamon and white pepper to give a hint of spice and fruit.

Palate: Thinking I was in for a strange profile after what I experienced with the nose, I find that my first sip tastes just like a Heaven Hill bourbon! The mouthfeel is surprisingly rich, almost buttery. Caramel and honey provide sweetness to the sip along with a mild nutty flavor. Lighter notes like citrus, orchard and stone fruits can be tasted with every sip. Rye-forward flavors pop out as well like fennel, Cinnamon Red-Hots and an assortment of floral flavors. There’s even a little bit of cedar, too.

Finish: I’m still picking up on a slight nuttiness as the sip draws to a close. Sweet flavors and fruit notes fade away while highlighting some of the rye flavors a little bit more. The tannins on the finish mainly revolve around barrel char and a touch of cedar.

Score: 8.5/10

My main worry before purchasing these bottles was that they were going to be too similar to each other. It turns out that wasn’t the case at all. These bottles are polar opposites and I believe that’s actually a good thing. Each one offers a completely different experience from the other in terms of how they smell, taste and their mouthfeel. I would have purchased them separately but the presentation of two bottles in the same display case is far more appealing.

For what it’s worth, “The Fire” is about as easy-sipping as they come. As I hinted to earlier, I have no doubt that it’s related to some of the other releases that share similar characteristics. But all of those 24-year-old bourbon releases have been bottled in extremely small amounts (usually in 300-600 bottle increments) so owning one isn’t as common as we think. Plus, many people are holding onto theirs in the hopes that they become collectors items in the future. After all, it’s not like they’re making any more “Pre Fire” bourbon anymore.

As for “The Rebirth,” it shares characteristics of both a bourbon and a single malt. The reason I say “Single Malt” isn’t just because of its color, it also has a meatiness about it. On top of that, there are layers of fruit that you wouldn’t normally find in a standard Heaven Hill bourbon. If the name on the bottle didn’t say it, I would never have guessed who made this bourbon. Then I tasted it. Immediately, the richness of the liquid lit up my tastebuds and my brain told me “this is Heaven Hill.” It had the big body of an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but there was even more to it. Fruit flavors and complex spices fell oozed out and created something unique. I was very impressed.

Final Thoughts

Upon unboxing this package, my wife came over and looked at it and gave her opinion that the presentation looked really classy. I might be in the minority when I say that the first taste is with your eyes, but it’s really true for any kind of whiskey today. I only mention this because while I very much enjoyed the whiskey inside, the packaging really brought it all together and made me believe that it was money well-spent.

There are going to be enthusiasts who look at the price tag on these bottles and recognize it’s a fair price for what’s inside. Some enthusiasts will look at this and think the opposite. I can see it both ways to be honest. I don’t often make large purchases like this unless they compliment my collection and offer something unique that I can share with my friends. I felt strongly enough that this was worthy of my time and money. I can honestly say I have no regrets with this purchase. So if you value the same things in your collection, then you should act quickly because these are extremely limited. As for the Must Have Malts team, I can’t wait to see what they’re going to bottle up next.

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