Heaven Hill

Review: Elijah Craig Single Barrel for Kensington Wine Market (2019) by Jason Hambrey

Elijah+Craig+KWM+Single+Barrel.jpg
ABV
47%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
75% Corn; 13% Rye; 12% Malt
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

One of many single cask selections that Kensington Wine Market in Calgary does, but mostly Scotch – only a couple of bourbons are chosen. Barrel 5214622, warehouse F, floor 3, barrel 17 F.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel 5214622

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Soft for an Elijah Criag, not quite as oaky as many. Sweet honey, roasted hazlenuts and pistachios and other mixed nuts, corn oil, tobacco, leather, maple, and even something a bit floral – like potpourri! Old musty oak too – I love that smell in a bourbon. A sweet, oaky palate which is fairly complex – with nuts, spices, and some orange all working well together. The finish is full of oaky caramel, honey – and a bit of earthiness too which is a very nice touch. Quite a nice finish – rich, complex, with decent length.

Oddly, lots of oak here but not very tannic. I’m a bit surprised; it makes it seem a bit lighter than it is.

I rate it very similarly, but I think I actually slightly prefer the official bottlings of Elijah Craig, as I do like the bigger oakiness in Elijah Craig – but I think this would appeal to those who like softer, less oaky bourbons. This showcases a different side of Elijah Craig stock.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. In bourbons alone, it’s a bit below par.


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: Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43.3%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak; ~9 Yrs
Recipe
~78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

This line of Evan Williams is solely based on vintage releases, based on the distillation date - something you don't see often in whisky, and they have generally been terrific value and great tasting. Especially if you are in the states, where they can run quite a bit cheaper (~$30) than elsewhere - it is hard to find better value for a bourbon.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 2004 Vintage

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

A nice, rich nose, with an elegant and syrupy corn body offset by some light white grape and light brown sugar, with a light intriguing oily note. The lightest bitterness is present on the nose, but once we hit the palate we get a rush of creamy corn and oak, alongside praline, which does some wonders and gently leads into the finish with a bit of a marshy-corn quality to it alongside some charred oak and butterscotch. Underneath, there is a bit of spice (ginger and old cinnamon) with light tannins. However, though well integrated and delicious, I wouldn't complain for a bit more complexity. Even at 43%, it doesn't feel like a lighter whisky (though doesn't seem cask strength, either!). Beside the black-labelled Evan Williams and the Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond, it is significantly more alive and complex.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $40.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Barrel 238 (barreled 10-25-06, bottled 5-21-15; 2006 Vintage)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A buttery, rich nose, with spicy, syrupy corn with bright fruitiness and improving with time – white grape, brown sugar, prune, oak, and some really interesting herbal notes – wormwood, cilantro, and orange peel that has been candied in star anise and clove. The palate is easy, and complex – with oily corn, wood, light orange, cinnamon, birch syrup, and light clove. The finish is light, oily, oaky, and sweet with some maple sugar. Really nice bourbon, not quite as nice as the above but not enough to rank it lower...

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $55.


Review: Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~65%
Aging
12 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
75% Corn; 13% Rye; 12% Malt
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

A (magnificent) cask strength version of the standard Elijah Craig...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 12th Release; 64.0%

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Lots of oak on the nose – not surprising for a 12 year old bourbon. Very rich - lots of vanilla, furniture polish, apple, caramel, maple, and a slight bit of rocky mineral character. Very woody, and dry too. Also some sweet floral character – it sweetens with added water, but comes out more as a dried flower note on the nose. The nose itself is dry, but brings to mind a number of dry things – like potpourri. Dried orange, roasted macadamia nuts. Very enjoyable!

The palate has apple, oak char, and tannins creeping up – almost too much, but they’re not over the edge. Well balanced, and a good set of flavours. Loads of oak on the finish. A fabulous delivery, oily in feel (and lightly on the palate) – but restrained so it’s not overwhelming at 64%. Lots of tingly tannins on the finish, and some black tea.

Kentucky sure has some nice distilleries. Terrific stuff.

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

Value: Average (based on $112)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 5th Release (67.2%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nice and rich dark colour. I’ve been tasting a Blanton’s straight from the barrel beside this one and it definitely pales in comparison. Nutty, oaky, and full of spice. Light fruit, gooseberry, spices, cacao, smoky wood char. The corn is just brilliant! Oak is supreme on the finish. It is a bit hot, but not very – it has an incredible feel and the balance at cask strength is terrific – sweet, oaky, spicy, and rich. The palate is oaky and rich, packed with fruit ranging from strawberries to apples – dried, jam, and fresh. The corn has just a terrific showing in this – it is wonderfully embraced by the spice, fruit, and oak. What a palate!  Beautiful oak on the finish, which is a touch creamy too. Praline and hazelnut cream too. A terrific Elijah Craig.

Immensely enjoyable. I think bookers lovers might find this quite appealing – but it is richer and rounder – for good effect. But, yes, quite oaky too, but not overdone.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: High (based on $113)


Review: Orphan Barrel Barterhouse 20 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.1%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak; 20 Yrs
Recipe
~86% Corn, 6% Rye, 8% Malted Barley
Distiller New Bernheim (Heaven Hill - Louisville, Kentucky)

This bourbon is part of Diageo’s “orphan barrel” series, where a number of “orphan” barrels have been put together for a number of bourbon releases ranging in age from 15-26 years old from different distilleries. Of course, barrels aren’t just “lost” but the range has released a number of decent whiskies. This whisky, despite remarks trying to claim some link to Stitzel Weller (where the famous Pappy Van Winkle bourbons were distilled), was produced at the Bernheim distillery. This whisky is aged for 20 years, which is a very long time for a bourbon, which is typically in the range of 5 years – these whiskies are both very hard to find and very expensive.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Nose: Oily and fruity, with significant menthol notes coming right off the nose. Corn husks, maple, dried apricot, and spices – nutmeg, leather, pralines, coconut, buttercream, cherries, strawberries, wood smoke – this nose develops! Very pleasant, lightly sweet. Creamy and nutty, with maple and oak coming as it opens up.

Taste: Dried cherries, leather, and some oily corn held tight by some tannins although it isn’t very oaky all things considered. The palate is long, with the tastes taking their time to develop well. Overall, very nice – oily too in texture and pleasing in flavour – but not spectacular. Not as rich on the palate as the nose.

Finish: Barrel char, sweet corn, vanilla – slightly sour and tannic. Earthy oak does take its time, and the tannins fade and you’re left with something quite nice. However, the feel is still a bit puckered from the tannins.

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

Value: Average, at $95.


Review: John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~68% Corn; 20% Wheat; 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Only three major bourbon producers regularly make a bourbon where wheat stands in as the second grain to corn, rather than rye, in the recipe – Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, and Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill makes a few products, this being the top of their line of regular production wheated bourbons. Wheat is typically associated with bringing good body and sweetness to bourbons, rather than the sharpness and spiciness of rye.

This whiskey is named after John E. Fitzgerald, who was a treasury agent during the time that the US government kept a very tight lid on all distilled spirits production to ensure both the quality of the product (and protect against counterfeits) and to keep the taxes coming in. He had the only keys to the rickhouses, and it was said that he had a great eye for the best bourbon and having some of it “dissapear” under his watch.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: The nose is nicely balanced – you can tell that from the first whiff. Milk chocolate, dried apricot, plums, vanilla, black pepper, cherry, cranberry, caramel, some slightly musty earthiness (this isn’t bad, in case the description isn’t appealing…), and a good bit of creaminess amidst it all. I notice more corn as it sits.

Taste: Some corn comes through quite nicely, and the creaminess comes through and it has a nice sweet backbone to it and with it, quite a decent spicy kick too! There’s also a good bit of oak, some more of that chocolate, some nice vanilla, brown sugar with a bit of butter, cinnamon, and some apple.

Finish: Creamy, with a decent bit of sweetness and some developing oak and heat in the mouth. Beautiful aged oak on the finish. I say aged oak because it has the characteristic not of fresh oak but rather much more like oak that has been sitting for a long time, like old barrel houses with old barrels that are “weathered” – if you have ever been to one. Otherwise, a bit like some oak that has been weathered a bit and is a bit mossy and earthy…pleasant, and it lingers well. And, I find some charred oak more reminiscent of fresh oak come out with some time too, adding a bit of a smoky character to the mix.

This is a very nice bourbon which is very nice to enjoy throughout – good nose, taste, and finish. In the States, this is very cheap and well worth the price, in my opinion. From time to time, this one might be a bit sweet for me, but generally it is well balanced and there is a lot going on.

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

Value: Very high, if you can find this for about $38 CAD as I did.


Review: Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
50%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Bottled-in-Bond whiskies are generally terrific value, and this is no exception. It generally comes in at a relatively cheap price point, and the whisky is worth a look, if you see it.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 9 51 51038

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Quite a bit of candy on the nose, with slightly out of key dried apricot notes, cement tiles,  and wet dirt with more honey and caramel coming off the nose as it sits. On the palate, it is quite hot but dominates with flavours of kombucha, dried berries, and caramel – a bit rough in places too. Lightly vegetal with some mentos and good mouthfeel on the finish.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average to High, at $37. Higher in some areas where this is quite cheap.


Review: Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

This is the highest selling product that comes out of Heaven Hill, Kentucky’s second biggest distiller, and the second highest selling bourbon in the US. It’s traditionally created from a mix of 5-8 year old bourbons which are married together, and it has quite a high quantity of malted barley in the recipe relative to most bourbons.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Black tea, jasmine tea, a bit of black pepper, vanilla, and a lot of nuttiness too though my mind isn’t working tonight to tell me which nut exactly it is reminding me of. There’s a bit of peach and apricot. There’s also a bit of a floral, soapy smell – in line with the jasmine too. At first I assumed it must be my hands but it is definitely in there too, and there’s a light bit of creaminess in the nose too.

Taste: The black tea is also present on the palate, along with some toasted coconut, oak, and some slightly sour corn. It isn’t overly sweet, which is nice – especially after having tasted so many sweet bourbons of late. Interesting too, since I read after this review that Jim Murray thought it was too sweet. It isn’t very oaky but it has a nice slightly tannic feel to it which I quite like.

Finish: The oak comes out a bit more, with some more toasted coconut, almond, and dried apricot- but it’s light in feel and short in length, and has a touch of bitterness involved as well which is detracting a decent bit in this tasting.

Really this isn’t a bad bourbon. One great thing about Bourbon is the strict laws governing it, particularly dealing with wood, which means that the quality across the board is quite high. I also, in general, quite like what Heaven Hill does with their products – they seem to produce some pretty high quality stuff across the board and I have certainly enjoyed them.

Value: Average, at $28.


Review: Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
55%
Aging
6 yrs
Recipe
51% rye, 37% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Pikesville is a relatively recent release, released by Heaven Hill as a bigger, older brother to the well loved Rittenhouse Rye - aged 6 years instead of the approximately 4 for Rittenhouse, and bottled at 55% instead of 50%. Jim Murray loved it, giving it his second best whisky of 2015, and consequently, it is hard to find - but good value and good if you can find it in the US. In Canada, it has retailed for $90 which is a bit pricy.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Nice and earthy. Mint, menthol, banana cream pie, dill pickle, and lots of sharp, vegetal rye – arugula, dandelion, and fresh spinach. Brown sugar, vanilla, and no shortage of oak. Spices too – caraway and clove. And, of course, we have our corn coming through. Hot on the palate, dominated by oak with a good rye backbone. The flurry of spices and cacao slowly unfold to oily corn, vanilla, and dried chanterelles. Very nice. The finish is nice and full, no doubt thanks to the proof.

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

Value: Average, based on $90. But, in terms of American whisky, you can do better value-wise…