A stunning achievement in both whiskey distilling and aging. While Parker Beam did not live to see this whiskey bottled I am sure he would be proud of it.
Notes: Heaven Hill is a distillery with a relatively long history with quite a few bourbons in its portfolio, a number of them dating back to the beginning of the company, but a number of exciting new bourbons and special editions of their older lines are generating a lot of interest (and new respect) in the bourbon community. Some of the most notable of the new series are the limited editions of the Parker Heritage Series (reviews of Number 7, Number 8, and Number 9 ) the new Larceny Bourbon (an extension/expression from the Old Fitzgerald line), and The Bernheim Wheat Whisky
Their other bourbons include of course the Heaven Hill series/marks which include the white green and black labels, the Elijah Craig 12 ( IMHO one of the perennial best buys in a bourbon) and the Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old. Some other lines of bourbons they produce are the Evan Williams line and the Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage series they have released every year ( 2000 Vintage, 2003 Vintage , 2004 Vintage and the New Make Series of unaged distillate (Rye and Corn), This the 27 year old of the Heaven Hill which follows on from the previous releases of a 20 Year Old , 21 Year Old Version and the 23 Year Old Elijah Craig Series. This is one of their high rye barrels from some of their best warehouses and from the middle of the warehouse ( guess you could call it the sweet spot) which allows the whiskey to reach this level of extended aging without collapsing into tasting like a bunch of tired charcoal briquets. Almost no bourbon can or has been aged this long and taste this good. Most get tired, over the hill and get too much oak and charcoal past say 20 years, this is a remarkable achievement in not only whiskey-making that they could make such a product but also about the careful husbandry and curation of these barrels to get this whiskey to this age and beauty.
Heaven Hill had a catastrophic fire back in 1996 that destroyed the original distillery and a lot of its stocks of whiskey. If you search around the internet you might find footage of the fire. It looked like a cross between the “The Towering Inferno ” and “Apocalypse Now” With rivers of fire pouring off the hill above the distillery and essentially melting it. If you go down the hill from the new distillery remnants might still be there. I saw it and it looked like someone had taken a blowtorch to a wax model of a distillery.
This bottling is from that original distillery and from the few stocks of barrels that did not go up in that fire. The whiskey is barreled at the original barrel proof of 94.7 which is the result of aging in a more protected area of the warehouse so the proof is down from what must have been an entry proof of 110 – 125 proof ( unknown but these are the industry standard numbers) . Unlike any other bourbon, this whiskey lost rather than gained proof during aging – something usually seen with a Scotch or Cognac in their aging warehouses ( in a completely different set of climates). This also explains some of the delicious aging characteristics which were not lost- something that happens when whiskey is proofed down for bottling. Luckily this one was right where they need it and they left it alone !
Appearance: Beautiful clear Baltic amber with a slight red tint to the gold
First Impression: Dried fruits, Vietnamese dried bananas, Medjool dates, plums, Ceylon or Vietnamese cinnamon, Madagascar vanilla, Balkan Sobranie Tobacco
Taste: Delicious subtle entry, with a lot of vanilla, aromatic and flowery, with a mandarin orange, allspice and pepper alkali note to it. Long but subtle finish with a pleasant lingering dried fruit and tobacco notes to it,
Drinks: Snifter or a proper tasting glass only, please. Unlike a lot of older, 20 plus-year-old bourbons ( OK damn near most) this Heaven Hill 27 year old does not taste tired and like a charcoal briquet. It is still lively but oh so wonderfully subtle.
Bottle: We did not get one of the cased bottles so we have to quote from a press release on this one.
“Elegant and tall 750ml bottle placed in a custom wooden box bearing two H’s on each side signifying the Heaven Hill name. The bottle is secured in the box with magnetic closure and sits on a blue satin lined base. The distiller’s notes label features handwritten bottle number, distiller tasting notes, and DSP-KY-31, denoting the Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery.”
Other: Goes great with a mild but full-bodied cigar such as a Partagas #4
Final Thoughts: While it took me some adjustment to my ideas of what a bottle of outstanding bourbon should sell for ( anyone else remember when the Antique collection sold for $50 to $75?). Given the price for older Scotch Whiskies these days ( never mind the crazy prices on the bourbon secondary market) $399 for a bottle is certainly worth it.