Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cadenhead's Heaven Hill...or is it?

Heaven Hill seems to be one of the only bourbons bottled by independent Scotch bottlers. A few years ago, I reviewed an Alchemist bottling of Heaven Hill. Now, I'm tasting a Cadenhead's bottle of 17 year old Heaven Hill.

Interestingly, this bottle is 17 years old and was bottled in July 2014. If it went directly from cask to bottle, that would mean it was distilled in between August 1996 and July 1997. The Heaven Hill distillery, though, burnt down in a massive fire in November 1996, so if this is from Heaven Hill, it must have been some of the last distillate made from the Bardstown Distillery.

After the fire, Heaven Hill contracted out distilling to the other big Kentucky distilleries, including Jim Beam and Brown Forman. In 1999, they purchased the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville which now distills all of Heaven Hill's whiskeys.

The label on this bottle states that it was "Distilled at Heaven Hill Distilleries in Bardstown, Kentucky" so presumably, that's what it is.  Of course, it could have been distilled earlier than 1996 and stored in steel tanks, and since whiskey can always be older than the stated age, it could be older than 17 years, though it would be odd to use a lower age statement on a single barrel bottling (assuming that this is a single barrel. It's labeled "Individual Cask," whatever that means.)

Heaven Hill 17 year old Cadenhead's, 58% abv

The nose is heavily peanutty. The palate is oaky with light peanut notes trailing off into the finish with brown sugar. Hmm, this is very Beamy tasting with that peanut nose. In fact, it tastes much more like old Beam, say an older Booker's, than pre-fire Heaven Hill. Either way, it's quite good, and who doesn't love a bourbon with a little mystery?


Chris Lehmann said...

I got to try this as a sample at Springbank before it was bottled. It's pre-fire old HH. The barrel was moved to Scotland at around 9 years old, so it spent 8 years in a traditional dunnage wearhouse. AFAIK, Cadenhead's (and Springbank) don't understate age. The bottling process for single casks involves bottling directly from the dump/proof vat, so this barrel would have been bottled the day it was dumped. I got a lot of brown sugar and dark fruit, along with the characteristic Springbank earthiness.

sku said...

Thanks for the info Chris!

Johan said...

I tried it to in Campbeltown at the Cadenhead Masterclass during Springbank Open Day same as Chris attended. The info Chris says was what we was told about the cask during the tasting. This was the wild horse among all the single Malts. It was a winner in my mouth. So lucky I managed to get two bottles of it. Chris see you in May.

Josh said...

Hey Sku,

Nothing to add in regards to the whiskey, but in talking to some other folks about this (Reddit) it looks like SMWS and Classic Cask (KBD) both have done some bourbons and one guys says he's got a bourbon done by The Bottlers, but I couldn't find an image of that one online. Though in looking around I did find a HH done by SCN under their Jewish Whisky Company label. So that's at least 5 scotch NDPs who have bottled a bourbon. None of which I knew about until this guy came along.

SKOERPER said...

When thinking about bottlers of american whisky in Europe, don't forget the german independents from Malts Of Scotland with their series called "Whiskey Of America" in which they presented 3 HH single barrel bottlings and 1 anonymous called "Images Of Bartstown - Main Street Of Bartstown" in 2015 (see here: ), which may also be a HH. They said, that they bought these casks from cask broker(s) between 2009 and 2012 and finished the juice in sherry and port casks in their own warehouse in Germany (more: ).