Bardstown

Review: Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
47%
Aging
>4 yrs
Recipe
51% rye, 35% Corn, 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

This was released a few years ago from Heaven Hill - who already produce the well-known rittenhouse and pikesville ryes. It is a corn-heavy rye mashbill, with only 51% rye - but this has come to the market with much acclaim and represents another high-quality, reasonably priced rye.


Review (2022)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2022

The “first to char oak” on the label gave me a good eye-roll before I jumped in to this.

The nose is rich, and full of oak and the waxy, vanilla, and light coconut aroma that you get with new American oak. There is a very appealing light dusty character, spice, and dried fruit character with a rich, fatty, corn character still in the mix. Some nice candied fruit notes too. The palate is spicy, oaky, and with a light touch of corn husk and the fullness of fatty corn too. The finish is lightly fruity – dried fruit on the dried berry character – as well as having a spicy, herbal character of rye. It still has an interesting nutty note, too.

How does this compare to Rittenhouse? It is richer, with more oak and a bit more focused, frankly, on the corn characteristics with a heavy rye accent rather than the rye characteristics with a heavy corn accent. Overall, a nice aged, corn-heavy rye whisky. I like it more as a sipper than Rittenhouse, but less as a mixer (and, notably, less of a sipper than Elijah Craig bourbon).

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $80.


Review: Parker's Heritage Collection Single Barrel Aged 11 Years by Jason Hambrey

Parker's Heritage Collection 11 1.jpg
ABV
61%
Aging
11 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

It’s been some years since I’ve had one of these. Generally, they are overpriced for what you get these days – but, notably, they continue to donate toward the fight against ALS.

This is an 11 year old single barrel selected from the late Parker Beam’s favourite locations in the Heaven Hill warehouses in Deatsville, KY.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 4716504

  • Bottling Code: H2757 1229

  • Bottling Date: 2019

I’m always up for a nice single barrel of bourbon, and I quite like Heaven Hill juice at around this age…so I have high hopes here. The nose is potent but quite elegant, with deep oak, loaded with orange peel, dried apricot, red pepper jelly, white pepper, clove, vanilla, almond, icing sugar, caramel, bittersweet chocolate, and some rye spice. The palate is rich, loaded with oaky spices, slightly tannic wood, caramel, and more of that dried fruit – which builds into the finish. Lots of rye influence on the palate, a bit of tobacco, and a nice savouriness. And the rich confectionary, toffee-like characteristic holds the whole whisky together quite well. The elegance is retained, here. The finish has oak, lots more dried fruit, and some prune.


After my review, I’ve read a number of others which didn’t seem to get past the cask strength to see what is beneath in this one. At some point in your enjoyment experience of this, you need to add a bit of water to open it up. I still prefer the cask strength, but if you need a bit more resolution, water will do that for you. If you have a batch of Elijah Craig cask strength, taste them side by side at cask strength, then around 50%, then at around 25% - if you’ll entertain me. A fun exercise. Or, taste this beside an Elijah craig at 47% and 25%.

This reminds me quite a bit of the Promise of Hope bourbon from a number of years ago, one of my all time favourite bourbons. This has a similar profile and elegance but doesn’t quite have the complexity or depth.


I can’t help but compare to a recent Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Barrel Proof in my cabinet – slightly older, at 12 years, and bottled at 61.1% instead of the 61% here. This bottle of parker’s is darker in the glass, slightly. Parker’s is deeper in the oak character but Elijah Craig is more of a bomb with tannins, woody spices, slight bitterness, and pencil-shavings (at least with this batch comparison, as Elijah Craig barrel proof has some variation – but Elijah Craig is always a bit of an oak bomb). Elijah Craig is more centred on fresh stone fruit, rather than the rich dried fruit here. They are very different, and very distinct. Water, particularly, reveals the differences – this Parker’s bourbon is definitely a step above.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very low, based on $400 (also very low at half the price). This would enter the “high” value category if it were about $110, even though it is a fantastic bourbon.


Review: Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Rittenhouse.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
>4 yrs
Recipe
51% rye, 37% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Rittenhouse is a brand produced by Heaven Hill, the largest family-owned beverage alcohol producer in the USA and the second largest bourbon producer after Jim Beam. This rye whiskey has been around for some time, as one of the best deals (perhaps the best) in terms of price and quality for a straight rye. This whiskey is bottled in bond, a labeling measure which was put in place in 1897 in order to protect the quality of good whiskey. To put “bottled in bond” on the label, the whiskey has to be the product of one distillation season, produced by a single distillery, aged in a federally bonded warehouse under US Government supervision for at least 4 years, and bottled at 50% ABV (or 100 American proof). These restrictions are stricter than those for Bourbon (produced in US, use new oak barrels, distilled to no more than 80% ABV, and put in the cask at 62.5%, bottled at at least 40%, with the age written on the label if it is less than 4 years old) and Straight Bourbon (minimum age 2 years without colouring or flavouring added). Thus, to an extent, it is a bit stricter of a labelling regulation.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Fresh oak and floral, candied rye in great measure, orange peel, along with some honey, and anise. Quite an expressive nose – not difficult at all to smell with your nose quite a bit away from the glass. However, if you search deeper, you find tannins and some bitterness which is too much. Thankfully, with time this is a less significant factor as the aroma develops. Caramel and vanilla come out in time, and some funky farmy earthiness with the honey and oak continuing to grow. The beginning of the nose isn’t that great, but as you get used to it and it develops it really starts to come out wonderfully.

Taste: A good dosage of rye coming through, with the oak counterbalancing and eventually winning out. There’s a lot of honey, and still has the heaven hill style in the mix of it. As I’ve said before, one great thing about visiting distilleries is getting into the barrel houses with the smells – and this reminds me of that Heaven Hill characteristic. The guy who was giving us the tour told us at the time that if Buffalo Trace barreled their bourbon there, it would taste like Heaven Hill, and likewise, if Heaven Hill barreled their bourbon at Buffalo Trace, it would taste like Buffalo Trace. The grain comes through nicely, too – rich and buttery, and the corn seems to come through on the end. Delicious stuff. Spicy on the end, too. Really – a quite fabulous integration of complex grains, oak, and spice.

Finish: after the intensity of the palate, the oak takes the reins and slows the whole thing down leaving you into slow, sweet oak and honey with some spiciness in the mix too and some apples. anise, once again.

This is so popular, and with such great demand, a worker at Heaven Hill told me that they actually sell this stuff at a loss in order to keep the brand profile high until some of the other prices rise. This is great stuff, and terrific value especially in the states – as with most Heaven Hill products, in fact. I am quite a fan of them (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig 12, Larceny, Parker’s Heritage Collection Promise of Hope)

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, at $47.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B35L6

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Oak, slightly nutty, vanilla, dried fruit, dry candy icing, solidified bacon fat – lots of spices (unsurprisingly). A really rich, spicy product – still with a nice light sweetness and a touch of mint. A corn sweetness grows in the glass. The palate is really nice  - rich with a great balance of oak, sweet, and spice. The corn really comes out on the palate, more than the nose – rich grainy body, yet the spicy rye is there with clove, tea, brown cardamom, and rye bread. The finish is slightly sweet, slightly tangy, full of light oak and more spice. Cinnamon, brown sugar, and light menthol.

I was writing more but I realized it was so much a duplication of the above review and there is no need! I don’t know if I would say that it is a better whisky than it’s older sibling Pikesville, but I like it better. It’s a nice distillate, and I like it with this amount of oak – Pikesville is a bit more oaky. The tanginess here is just perfect.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, at $47.


Review: William Heavenhill Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

William Heavenhill 1.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
11 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
75% Corn; 13% Rye; 12% Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

This whiskey is distilled at Heaven Hill - and it is a true small batch - a blend of 12 barrels, all aged 11 years - from some of Parker's sweet spots in the warehouse. A typical "small batch" from Heaven Hill is 40-45 barrels, so this is certainly rarer. I wouldn't have bought this, except for all the high praise at the distillery for this distillery exclusive- people loved it there. A distillery exclusive, as far as I know. Each edition of Heavenhill is different, generally expensive - and very limited. Really, in a sense, it's the rarer special release from Heaven Hill Distillery (rarer than the well known Parker's Heritage Collection) - and includes different things - cask strength cognac finished bourbons, ultra small batch, etc...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 3rd Release (Bottled in Bond)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

The nose is rich, woody, with lots of dried fruit and maple – nutty, and bright, too. It’s different than the other bourbons coming from Heavenhill – a true bit of what a special release should be. Prune, browned butter, dried apricot, caramel sauce, oak, dill, clove, and cinnamon. That buttery richness is terrific. This to me, is just what I like a rich bourbon to be – like Parker said, maybe 10 years old is just about how I like my Heaven Hill bourbons. The palate is rich and sweet, full of vanilla, dried corn, spices, hazlenut spread – nice and creamy. The nuttiness is great, and the finish is full of oak, dried corn, creamy vanilla, stewed apricot, and candied mandarin segments. This is a bourbon, to the core – and it is fabulous.

One of the warehouse managers at Heaven Hill told me that he thought this was the best thing they’d bottled since the famed Golden Anniversary, and convinced me to get it in 2014. I don’t think I’d agree with him, but I really like this stuff.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $185.

 


Review: Parker's Heritage Collection Original Small Batch Aged 13 Years Kentucky StraIght Wheat Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
63.4%
Aging
13 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
51% Wheat, 39% Corn, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Parker's Heritage Collection represents a yearly limited release from Kentucky's second biggest distiller, Heaven Hill, representing some of the most sought after and best American whiskies (including one of my favorite bourbons, Promise of Hope). The 2014 release (the 8th annual release) was perhaps the best wheat whiskey ever produced - a 13 year old, cask strength version of the original batch of (the typically 7 year old) Bernheim Straight Wheat, the only successful big brand of straight wheat whiskey in the world. the original batch was distilled in 2000. This whisky was matured on the top floors of rickhouse Y at Heaven Hill.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

The nose – obviously – showcases much of what the standard bernheim does – only bigger and rounder. More oak too, and more wonderful Heaven Hill oakiness – I don’t know what specifically it is about the distillery but all their whiskey is slightly distinctive in the oaky notes which are brought forward. It smells much like the angel’s share in the warehouses there. Elegant - oak, apricot, menthol, incense, apple, and plump corn – quite remarkable on the nose, really, and nicely creamy. At cask strength, we also have lots of coconut, fruity candy notes – though it doesn’t translate to the flavor profile, I keep picturing Dave Broom in my head saying “rich and round”…the tropical fruity, oaky, earthy, and grain notes all are terrifically balanced – another classic from Heaven Hill.

On the palate, we have more oakiness and complexity than the standard bernheim – a clear notch above all the way through, particularly with some refined nutty notes. A bit heavier – but the complexity is immensely greater than Bernheim. It makes me wonder…they slate Bernheim these days at 7 years – why not push that to 12? It would make a huge difference. But, I suppose, distilleries aren’t adding years to whiskies but rather taking them away…back to the whiskey – the palate brings forth also lots of dried fruit, light sweetness, light baking bread, and some spice – cinnamon, nutmeg, and dry spice. The finish is full and oaky. It carries itself remarkably well at cask strength, balancing the oak with sweetness, caramel, tropical fruity – and finishing so gently with grain and spice in a finish that develops to show clear cut grain notes. The mouthfeel is incredible. However, I do think this one shines with just a touch of water.

Elegant, compex, and delicious – though they do a bit better with more corn oriented whiskies. Wheat is fascinating, but can be a bit simple at times.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low (based on $225)