Joseph Magnus Private Barrel

By Eric Schmalz - August 14, 2019

The story of Joseph Magnus exists today in two parts, but each follow a similar path:

The original Joseph A. Magnus was born the son of a merchant in 1858. Losing his father to the civil war, Magnus was left to take care of himself and his siblings. Where he prospered was whiskey. 

Eventually finding his way to Cincinnati, he opened a liquor business right on Main Street sometime around 1884. The main theory is that he operated as a rectifier, buying raw spirit from producers around Cincinnati, blending them together and creating a product with appeal to the general public. Here he thrived, creating many different products, the main being “Murray Hill Club”.

Unfortunately, with the advent of prohibition in 1920, Magnus faded from view, another casualty of the war against alcohol. Joseph Magnus himself passed away May 4, 1927.

It wasn’t until September 12th, 2015 that this brand came back into the spotlight...

Armed with nothing but a bottle and a dream, Jimmy Turner, great-grandson of Joseph Magnus, resurrected the company by recreating the flavor profile based on a 100-year-old bottle of the original whiskey he found in his mother’s closet.

That is where the company is today, employing whiskey legends like Dave Scheurich, Nancy Fraley and Richard Wolf, using the same blending techniques that Magnus would have used in the past century, and finishing the selections in a variety of unique casks. 

What we look at today, however, is an unblended cask of Joseph Magnus that is only available to stores who promote and sell their products on a regular basis. Ray’s stands as one such location, being one of only two stores in the state to be given this right. Let’s take a look at this incredibly rare offering.

Ray's Proprietary Joseph Magnus Private Barrel (image via Ray's Wine and Spirits)

This is a Single-Barrel from Joseph Magnus, bottled exclusively for Ray’s Wine and Spirits at barrel strength, 61.7% ABV.

On the forefront of the nose there is a high amount of leather and tobacco, which transitions gracefully into chocolate covered peanuts and cherries. Caramel and toffee elements are there as well; it’s like enjoying a cigar after an incredibly rich dessert. What’s missing is the proof, while lingering in the background, it never really coming to the forefront.

On the palate is where the proof comes in, showing that this is a cask strength offering, but never overwhelming the flavor of the spirit. The sweet, rich character from the nose shows with dark chocolate, roasted peanuts, caramel and honey. On the back of the palate there is some oak influence, as well as tobacco, nutmeg, allspice and leather.

The finish is big, with vanilla, another burst of peanuts, caramel, and a lingering oak dryness. It lingers for quite a long time and leaves me wanting more.

Joseph Magnus prides themselves on quality, and it shows in the offerings that they had presented us with for this selection. However, this stood out above them all as a rich dessert bourbon that’s dangerously quaffable and filled with flavor.

Overall: 9/10 Incredible


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