I’m pretty sure if Parker Beam was still alive he would drink this – it’s that good.
Delicious, complex and smooth everything you might want for a great price.
Notes: A little background or history of previous offerings from Heaven Hill is called for as a lead into this current review. Heaven Hill is a distillery with a relatively long history of iconic releases even if it only dates from 1935. While some distilleries boast more history and older start date, few have as many notable if not singular releases to their credit. With quite a few bourbons in its portfolio, a number of them dating back to the beginning of the company in their standard portfolio, they have 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 Larceny Bourbon line(an extension/expression from the Old Fitzgerald line), the barrel proof version of Larceny and the not bourbon but still very nice Bernheim Wheat Whisky
One of the newer releases at the moment is their Old Fitzgerald 15 Year Old Bottled in Bond which is twice the age of this and four times the money and seems to be aimed at the people chasing older hard to get whiskies.
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), Their 27 year old of the Heaven Hill which followed on from the previous releases of a 20-Year-Old, 21 Year Old Version and the 23 Year Old Elijah Craig Series was one of those whiskies that you will whisper about in your old age. I include these as references, possibly touchstones, for background and reference as you will probably not see their like again.
On the other hand, I am happy to report that this, the Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ( otherwise mercifully shortened as the Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond or B n B) IS not only relatively available but damn cheap for what it is and easily available to mere mortals. I was going to say readily available but Southern has it on allocation. I will leave it at that and not comment on want I think about their practices in print.
In any case on to the review itself. This whiskey has a lot of (positive) qualifications to it and I’ll try to tackle a few of them for you.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a bit of a stretch, descriptive, but not a legal definition per se. Bourbon, yes definitely, and there are a plethora of requirements to call it bourbon – which most people are familiar with – or at least most of them. It is not a requirement to be made in Kentucky – you can make it anywhere in the United States if you follow the laws and rules – but Kentucky is a good place to do it. We do not have an AOC for Kentucky (yet) so that part is a bit of fluff. The “straight” designation is, however, a useful legal term. Essentially an at least 2-year-old whiskey at its simplest definition.
Bottled in Bond is a much more specific and added qualification, inferring an even older and more quality whiskey. Instituted in 1897, the bottled in bond act very specifically spelled out the requirements of a whiskey to be labeled as such. It was in response to a lot of questionable whiskies and other spirits made from a horrifying list of possible ingredients in attempts to pass it off on the public. Anyone who reads an old rectifier manual on how to make seemingly old whiskey will cringe at what they used to do. The bottled in bond act was one of the first pure food and drug act laws that were starting to be passed at that time- Maraschino Cherries were another shocking example that was front and center of congressional hearings but I digress as usual…
The short form is made in the same season (no multi-year blends), at the same distillery and aged for 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse and bottled at no less than 100 proof. All good things IMHO.
Heaven Hill is one of the leaders in the Bottled in Bond category having the largest stocks of Bottled in Bond Inventory and the most labels so they can produce very specific flavor and age profiles in their portfolio and have some very worthy bottlings. IDIC as they say on Star Trek.
Appearance: Beautiful clear Baltic amber with a slight red tint to the gold
First Impression: Dried dark fruits, Vietnamese dried bananas, Medjool dates, plums, Ceylon or Vietnamese cinnamon, Madagascar vanilla, Balkan Sobranie Tobacco. Similar to a number of the better bourbons from Heaven Hill has made over the years and very much in keeping with the house style – but much more depth and complexity than some of them.
Taste: Delicious subtle entry, with a lot of vanilla, aromatic and flowery, with mandarin orange, allspice and pepper alkali note to it. Long but subtle finish with a pleasant lingering dried fruit and tobacco notes to it, and a host of what I would call old school type bourbon notes. It is a lovely old-style type melange and not some underage trying to punch above its weight kind of whiskey in regards to complexity and flavor.
Drinks: Good enough for just sipping on its own out of a decent glass , at room temperature on its own. Add a touch of nonchlorinated and slightly WARM water to open it up if you like. It does make a lovely Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Whiskey Sour if you must, they are all wonderful, but pay attention and respect the whiskey.
Bottle: Closer to the Parker Heritage series in shape, it is a noted and attractive departure from their usual bottle shapes. A heavy-bottomed decanter type bottle with a short ( 2 finger rather than 4 finger neck is more reminiscent of an Irish whiskey than a bourbon. While the downside is that the grip is too short for use in a bar fight, the look is very appealing. It gives the bottle a look of solidity and presence, it even seems larger and more impressive. It looks larger than its 750 ML size and more like a duty-free liter bottle. The relatively small labels give plenty of room to appreciate the quality of the glass and the marvelous color of the whiskey.
The bottle reflects the heritage of the Heaven Hill distillery with pictures/drawings of both the distillery and the label itself is unusually full of all manner of descriptors and rivals a Cognac, Sake or Fine Champagne label in both beauty and coded, if not cryptic information that is a delight for a spirits geek. A lot of this was covered in the intro but here is some more: The smaller blue and white ribbon label include the designation for where it was distilled – Heaven Hill Distillery D.S.P. – KY-1 Louisville, KY, and the Bottling location DSP-KY-31, Bardstown, Kentucky denoting the Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery.” It also has the gold seal of Heaven Hill as does the top of the neck capsule.
Other: Goes great with a mild but full-bodied cigar such as a Partagas #4 or maybe a smaller Hemingway natural wrapper. A Maduro would also be an excellent pick.
Final Thoughts: In the depressingly escalating price VERSUS quality trends in todays whisk(e)y markets, this is a surprisingly positive standout against that trend of pay more get less that has been going on. At $40 and considering what you get for that money from everyone else these days this is an outstanding buy!
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