Mad River Bourbon Whiskey 750mL

Back in my day you only called yourself a bourbon if you came from the right county in Kentucky. It was like our own American champagne or cognac, and while biased – better than the both of those. In fairness there isn’t anything in Vermont aside from trees, and while their hicks might be different than southern hicks – they’re hicks all the same.

What we get though is something that hits a few marks, but ultimately fails against those that matter. This is not a ‘sipping’ bourbon, or a mixing bourbon, or even a ‘I don’t want to see’ bourbon. At HBR these usually are the spirits we hate the most. They lack a defining feature, and by not really being good at what it’s supposed to be ‘a drink’ it becomes a horror story to never buy, even among those spirits that are technically worse.


What they Say: “Mad River Distillers was founded in Warren, Vermont with a commitment to distill authentic craft spirits in a sustainable manner from the finest ingredients. Our distillery uses pure Vermont spring water from our farm along with local grains and fruits to distill handcrafted, small-batch Bourbon, Rye, Rum and Brandy.”


Taste: 6.5 – It does have a nice bourbon taste, and there’s a little combo of smoke and rye that is quite nice.

Aftertaste: 3.0 – There’s a nice lingering rye-like taste to this as well. That is unfortunately the only nice thing to be said as it hits you like an overproof brick. (it is a 92 proof) However it lacks many of the nice characteristic those whiskies typically have and it feels like a hedged bet.

Burn/Smooth: 3.0 – This doesn’t have an ethanol burn, and there is a twinge of warmth. This isn’t a smooth drinker though, this is an order at he bar and squint your face in front of the cute bartender kinda bourbon because you hadn’t mentally prepared.

Aroma: 8.0 – It’s a bit more rye like, but it’s very pleasant to the senses. It lacks real faults, and isn’t too powerful.

Honesty: 6.5 – So it’s a local Vermont gig that does whiskey, rye, and rums. The text itself isn’t bad (although the word sustainable does hurt it). The look of the bottle and text is nice, very clean for a small batch, and they do have a wooden topped cork. That being said – they don’t talk about their whiskey in any way. Just themselves and some labeling. While we don’t fault for lack of literature, we do say that the best say what they mean, and say it well. Knocking a whole point off though for using the word Bourbon.

Mixability: 4.83

W/ Rocks: 5.5 – That does something to help dull the punch, but it’s not a smooth happy drinking whiskey. There is a bit more of that smoke though, and overall it is certainly much improved.

Whiskey and Coke: 5.0 – Like the whiskey sour below, this nearly disappears in the cocktail in terms of personality. No, this does not taste like coke, but it does taste like any other random whiskey and coke.

Whiskey Sour: 4.0 – It’s not great. It loses almost all characteristics of the whiskey within the cocktail.

Value: 3.5 – We got this for a tiny bit more, but even still at a whole forty-five American dollars this is not good value, and dare – not even worth the cost. This is priced like a small batch bourbon, but lacks all the charms of one.

Google Shop Average: $45



Reviewer Scores:

BuffaloJern: 3.5

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Metric Score: 35.33/70 |+| Metric Average: 5.04 |+| Reviewer Average: 3.5

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Final Thoughts: That is actually quite a gap, but as we already mentioned – even if by the numbers this is a perfectly average and serviceable spirit – it’s bad. It has nothing about that anyone who enjoys bourbon or whiskey would want to buy it other than to try something new only to be bitten in the throat. We honestly hope that before you do so, your quick Google searching finds our pokey little site and you hear loud and clearly “NO”.


I am the Buffalo editor and curator of Honest Booze Reviews

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